Al Avila, Tigers executive vice president of baseball operations and general manager, talks about today's market, luxury taxes and how they affect trades.
Detroit — Let’s go around the Tigers’ clubhouse and get some reaction to the trades made Thursday — Justin Verlander to Houston, Justin Upton to the L.A. Angels.
Start with one of the veterans — second baseman Ian Kinsler.
As expected, he was a little salty at first. He had developed a close relationship with both of the Justins, but especially with Upton.
“I am not losing him,” Kinsler said. “He’s just not part of the team. He didn’t die. It’s not so sober. Any time you lose a teammate, someone who was a big part of the team as Justin and Justin and Justin (Wilson, who was traded in July), it’s a tough situation.
“But we have two games to play today, so you have to erase it quickly.”
Kinsler was chapped by the suggestion that the trades would make the Tigers less competitive.
“No it doesn’t,” he said. “It’s whoever plays the best that day. It doesn’t matter who is what on paper. It’s who plays the best. If we play better than the Indians today, we will win the game. There are still major-league games to be played.
“Obviously, it’s a different situation in here, we all know that. But there are games to be played. The games don’t stop because somebody got traded.”
And as far as staying competitive?
“We don’t lose that,” Kinsler said. “We don’t stop being competitive.”
He said he would certainly miss both players in the clubhouse, especially Upton who he called one of the best teammates he ever had.
“It was a monumental day as far as the history of the game,” he said. “I don’t think that’s ever been done before. But as a pro athlete, you have to move past that stuff quickly.”
Upton and Verlander were prominent members of the team’s leadership circle. There is a void that needs to be filled there, though Kinsler and Miguel Cabrera are still present. Catcher James McCann is a candidate to help fill the void.
“There is a lot I can bring,” he said. “I have several years under my belt now and I’ve been playing alongside the guys who’ve been traded away. I know how they went about their business and I know the traditions of the Old English D.
“At the same time, I’m still part of that youth group.”
McCann sees the trades as creating opportunities.
“It’s been coming for a while,” he said. “Not it’s a youth movement and it’s time to find a way to build it back up. This had to happen for us to move in the right direction as an organization, as a team and as a clubhouse.
“There’s got to be new faces of the team. There’s got to be new All-Stars and new people that step up and help bring this back to being a winning team.”
Across the room, Michael Fulmer sat in front of his locker, looking at his phone. Just in his second season, he is the ace of the staff now.
“All I care about is that we have five guys who go to battle every single day,” he said. “That we have five different starters who are capable of winning ballgames and keeping runs off the board.
“JV was the leader of this staff and he taught me so much about being in that (ace) role. I tried to learn from him.”
As for the trades, Fulmer sees them as a win-win for both parties.
“I know where the front office is coming from,” he said. “Just trying to get better for the future; that’s good for us. And ultimately, it’s good for J-Up and Ver because they deserve to be on a contending team.
“I told J-Up, I appreciated all the help he gave me. But I told him, ‘I am glad you are going to a team that has a chance of playing in the playoffs.’ That’s what he deserves. Same for Ver. It will be great to see both duke it out in the post-season.”
Left-hander Daniel Norris got back to Detroit at about 1 a.m. from his last rehab outing with Triple-A Toledo. Just in time to get the trade news.
“It’s a bummer,” he said. “It’s tough to see those guys go. But that’s what they are dialing in now — moving people out and starting over.”
Norris has nearly three years of MLB service time, yet he’s only 24. Although he has struggled this season, he has a chance to be a foundation piece of the rebuild.
“We’re having a youth movement right now but I look around and I’m still one of the youngest guys,” he said. “It’s weird to think about it. I was talked to Brad (Ausmus) last week and he was like, ‘You are young in age but not really young from the standpoint of being in the big leagues.’
“At this point I was hoping to have it figured out. But it’s still a process and I have to trust it.”
In the manager’s office, Ausmus was answering questions about losing Verlander and Upton.
“However his career ends, Justin Verlander will always be looked at as a Detroit Tiger,” Ausmus said. “He’s had a tremendous run here. He’s one of the best pitchers in the game and he’s been that since he first stepped foot on a major-league field.
“It’s not easy to trade guys like that. He’s an organizational icon. I know it wasn’t an easy decision for Al (Avila, general manager), but I think he felt the organization was at a turning point and needed to get younger. Unfortunately, when you make that decision, sometimes you end up trading very popular, very talented players.”
Ausmus, who was in the last year of his contract with the club, was asked if he would enjoy managing through a rebuilding phase.
“There’s a lot of upside to young players,” he said. “Experience is great, but there is a lot of upside to young players in terms of energy and willingness to learn. They want to become good.”
Cabrera was not available for comment before the game. But earlier this year, he said he wasn’t worried about being the last man standing. He said he went through it earlier in his career with the Marlins.
“It’s not easy for a veteran player to go through something like this,” Avila said. “Guys like Cabrera, they bring professionalism to the game and to the clubhouse every day. They help nurture the young players and become part of the process of making the club great again.”