The vision this offseason for general manager Al Avila was to trade veterans and get his team younger and leaner. As the offseason ends, he's still looking to do this, at least in the long term. The deals he was open to making never came to fruition. The only major offseason trade came at the start, when the Tigers traded center fielder Cameron Maybin and his $9 million contract option to the Angels for a pitching prospect.
"It's very hard to trade an everyday player and not receive a guy that you can plug into that position, or a position of need," Avila said, "whether it be right away, for this season, or in the very short future. Those kinds of trades were not available at this point, so that helped create the situation where we felt we should wait a little longer. Because we just weren't comfortable with trading good, productive Major League players for prospects that were further away, and maybe a little more chance on.
"In saying that, as we move forward, our intention, our philosophy is going to be to keep our young prospects, and not trade those guys, to be more prudent, say, in long-term contracts and free agency. We still have that belief, we still have that philosophy moving forward. We were looking at it this offseason, trying to make some moves, and start that this year, and it didn't work out that way. But as we move forward, we will always be looking at ways to make the organization leaner and younger."
It could happen at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline if the Tigers are out of contention. It could happen at season's end, when several Tigers -- J.D. Martinez and Ian Kinsler foremost among them -- are potential free agents. Avila has made it clear that the Tigers, who paid a luxury tax for last season and are on track to do so again, will not be in that territory again next season.
For this group, this is one last run at the playoffs, one that an unfriendly trade market granted them. Big picture, it could be the closing of a window of postseason contention that opened in 2006. While Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander appear likely to stay next year and beyond, given their tenure and their contracts, the supporting cast around them could look vastly different.
Until then, the Tigers want to give it one more shot with this group. And players want to force Avila to make one more run for it with them.
"There's no reason why we can't contend this year," Kinsler said. "I think a lot of guys are excited to prove that. I think a lot of guys are excited to make Al's job really, really tough come Trade Deadline time and kind of handcuff him, where maybe we can add some pieces at the Trade Deadline and put ourselves in a good position."
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.