Former Tigers catcher Avila signs with White Sox

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Alex Avila

Detroit – Gone but not forgotten.

Alex Avila is officially an ex-Tiger. He signed a one-year deal for $2.5 million with American League Central foe the Chicago White Sox. The Tigers will see him 15 times in 2016.

“Alex gives us a veteran presence behind the plate who provides solid defense and a productive left-handed bat,” said White Sox General manager Rick Hahn.

Both Avila, his father, general manager Al Avila and his Tigers teammates knew he would most likely not be with the Tigers after the 2015 season. Al Avila said as much at his post-season press conference.

“He was saying his goodbyes like he was not coming back at all,” Avila said. “Which, in reality, I would say it would be probable, just because he will probably get something out there which might be more beneficial to him.”

His last start as a Tiger came on Oct. 3 and fittingly, he caught Justin Verlander in a game against the White Sox.

“Before and throughout the game, there was a lot going through my mind,” Avila said. “It was a little emotional for me, you know? We put in a lot of time and effort the last five or six years. We’ve become good friends and we’ve had a lot of success together.

“It was definitely a little tough.”

The two shared a long embrace after the game.

“If he’s not back, I’m going to miss him,” Verlander said. “We became really good friends. I enjoyed throwing to him. I mean, we’ve done some pretty special things together. It’s always tough, but it’s the nature of the game.”

The Tigers won four straight A.L. Central titles with Avila behind the plate. He was starting catcher from 2010 through 2014, losing the job last year to rookie James McCann.

“Tigers is all I know,” Avila said late in the season. “For me, that’s been six of the best years of my life. The memories that I have here I’ll never forget.”

Since his All-Star season in 2011, his offensive production has steadily declined -- .297, .243, .227, .218 and .191. He’s always had good on-base numbers and occasional power, but he’s fallen off in those areas, as well. His OPS from 2011 to now -- .895, .736, .693, .686, .626.

“I don’t have an answer for you,” he said of his offensive struggles. “There is nothing I can say that it’s this or it’s that. This was definitely not the way you plan it out, not in my mind when I left spring training. But baseball rarely goes the way you plan it. You just adjust to it.

“There’s always a lot more factors than what you’d think that go into poor or good play.”

He battled concussions and last season a knee injury. But he refused to accept injuries as an excuse.

“They are not an excuse for anything,” he said. “Players get injured all the time. Some guys come back from injuries and are able to pick up where they left off and other guys don’t. It takes a little longer.”

Presumably, Avila will be given the chance to win the starting job in Chicago. Presently, former Tigers farm hand Rob Brantley, Tyler Flowers and rookie Kevan Smith are on the 40-man roster.

“I have mixed feelings,” Al Avila told Fox Sports’ Jon Morosi. “Sad he’s going to a division rival but happy for him, as it looks like they have good plans for him.”

Twitter @cmccosky