Avila 'upgrades' bench, acquires Aybar
Detroit – It’s not like Mike Aviles’ pop out with two on and the tying run on second base Monday night was the last straw for the Tigers.
But the situation highlighted exactly why general manager Al Avila felt, and has felt for quite some time, that the Tigers needed a little more offensive thump from their utility players.
Thus, on Tuesday, just 40 minutes before the start of the game Tuesday, the Tigers announced they traded Aviles and catching prospect Kade Scivicque to Atlanta for veteran infielder Erick Aybar.
“The main reason is to upgrade our utility position,” Avila said. “We feel that Aybar give us more offense from that utility position. He’s a switch-hitter and he can play third, short and second – even, in a pinch, we could throw him into the outfield.
“He is an experienced, veteran player who we feel gives us a little better offense and the same versatility.”
Aybar, 32, was hitting .242 in 97 games with the Braves this season, but he’s been hot since the All-Star break – hitting .313 with four doubles, two triples and a home run in 27 games.
“He did not get off to a very good start – he was hurt at the beginning of the year,” Avila said. “But as of lately, the last month or so, he’s been hitting the ball very well. We’ve been looking and looking, trying to find an upgrade in the little areas like this.”
Avila said injuries to shortstop Jose Iglesias and third baseman Nick Castellanos hastened the trade, but not because he fears they will be out longer than expected.
“It’s the sum of everything that’s happened to us,” Avila said. “We feel we needed that guy off the bench that could give us a little more offense. Iglesias is our shortstop and we feel he will be back within the two-week period. Castellanos will be back for a longer period of time.
“But we’re very happy with Casey McGehee so far. He’s filled in admirably.”
Manager Brad Ausmus wasn’t ready to commit to exactly how he was going to use Aybar, expect to say he could be used at every infield position, including third base where he’s only played a couple games in his career.
“He’s not here to replace anybody,” Ausmus said. “But if he plays well, he’ll play. It’s as simple as that. We’re in the business of winning baseball games, so if he helps us win games, he will play.”
Justin Verlander and Ian Kinsler both felt Aybar could provide a spark.
“He’ll bring a level of athleticism,” Verlander said. “He does a lot of little things that were not fun to play against. He could hurt you in a lot of ways.”
Said Kinsler: “He’s a very good player, a solid player. He does everything well. He runs the bases well, he’ll give you a good at-bat, he’s won a Gold Glove. He’s a very sure-handed defensive player.”
In 11 seasons, playing with the Angels and Braves, has been primarily a shortstop. He won the Gold Glove in 2011. He made the All-Star team two years ago. Avila said he is expected to join the team in time for the game Wednesday.
Aviles was hitting .210 in 68 games with the Tigers.
“I think he ended up playing more than we really wanted him to up to this point,” Avila said. “That was probably part of the problem.”
The Tigers, though, will miss his upbeat, veteran presence in the clubhouse.
“It’s always tough to see a teammate go, especially a guy who has been with us all year,” Verlander said. “But the organization thinks Aybar makes us better. Hopefully he does. Hopefully he will be a spark for us.”
Scivicque, 23, was hitting .282 at Single A Lakeland.
The Tigers also called up outfielder Steven Moya from Toledo for the game Tuesday, but will likely send him back when Aybar arrives Wednesday.