Avila a hot commodity for GM hunters

Avila a hot commodity for GM hunters

DETROIT -- Tigers vice president and assistant general manager Al Avila remains someone with a general manager post potentially in his future -- and someone who teams with openings want to interview. That future won't include the New York Mets, at least at this point, but that doesn't mean it won't include another team.

While the Tigers turned down the Mets' request to interview Avila for their GM post, as first reported by the Bergen Record, it hasn't been a blanket denial for interested teams. Avila interviewed with the Seattle Mariners about their opening before the M's hired Bill Bavasi after the 2003 season. He has also interviewed over the years for openings in Cincinnati, Baltimore and Arizona.

With the Mets having the lone opening left atop a front office, Avila is set in Detroit for at least another year as team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski's right-hand man. But at some point, Avila is logically in line to get a shot somewhere -- either as another team's replacement or perhaps as Dombrowski's eventual successor in Detroit whenever he steps back from day-to-day duties.

For now, the partnership Dombrowski and Avila have formed over more than a decade in Detroit and Florida stands as one of the best front-office tandems in baseball.

Avila first joined up with Dombrowski in Florida, where he came aboard as the Marlins' director of Latin American Operations in 1992. Florida's signings under his watch included 1997 National League Championship Series and World Series MVP Livan Hernandez out of Cuba, Luis Castillo from the Dominican Republic, Edgar Renteria out of Colombia and Alex Gonzalez from Venezuela. As Florida's scouting director starting in 1998, Avila oversaw drafts that included another World Series MVP, Josh Beckett, and All-Star slugger Adrian Gonzalez.

Avila got an offseason as a general manager in Florida, running the Marlins after the 2001 season once Dombrowski came to Detroit and ownership in Florida changed hands from John Henry to Jeffrey Loria. Once Avila joined the Tigers, he quickly became one of the key voices in the organization on everything from the big league roster to player development to the draft.

Avila has said he's very happy in Detroit, where he has as much authority as an assistant GM can have. Dombrowski has kept an inner circle of assistants and voices as well or better than any GM in the game, and Avila is at the center of it. When Avila was part of the back-and-forth trade dialogue between the Tigers and Marlins on Miguel Cabrera, he had the distinct honor of bringing in a player he helped sign as a teenager out of Venezuela back when he and Dombrowski were with the Marlins.

The Mets denial was not a stunning development, since reports have tabbed Sandy Alderson as the favorite to replace Omar Minaya in New York. While Avila has interviewed for several jobs, he generally hasn't interviewed simply for the formality of interviewing. However, Avila's position also makes him one of the few assistant GMs who can boast a large amount of day-to-day experience without being a full-time GM, except for that one offseason.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.