The Detroit Tigers fired executive vice president and general manager Al Avila on Wednesday afternoon. Avila had been in the position since Aug. 4, 2015, when he took over from Dave Dombrowski. Avila was in a front office role with the Tigers since 2002.
“Once I decided to make a change, I sat down with Al and thanked him for his nearly 22 years of service to our organization,” said Tigers chairman Christopher Ilitch in a statement. “Al’s loyalty and dedication has served as an example to all during his time as a leader in our baseball operations department.I will oversee the search process for our next baseball operations leader, in collaboration with several members of our baseball and business operations executive teams.”
The Tigers, who hoped to make the leap from rebuilder to contender in 2022, have been one of the most disappointing teams in baseball this season. Their 43-68 mark entering Wednesday was the third-worst mark in the majors.
“For nearly 22 years, I have given my heart and soul to this franchise, and I want to thank Mr. and Mrs. Iltich, along with Chris, for the opportunity and treating me and my family as their own,” Avila said in a statement. “We’ve celebrated successes and enjoyed great moments, and I’m proud to have worked with so many talented people in baseball operations and throughout the organization. I’ll cherish our friendships and the successes we all celebrated together. To Tigers fans, you’re the best and you deserve a winner. I wish the results would have been better this season but know there is a lot to look forward to in the coming years. God bless everyone.”
Avila took over during a transition phase for the Tigers. They had won the AL Central four straight seasons from 2011-14, taking the 2012 AL pennant and advancing to the ALCS three of the four seasons. In 2015, though, they fell back to 74-87 with an aging nucleus. The task for Avila was to rework the big-league roster while building the farm system.
The Tigers would bounce back a little in 2016, winning 86 games, but that would be the high point of Avila’s tenure at the top. They went 64-98 each of the following two seasons and then totally bottomed out at 47-114 in 2019. Last year, they actually played really well after a 9-24 start, finishing 77-85.
They then bolstered the big-league roster heading into this season, notably with signing Javier Báez and trading for Austin Meadows. Still, the offense has been one of the worst in baseball and the pitching staff has also had its share of problems.
Under Avila, the Tigers have traded the likes of Justin Verlander, J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton and Nick Castellanos. They’ve also had the No. 1 overall pick in the draft twice and had very high selections most other seasons. Still, the farm system has consistently ranked toward the bottom third of the league by most outlets.
“I want to re-establish our momentum and progress toward building a winning team and I am driven to find a talented executive to help us do that,” Ilitch said. “They’ll be entering an organization with many foundational elements in place and an exciting path forward. Tigers fans deserve wining teams, and I’m highly focused and committed to deliver that to the people of Detroit and Michigan. With new baseball operations leadership will come a fresh perspective toward evolving our roster and maximizing our talent to reach our objectives. To be clear, our goals are to build a team that wins on a sustainable basis, qualifies for the playoffs, and ultimately wins the World Series.”
The Tigers won the AL pennants in 2006 and 2012, but the franchise hasn’t won the World Series since 1984. They only have two titles since 1945.