Bob Wojnowski and Chris McCosky review the Tigers' 114-loss season and project the starting lineup for the 2020 season. The Detroit News
San Diego — Among the many holes the Tigers are trying to fill this offseason — catcher, corner infield, corner outfield, starting pitcher – there is also a hole at second base.
Presently, the two options are prospect Willi Castro, a shortstop by trade, and Harold Castro, whom general manager Al Avila said would best serve the club in a utility role.
The Tigers could have claimed a proven, high-performing second baseman and leadoff hitter off waivers a few weeks ago, but passed on Orioles second baseman Jonathan Villar. Villar, who cleared waivers, was subsequently traded to the Miami Marlins.
Avila on Tuesday was asked why he didn’t move to acquire Villar.
“It’s not like we have an unlimited amount of resources,” he said. “We have to allocate our resources in the right way. Where we are at a point right now to where we want to be, we’re taking baby steps. He’s a good player, but at the same time, we have other priorities.”
Avila listed catcher and pitcher as bigger priorities than a second baseman.
Villar, who is 28, was going into his final arbitration year and, according to MLBTradeRumors.com, stood to earn as much as $10.4 million. That amount would be about half of what the Tigers expect to spend this offseason.
Although there were reports of the Tigers being among the teams asking about former Rangers and Astros catcher Robinson Chirinos, Avila said he is casting a wide net and were no closer to a deal with any available catcher.
“I can’t say we’re in on Robinson Chirinos,” Avila said. “But we are in the market for a catcher. We need a catcher. So you could name almost any catcher in free agency.”
In other news, Avila said starting pitcher and former American League Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer, returning from Tommy John surgery, has been working out every day in Lakeland, Florida.
“He’s doing good,” Avila said. “He’s not throwing bullpens yet or anything like that but he’s playing catch. He should be able to pitch, I can’t give you an exact date, but sometime in July he should be pitching.”
Avila was also asked about center fielder JaCoby Jones, whose defensive metrics plummeted last year. He went from an MLB-best plus-21 defensive runs saved in 2018 to minus-31 last season.
“The eye test will tell you he didn’t play as good defensively, in my opinion,” Avila said. “The metrics showed it and the eye test showed it. He goes after a ball, you could tell he wasn’t going after the ball like he normally does.”
It has been suggested that positioning was an issue, that Jones was playing too deep too often. But Avila didn’t agree.
“A lot of it, in my opinion, has to do with health,” he said. “If a player is hurting, sometimes you can see that.”
Jones, whose season started with a shoulder injury and ended with a broken wrist early in September, also missed time with a back injury and dealt with leg fatigue throughout the early part of the season.
“Can it be corrected? Yes,” Avila said. “He did it really well before.”