Detroit — After announcing last week that the Tigers were "rebooting" their season with three trades ahead of the deadline, president and general manager Dave Dombrowski became the latest departure in the Tigers organization.
The team announced Tuesday that Dombrowski, who had led the Tigers from a fledgling franchise to a perennial playoff contender, had been replaced by assistant general manager Al Avila, who assumed the roles of general manager and executive vice president.
After a disappointing first half of the season, the Tigers were in sell mode, leading Dombrowski to deal coveted free agents David Price, Yoenis Cespedes and Joakim Soria for six players before last week's deadline.
"I would like to thank Dave Dombrowski for his 14 years of service," owner Mike Ilitch said in a news release.
"Together we've enjoyed some success, but we're still in aggressive pursuit of our ultimate goal: to bring a World Series title to Detroit and Michigan.
"I've decided to release Dave from his contract in order to afford him the time to pursue other career opportunities. I feel this is the right time for the Tigers to move forward under new leadership."
Avila, who had served under Dombrowski for 24 years with the Florida Marlins and Tigers, takes over the day-to-day operations of the Tigers and reports directly to Ilitch. Avila said that he was offered the job Saturday and traveled back to Detroit to begin making preparations to assume the new role.
That longstanding relationship with Dombrowski made the transition difficult, though they haven't talked much since the transition.
"The only conversation I had with Dave was when he left we said our goodbyes. Obviously, we're still great friends," Avila said. "I don't know the how or why Mr. Ilitch made the decision and really, that's a question more for him — that's something I had really nothing to do with."
Dombrowski was the architect of the renaissance Tigers of the last decade, building on power pitching and big-name free agents. After coming from the Marlins, Dombrowski brought coveted stars Ivan Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez and others before his biggest acquisition — trading for Miguel Cabrera in 2007.
That paved the way for a pair of World Series appearances — losses to the Cardinals in 2006 and to the Giants in 2012 — but came at a hefty expense, as the Tigers maintained one of the highest payrolls in the league to remain in contention.
The Tigers won four straight Central Division titles but couldn't convert any of those into the ultimate prize the Ilitch coveted, a World Series title.
"He'll probably be a popular free agent on the market," manager Brad Ausmus said of Dombrowski.
Despite the trades this season, all indications were that Ilitch would continue to try to keep the Tigers in the hunt under Avila.
"He has assured me that he will continue to do everything in his power to make this club a winner in seeking a world championship," Avila said. "He's still committed to make the major league club the best club possible and go out there and get free-agent players but he also wants to make sure we pump in young players through the draft, international signings and continue developing our own players."
Ready to step in
For Avila, it's a dream job, one that he has be groomed to take over from his early days as a director of Latin American operations with the Marlins. Along with Dombrowski, he was had a hand in all of the big trades and signings but now takes the assistant off his title.
"I've been involved in every single transaction in this organization since the day I came. I've been involved in everything as far as the amateur draft, international signings, player development; I've overseen every department from the day I got here — that was my job," Avila said.
"That to me is what makes me uniquely qualified in this organization — because I know it inside-out. "Everything as far as I know is going to move forward smoothly."
Avila (Ah-VEE-lah), 57, signed his new contract on Tuesday, but he would not disclose the terms. He did say he has enough years on his contract for security going forward, "to maintain the winning tradition of the Tigers."
Avila gave an early endorsement of Ausmus, reiterating that he will remain the manager for the foreseeable future.
"I believe in Brad Ausmus; he's our manager for the rest of the season, for sure," he said. "I have all the confidence in him and he's done a good job. Just like everything else from here on out, everything will be evaluated."
Avila said Ilitch was on board with the three trades the Tigers made last week, dealing David Price, Joakim Soria and Yoenis Cespedes for six prospects. He added that Ilitch is not in a "cost-cutting mode" and that the franchise would continue to pursue a World Series championship.
More than that, though, Avila is looking to continue the success that Dombrowski started and to help Ilitch achieve his goal.
"I'm very excited for this opportunity, and honored and grateful to Mr. Ilitch for having the faith and trust in me to run the ballclub in our continuing pursuit of a World Series championship," Avila said. "We're confident we can make a strong push to win this year, and that we have the foundation in place to win next year and for years to come."
Avila helped bring Cabrera to the Marlins in 1999 and was promoted to assistant general manager in 2001. He joined the Tigers in 2002 as assistant general manager and helped bring Cabrera to the Tigers from the Marlins in 2007.
"Al Avila is a true baseball man," Ilitch said. "He's been involved in every facet of the game as a college head coach, scout and executive. His track record in identifying and developing talent is extremely impressive.
"I'm confident that Al will bring his own approach and his own style to the general manager position. He's worked extremely hard over the course of his career to afford himself this opportunity with the Detroit Tigers."