Las Vegas — Al Avila laughed and said, “I knew you were going to ask about that.”
Well, to be fair, it was the lowest hanging topical fruit out there relative to the Tigers. They are in the market for an affordable, veteran shortstop. Earlier in the day Tuesday, the Toronto Blue Jays announced they were releasing 34-year-old shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.
In so doing, they were eating the last $38 million of his contract and sending him into free agency. The Tigers and other teams can essentially sign him for minimum dollars — the ultimate low-risk, high-potential deal.
So, Mr. General Manager, might the Tigers pursue Tulowitzki?
“Well, he didn’t play last year,” Avila said. “So, right now, I don’t know. We are kicking around a lot of things. I would say, it’s a low probability.”
Tulowitzki hasn’t played a game in the big leagues since July 28, 2017. He’s had surgery on both feet and an ankle. Still, Tulowitzki has been working out in Long Beach, Calif., and intends to play next season.
Avila didn’t completely close the door.
“We will be involved like we always are,” he said, meaning the team would do its due diligence. “I can’t be optimistic or negative about it. It is what it is until further notice.”
It was another day of inactivity on the shortstop market, at least in the bargain aisle, where the Tigers are shopping.
“There just hasn’t been the appetite to move as quickly at that position,” Avila said. “And it’s not like we’re being super aggressive either. We’re playing it out. Everything has its timing. It doesn’t all have to happen here. It could, but it doesn’t have to.
“Believe me, we will have a shortstop come spring training.”
To which manager Ron Gardenhire said, “Thank you.”
Avila hinted the Tigers were holding out for the possibility of a larger deal, perhaps encompassing a trade and a free agent signing, where they could bring in more than just a shortstop.
“There are a lot of creative people in this room,” he said, meaning his staff and the analytics department. “A lot of ideas get kicked around. If we go out and get a shortstop right now and then something else happens a few days or a few weeks from now, you go, ‘Oh shoot, we could’ve done the whole big picture.
“There’s a lot more exploration going on. I truly believe we could go get a guy right now if we had to. But we are choosing to see how other pieces might fit. We are being a little careful right now.”
Free agents Adeiny Hechavarria, Jordy Mercer and Tim Beckham are believed to be at the top of the Tigers' candidates list. Freddy Galvis, who is looking for a multi-year deal, and Alcides Escobar appear to be off the list for now.
There has been some debate within the organization whether Escobar, entering his age-32 season, can handle playing shortstop every day. The Royals moved him to third base last season.
The Tigers also have a void at second base, where second-year utility man Niko Goodrum and rookie Dawel Lugo are presently stationed. The Tigers are at least searching for an economic way to fill both middle infield spots, as well as possibly add another left-handed bat and-or veteran catcher.