Avila Puzzled By 'Underwhelmed' Reaction To Tigers' Deadline Moves

"All these guys have tremendous makeup," he said.

Will Burchfield
July 31, 2019 - 7:45 pm

© Junfu Han, Detroit Free Press via Imagn Content Services, LLC

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The clock nearly struck midnight -- well, 4 p.m. -- on the Tigers, but they ultimately moved the players they wanted to before Wednesday's trade deadline. 

Just how close did they cut it? According to GM Al Avila, the Nicholas Castellanos trade went down with 40 seconds to spare. And the Shane Greene trade was finalized only a few minutes before that. 

When the dust had settled, the Tigers wound up with four mid-range prospects, three of whom are pitchers. All of them come with question marks, but upside as well -- they were each high draft picks in years past. 

In a buyer's market for relievers and rental bats, Avila feels the Tigers made out well. When asked what he would tell those who were underwhelmed by what the team reeled in, he seemed caught off guard. 

"Well, I don’t know what you mean by underwhelmed," he said. "It was pretty good considering the market for relief pitchers -- there were a ton of pitchers available. It went down basically to the wire. Considering the competition and everything involved, I thought the return actually was pretty good." 

The return for Greene: 21-year-old left-hander Joey Wentz, who was Atlanta's No. 7 prospect, and 24-year-old outfielder Travis Demeritte, a free-swinging slugger in Triple-A. 

The return for Castellanos: 22-year-old right-hander Paul Richan, who was Chicago's No. 16 prospect, and 23-year-old right-hander Alex Lange, who ranked No. 23. 

"All these guys have tremendous makeup," Avila said. "They were high picks within their time and we feel they all have a good future." 

Demeritte was a first-rounder in 2013, Wentz was a first-rounder (competitive balance pick) in 2016, Lange was a first-rounder in 2017 and Richan was a second-rounder in 2018. Avila and the Tigers sound especially high on Wentz, who will join Double-A Erie, and Richan, who will report to High-A Lakeland. 

Perhaps the biggest knock on Detroit's haul was that it featured only one position player. The organization is thin in that regard, and this seemed like one of its last chances to address that on the trade market. The Tigers knew this. 

Ultimately, said Avila, they chose talent over need. 

"Even though you focus on bats, you can only trade for what's available and what’s in front of you. It’s not like a fantasy league where you can create things," he said. "This is a situation where you try to get the best players available that you feel are prospects who can go up the ladder and help you at the big-league level.

"While you start focusing on bats, you can’t ignore the pitching, because at the end of the day if you have a pitching prospect as opposed to a position player that you don’t feel is going to have an impact at the big-league level, then you just have to make your best decision. Quite frankly, that’s why sometimes you have to wait until the very end to be able to get the best guy that you can get."

The Tigers will find out soon what kind of impact Demeritte can make in the majors. They plan to call him up in the coming days. They'll have to wait a bit longer on Wentz, Richan and Lange, but it's not unrealistic to think all three could be knocking on the door to Detroit next season. 

In the case of Lange, once one of Chicago's top prospects who's fallen off the radar due to mechanical issues, the Tigers believe they may have found an arm for the backend of the bullpen. Wentz and Richan, meanwhile, project as Nos. 4 or 5 starters. 

As a whole, it's a return the Tigers are satisfied with, given what they were selling.