Avila on newly-acquired prospect Willi Castro: 'We think he can be a good, everyday shortstop'
Detroit — The Tigers signed center fielder Leonys Martin with the idea that he could be flipped for prospects at the trade deadline.
On Tuesday, Martin was flipped — to the Indians for Double-A shortstop Willi Castro, who is Cleveland's No. 8 rated prospect, per MLB Pipeline.
"We identified Castro as the guy who would be the main guy in this deal and quite frankly, we had to hold out to the end to get him," general manager Al Avila said.
To sweeten the pot, the Tigers included right-handed pitcher Kyle Dowdy in the deal. Dowdy, the Tigers’ 12th-round pick in 2015, was 3-4 with a 5.09 ERA at Double-A Erie. He had struck out 48 hitters in 40⅔ innings.
"We liked Castro last year and tried to get him," Avila said. "We feel he has a chance to be a good, everyday shortstop. We feel like he's going to hit and be a good infielder. We've added to the good mix of prospects that we have."
Castro is 21 and one of the youngest players in Double-A. He played in the Eastern League All-Star game this season. A switch-hitter, he was hitting .245 with a .303 on-base percentage and .350 slugging percentage.
"I don't like to predict, but you have to project," Avila said. "We feel like he's going to be a good offensive player — with a chance to hit in the upper .200s with maybe 15 to 20 home runs."
It was the only deal the Tigers pulled off before the 4 p.m. non-waiver deadline. And that was not a surprise to Avila or industry insiders.
"Quite frankly, I had doubts we'd be able to trade Martin — it came down to late in the morning," Avila said. "Interest was mild on a couple of our other guys. It was a lot of work and we made one deal — and we are happy with that."
Avila said Oakland and Milwaukee had interest in starting pitcher Mike Fiers but never got close to making a deal. He also said interest in starting pitcher Francisco Liriano fell off after he missed time with hamstring and back issues.
Shortstop Jose Iglesias also generated very little interest around the league.
"The market was flooded with a lot of good players," Avila said. "We have some good players here, but if you saw the list of the players that were available, I think it was a record number.
"I was trying to be optimistic, but at the same time, I knew it would be tough to make multiple trades."
Players can still be traded — though traded players have to clear waivers — and many trades are done before Aug. 31, the date that teams have to be on teams to qualify for the playoff roster.
Justin Verlander and Justin Upton were both traded in August last year.
"It wasn't for a lack of trying," manager Ron Gardenhire said when asked about the club pulling off just one deal. "The market was saturated from a lot of teams trying to do the same thing. It makes it harder.
"And one thing Al and them have said, we're not going to just give people away. We have to get something back. It's not about money. It's about getting players in here who can help this organization grow."
Avila said the Martin trade was agreed to Monday night, but it was put on hold until the Indians could review Martin's complete medical records. The deal was finalized late Tuesday morning.
"Leonys will be missed," Avila said. "When we said goodbye to him today he was very emotional. He really liked it here, so it was kind of a bitter-sweet moment for him. He's excited because he's going to have a chance to play in the post-season.
"But at the same time, he was sad to leave."
Martin, who was an energetic presence and a comic foil for Gardenhire, was hitting .251, with a .321 on-base percentage and slugging .409. He has played through a nagging hamstring injury most of the season.
The Indians were looking for a center fielder and it appears Martin will platoon with another former Tiger — Rajai Davis.
"We're going to miss just him being around," Gardenhire said. "He was one of those guys who was out there in front of the rest of the guys, always talking and having a good time.
"He a good baseball player, too. That goes without saying. But he was just one of those presence guys in the clubhouse. Guys really enjoyed having him around."
Outfielder Mike Gerber has been called up from Toledo to replace Martin on the roster. JaCoby Jones will become the Tigers' everyday center fielder.
As for Castro, who was blocked in the Indians' organization by Francisco Lindor, he was immediately slotted as the No. 10 prospect in the Tigers organization, according to MLB.com. He joins Sergio Alcantara (No. 19) and Isaac Paredes (No. 12) as the three top shortstop prospects in the Tigers' organization.
All three are at Double-A Erie.
"I don't look at it as a luxury," Avila said. "You want to accumulate as many good prospects as you can. If they all make it, that's fantastic. But we all know there are injuries and setbacks.
"You can never have too many prospects. The idea is to accumulate talent — guys that have a chance to help the team one way or another. Whether it's coming up through the ranks and getting to the big leagues, or, down the road, if there is a trade to be made, then you have good prospects. Good players are always coveted."