Al Avila: Tigers are still looking for outfield help, but Yasiel Puig not a fit

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — The Tigers are still shopping for veteran outfielders, but it doesn’t appear that Yasiel Puig is on the list.

“He’s a free agent,” general manager Al Avila said Thursday. “But for us, it’s not something that’s a priority.”

Outfielder Yasiel Puig is a free agent, but isn't a "fit" for the Tigers, general manager Al Avila said.

Puig and former Tiger Nick Castellanos are the two top-shelf free agent outfielders still on the market, and as spring training draws closer, the price tags on unsigned outfielders may be getting slashed.

“I don’t know if it’s about price, but it’s the fit,” Avila said. “And would it block anybody (in the system). Right now, we’re working through that. We’ve been talking to some agents, and we’re looking into it. If it makes sense, we will do it.”

The Tigers are heading into camp with Christin Stewart penciled in to left field, JaCoby Jones in center and Victor Reyes in right. The Tigers signed former Royal Jorge Bonifacio to a minor-league deal and will give him a chance to compete for a corner outfield spot.

Also in camp will be Travis Demeritte and prospects Daz Cameron, Derek Hill and Troy Stokes, Jr. Utility man Harold Castro also could be in the outfield mix.  

“It’s open competition in the outfield and we still might sign another,” Avila said. “I’m not saying we will, but it’s a possibility. We are still looking to improve as we go through spring training and into the season.”

Outfielders still on the market include former Tigers Curtis Granderson, Rajai Davis and Matt Joyce, Steven Souza, Jr., Billy Hamilton, Kevin Pillar, Lonnie Chisenhall and Domingo Santana.

Mize, Manning — when?

It was very subtle, but manager Ron Gardenhire got his point across. He was on the dais at an event Wednesday night in Toledo, talking up the Tigers top pitching prospects, Casey Mize, Matt Manning, Alex Faedo and Tarik Skubal, who are expected to start the season with the Mud Hens.

“The people in Toledo are going to see some pretty good pitching this year,” Gardenhire said. “Whether I want them to be there, or not.”

Naturally, Gardenhire would love to see a couple of those pitchers wearing the Olde English D sooner than later, like on Opening Day 2020. But he knows that’s not their timeline.

“At the stage our club is now, that’s not likely,” Avila said. “I would say there’s not that great a chance. It would be our preference for them to start at Toledo, have a good year and then at some point this season we can bring them up so they can get some experience.

“Then we get to the following spring training, and it’s a whole different ballgame.”

Avila was adamant, though, that delaying the start of their major-league service time was not part of the decision.

“I’ve never been too concerned with service time,” Avila said. “For me, it’s all about if the team is ready to win, and if the guy is ready to come up and help us win. As far as holding a guy back because of service time, I’ve never been taught that way and I don’t work that way.”

No Miggy

Miguel Cabrera is not taking part in the Tigers caravan this week.

“He was excused,” Avila said. “He’s at a baseball tournament with his son.”

Family first. Cabrera has posted several pictures on Instagram of his training regime with trainer Adam Boily and his System8 program in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In the photos, he looks as trim and fit as he has in a couple of years.

“He told me when he left that was going to happen,” Gardenhire said. “He was going to get himself in shape. I just want him healthy all year.”

Twitter: @cmccosky