Detroit — The Winter Meetings were all but over and Tigers general manager Al Avila was asked late Wednesday night if he felt the club had met its objectives thus far this off-season.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Yes.”
Then he put his hands up in a defensive posture. He knows that sentiment isn't shared by the majority of the Tigers’ fan base.
In the last year, they’ve seen the Tigers dispatch J.D. Martinez, Justin Verlander, Justin Upton and now Ian Kinsler. And the get-back, to the casual fan, seems underwhelming. Just one prospect ranked in the top 100 by MLBPipeline.com — pitcher Franklin Perez.
But that is the narrow focus of a fan base accustomed to big stars and $200-million payrolls — a gone era. The rebuild is on and the truth is Avila and his staff have taken a huge first step in restocking what had been a mostly fallow and barren farm system.
Thirteen of the club’s top 30 prospects have been acquired since June. If you include the last three drafts, 21 of the top 30 prospects have been added since the end of 2015.
“The fans don’t want the best players to be moved and I can understand that,” Avila said. “Hell, I don’t like it either. But at the end of the day, it’s the process of rebuilding. You have to go through it. We will survive it and move forward.
“This is how teams get better. Sometimes you have to build little by little.”
The 2018 roster is taking shape, but it’s far from fully constructed. Reality is, it may be under construction all season.
Avila said he was still looking to add another veteran pitcher on a low-end, one-year deal. Presumably, besides creating competition and depth, that would be in case the offers for Michael Fulmer become too good to ignore.
Also, Daniel Norris still has a minor-league option left, conceivably there could be a good battle for the fifth spot in the rotation this spring.
The Tigers are still seeking relief help and hunting more sixth-year minor league free agents to fill holes in the spring roster and create competition. Other than non-roster invitee Niko Goodrum, there is no Andrew Romine-like utility player on the active roster. On Friday the Tigers signed 25-year-old utility infielder Ronny Rodriguez to a minor league contract.
Avila said he would also like to bring in veterans to compete with Dixon Machado at second base and Jeimer Candelario at third base.
Here is a where the roster stands heading into the new year:
Projected rotation: Michael Fulmer, Jordan Zimmermann, Matthew Boyd, Mike Fiers and Daniel Norris.
In the hunt: Buck Farmer, Chad Bell, Ryan Carpenter.
Non-roster invitees: None yet.
Long shots: Sandy Baez, Spencer Turnbull, Artie Lewicki, Grayson Long, Matt Hall.
Needs: One more veteran starter (Chris Tillman, Brett Anderson, Miguel Gonzalez).
Projected top seven: Shane Greene (closer), Alex Wilson, Warwick Saupold, Daniel Stumpf, Joe Jimenez, Drew VerHagen, Blaine Hardy.
In the hunt: Chad Bell, Buck Farmer, Jairo Labourt.
Non-roster invitees: Kevin Comer, Mark Montgomery, Enrique Burgos.
Long shots: Zac Reininger, Bryan Garcia, Paul Voelker.
Needs: Expect to add at least one more veteran (Japanese closer Yoshihisa Hirano, Brian Duensing, Jake Petricka, Zach Putnam).
Starter: James McCann.
Backup: John Hicks.
Non-roster invitee: Derek Norris.
Long shot: Grayson Greiner.
Needs: A left-handed hitting veteran catcher-DH (Alex Avila).
Starters: First base Miguel Cabrera, second base Dixon Machado, shortstop Jose Iglesias, third base Jeimer Candelario.
Backups: Nick Castellanos (third base).
In the hunt: Kody Eaves (second and third).
Long shots: Dawel Lugo, Sergio Alcantara, Dominic Ficociello, Gabriel Quintana.
Non-roster invitees: Niko Goodrum (could win utility role), Edwin Espinal.
Needs: Veteran middle infielder or utility player, third baseman to compete with Candelario.
Starters: Leonys Martin (center), Mikie Mahtook (left), Nick Castellanos (right).
Backups: Victor Reyes (Rule 5), JaCoby Jones.
In the hunt: Mike Gerber.
Long shot: Christin Stewart.
Non-roster invitees: Jim Adduci, Niko Goodrum, Chad Huffman.
Needs: Will probably add one or two more minor-league free agents to the spring competition.
Starter: Victor Martinez.
Backups: Miguel Cabrera, John Hicks.
Non-roster invitee: Derek Norris.