Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Tigers Transaction Blog: Alex Avila Returns to Tigers

In addition to a number of minor league free agent signings, the Tigers also announced their first big league acquisition of the off-season, bringing former catcher Alex Avila back into the fold on a one-year deal to share time behind the plate with James McCann.


  • Signed Alex Avila (C ) to one-year deal

  • Designated Angel Nesbitt (RHP) for assignment
  • Signed Zack Cox (3B), Ronnie Mitchell (OF), Waldis Joaquin (RHP), Juan Carlos Perez (OF), Carlos Medrano (C ), Anthony Vasquez (LHP), Brendan Ryan (IF), Travis Blackley (LHP), Logan Watkins (IF), Jim Adduci (OF), Jake Brigham (RHP), Collin Balester (RHP), Jorge Marban (RHP), Gabriel Quintana (3B), A.J. Achter (RHP) and Quincy Latimore (OF)

  • Re-signed Alex Fernandez (IF), Alex Presley (OF), and Thad Weber (RHP)

  • Invited Perez and Presley to Major League spring training camp



The Tigers finally made an addition to the big league club, bringing long-time catcher Alex Avila back to the organization on a one-year deal (according to Jon Heyman worth $2 million), sharing time behind the plate with James McCann. The 29-year old spent 2016 with the White Sox, where he hit .213 with a .732 OPS, appearing in 57 games. The Tigers had Jarrod Saltalamacchia holding the role this past year, and were again looking for a left-handed hitter to complement McCann. McCann struggled offensively last season, with an ankle injury sidelining him for much of the first month, and appearing to slow him. His splits remain heavily skewed, with an .864 OPS against lefties for his career, but just a .570 OPS vs. righties, so a left-handed hitting catcher like Avila that can hold up offensively vs right-handed arms was necessary, in addition to Avila’s familiarity with the pitching staff, and his relationship with the club’s GM as the son of Al Avila probably didn’t hurt, either.


Elsewhere, the Tigers continued to add more minor league free agents to stock the upper levels of the farm system, with a handful of invites handed out for big league spring training.


  • Signed Ruben Alaniz (RHP), William Cuevas (RHP), Santiago Garrido (RHP), and Omar Infante (2B)

  • Re-signed Johan Belisario (RHP), Endrys Briceno (RHP), Jeff Ferrell (RHP), Logan Kensing (RHP), Dustin Molleken (RHP), Cory Riordan (RHP), Miguel Gonzalez (C),  Argenis Diaz (IF) and Gustavo Nunez (IF)

  • Invited Alaniz, Infante, Kensing, Molleken and Gonzalez to Major League spring training camp



Among the 14 signings, the Tigers have brought back many familiar names, but the most familiar is that of Infante, the club’s former second baseman who signed with Kansas City after the 2013 season, but was released last year after hitting only .239 for Kansas City, and not faring any better for Atlanta’s Triple-A club. It’s a relatively low risk move for the Tigers, who can hope that Infante might regain his swing that made him a mainstay in Detroit’s middle infield. If not, he serves to fill depth needs at the upper levels of the farm system.


Among the other signings, pitchers like Briceno and Belisario are intriguing arms that could evolve into big league caliber pitchers, while guys like Kensing, Molleken and Cuevas could compete for bullpen jobs, depending on how the offseason shakes out.



  • Selected Daniel Stumpf (LHP) from Kansas City and placed him on Detroit’s 40-man roster

  • Selected Sean Donatello (RHP) and Elvis Rubio (OF) and placed on Triple-A roster

  • Lost Edward Paredes (LHP) and Mario Sanjur in Triple-A Rule 5 draft



For the second straight season, Stumpf has been selected in the Rule 5 draft and has a new team to get accustomed to. He was also selected last winter by Philadelphia, but was ultimately returned to Kansas City after he struggled at the MLB level, posting a 10.80 ERA in seven games. Across four minor league stops though he found some success, with a 3.34 ERA in 29 2/3 innings, including 31 strikeouts. Stumpf features a low-90’s fastball with a good slider, and projects to be a solid situational lefty. He’s likely an insurance policy for the club, in the event the team moves Justin Wilson in the off-season.


Donatello worked as a late inning reliever for Double-A Jacksonville last season, posting a 3.40 ERA in 46 appearances, while Rubio split time between Class-A and High-A ball for Milwaukee, logging just a .568 OPS between the two levels with minimal power from the corner outfield spots.


11/18/2016: BAEZ ADDED TO 40 MAN

  • Purchased contract of Sandy Baez (RHP) from West Michigan



On the last day clubs could protect players from December’s Rule 5 draft, the only player the Tigers added to the 40-man roster was Baez, who tossed 113 1/3 innings for West Michigan in 2016, posting a 3.81 ERA, with 88 strikeouts and 28 walks. Baez possesses a mid-90’s fastball, and while his breaking stuff is still developing, the fastball could be good enough in limited appearances to let him work out of a big league bullpen, hence the Tigers protecting him.


The Tigers did leave one spot open on the 40-man roster, leaving pitchers and former high draft picks Kevin Ziomek and Austin Kubitza unprotected, and also opening up the possibility the Tigers will select a player in the Rule 5 draft. Kubitza struggled with a 4.89 ERA across Erie and Lakeland in 2016, but has an excellent slider that could make him an intriguing relief prospect. Ziomek meanwhile has been a well regarded prospect, but had surgery to address shoulder pain and numbness in his hands this past June, and is unlikely to be ready to pitch at full strength in the spring.



  • Designated Joe Mantiply (LHP) for assignment, who was claimed by New York Yankees off waivers

  • Designated Dustin Molleken (RHP) for assignment and outrighted to Toledo

  • Purchased contract of Myles Jaye (RHP) from Toledo

  • Purchased contract of Chad Bell (LHP) from Toledo



In a move to clear up roster space on the 40-man roster while protecting a couple additional arms, the Tigers tried to send both Molleken and Mantiply down to Toledo, but only Molleken made it through waivers. Mantiply made his big league debut in 2016, getting hit around in his September call-up to the tune of a 16.88 ERA over five appearances. Mantiply excelled in Erie however this season, with a 2.47 ERA over 51 innings, including 62 strikeouts. Mantiply still has the potential to be a lefty specialist out of the bullpen, but as the Tigers needed roster flexibility in their pursuit of getting younger and faster while adding financial flexibility, he became expendable.



  • Traded Cameron Maybin (OF) to Los Angeles Angels in exchange for Victor Alcantara (RHP)

  • Exercised club option for Francisco Rodriguez (RHP)



For complete analysis of the Tigers trade of Maybin to the Angels, read Analysis: Cameron Maybin Gone; Victor Alcantara Promise



  • Signed Sandel De La Cruz (RHP) to a minor league contract

  • Signed Arcenio Leon (RHP) to a minor league contract


Tigs Town Top Stories