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Tigers haven’t decided on options for K-Rod, Maybin

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Francisco Rodriguez

Detroit – Tigers general manager Al Avila said Tuesday the club had not yet decided whether to exercise their options on closer Francisco Rodriguez ($6 million) or center fielder Cameron Maybin ($9 million).

He also said it was unlikely the club would be negotiating a long-term extension with right fielder J.D. Martinez any time soon.

“Going into 2017, J.D. is our right fielder,” Avila said. “I don’t foresee any talk of a long-term contract. I can’t rule out that we would (at some point) consider a long-term deal, but sitting here today, I’m not thinking that way.”

Martinez signed a two-year contract worth $18.5 million before last season. He will earn $11.75 next season.

As for Maybin and Rodriguez, Avila said, “We have until just after the World Series (to decide). We will probably wait all the way to the final day.”

Avila made it clear in his post-season address Tuesday the goal of the team moving forward was to get younger and reduce payroll. While their contracts, by market standards, are reasonable for a starting center fielder who hit .315 last season and Major League’s active saves leader, Maybin will be 30 and Rodriguez 35 next season.

Avila would not list any potential in-house candidate for the closer role, should they not pick up Rodriguez’s option, though Bruce Rondon would likely be first in line. As for center field options, JaCoby Jones might be a long-shot.

“If we decide not to pick up (Maybin’s) option, we need a center fielder,” Avila said. “JaCoby Jones is a viable option. I think there's people in the organization that feel that he could use more time in Toledo. I'm of the opinion that he could use more time in Toledo.

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“But if he has a strong Arizona Fall League, comes in spring training and really has a good spring, I can't rule out that he might not be the guy. Particularly if you can match him up with another guy that hits from the left side and can give him some days off on some tough right-handed pitchers.”

Avila said Anthony Gose, the Tigers’ Opening Day starter in center last season before being demoted all the way to Double-A, would also have a chance to win back a spot on the 25-man roster.

Most likely, though, if Maybin isn’t brought back, the Tigers would seek a center fielder through trade.

“Until we get into those discussions I don't know,” he said.

Jimenez, Stewart ready?

Like he was with Jones, Avila remains steadfast against rushing some of the younger talent to the big leagues.

He was asked about two players specifically Tuesday – right-handed relief pitcher Joe Jimenez and outfielder Christin Stewart.

Christin Stewart

“Jimenez went right through the minor leagues and I know there was a big push for him to come up here,” Avila said. “But trust me, it would not have been in his best interests or our best interests. There were some things he needed to work on, in particular his slider.”

He also needed to improve the command of his fastball.

“When we bring up, we want to make sure that he's coming up to have success,” Avila said. “We don't want to go through the same mistake we did with Bruce (Rondon) in the past where it just didn't work out right away.  We want to be a little bit more cautious with Jimenez.”

Avila said he hopes Jimenez can contribute at the big league level at some point next season.

As for Stewart, a slugging, left-handed hitting outfielder, his arrival time seems more in the 2018 range.

“We need left-handed bats in the lineup; that’s no secret,” Avila said. “He’s one guy that can fill that role, if not early 2017 than at some point late 2017 or probably 2018. I don’t want to put a time frame, a hard time frame, on it. We need a guy like that, so the faster he comes the better for us. We’re not going to push it.

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“The last thing you want to do is bring up a guy, he has failure and you have to send him back and start the whole process all over again.”

Avila described Stewart as “adequate” defensively.

“He’s a guy that he’s going to have to hit in order for him to really help you win,” he said. “As far as his defense, I don’t think he’s going to be a butcher out there, but I don’t think he’s going to be a Gold Glover either.”

Decision time

Several Tigers players, even some with expensive contracts, could be facing do-or-die spring trainings this year.

Avila said pitchers Mark Lowe ($5.5 million) and Mike Pelfrey ($8 million), both underperformers last season, would have to earn their spots in 2017 – as would infielder Dixon Machado and outfielders Gose, Steven Moya and Tyler Collins, all out of minor league options.

Mike Pelfrey

“Those guys are either going to have to make the club or not,” Avila said. “You can’t option them out anymore. So we’re going to have to make some tough decisions there. They might be contributors at the end of the day, but going into where we’re at right now, I couldn’t tell you what we’re going to do with them at this point.”

As for Lowe, Avila said, “My hope is that he comes to spring training and that over the offseason through his workout routine -- and I know he's a guy that takes care of himself -- that he comes back. If he's not back to what he was a couple of seasons ago, at least he's a serviceable a pitcher in that bullpen.

“If not, then we'll have to make decisions at that point of what we do from there.”

Same goes for Pelfrey, who seems a better bet for a bullpen role in 2017 than a starter.

“He's going to come in and compete,” Avila said. “When we originally signed him we were hoping that he would be a fourth or fifth starter and give us some innings. If he comes back and shows that he can do that, then that'll be how he's used.

“If we feel he might a bit more effective out of the bullpen, then that'll be how he's used. If he's not, then we'll have to make a decision at that point, too.”

Around the horn

Avila said the Tigers likely will be searching free agency for a backup catcher, preferably one that hits left-handed. Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Alex Avila were two names Avila mentioned.

… Avila said there were no players who needed offseason surgery, including Victor Martinez.

… Tigers senior director of baseball operations Jay Sartori is presently building a software database system to facilitate and support the organizations’ analytics work. The system, which could be operational as early as January, will be called Caesar.

… Avila said he expects to hire a hitting coach as early as Friday. “We’re close,” he said. Wally Joyner left the club to seek other opportunities.

Twitter @cmccosky