Assistant GM Avila in it for the long-haul

Assistant GM Avila in it for the long-haul

DETROIT -- Al Avila hasn't closed the door on a general manager's job. Nor are the Tigers likely to shut out their top assistant and vice president from a GM post if the right opportunity arises.

Until and unless that chance pops up, however, Avila and the Tigers are a long-term match, continuing the remarkable stability in Detroit's front office that has stood for close to 10 years since GM Dave Dombrowski took over. And Avila is happy with that.

"I think right now, what we have going on here is good," Avila said on Wednesday.

It's a topic that comes up each fall when teams change GMs. Avila's name comes up often, and for good reason. He's closing in on 20 years as a Major League official, stretched across the gamut of front-office posts, from scout to scouting director, from international signings to the Draft, from handling a farm system to putting together Major League deals.

Avila got an offseason as a GM 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. After 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.

When folks around baseball talk about the close-knit group of assistants Dombrowski has put together around him in Detroit, Avila is the best example. While other front offices are known for producing future GMs, Dombrowski is known for maintaining a small circle of people he trusts and keeping them for the long haul. They're also believed to be paid well for their loyalty.

In Avila's case, he also gets a share of the day-to-day responsibilities that GMs in other organizations get under strong team presidents.

The same qualities that make Avila an appealing name elsewhere give him value in Detroit. The Tigers' response when teams come calling for permission to talk with Avila reflects that. The Angels had interest in him for their opening, the Los Angeles Times reported earlier this week, but were denied permission to talk with him. The Orioles also have an opening, and though some rumors suggested potential interest in Avila, he hasn't interviewed there.

The Tigers have the right to deny teams permission to talk with Avila for GM openings, and as the Detroit News detailed, they've exercised it liberally. That actually predates the four-year extension Avila and most of the Tigers front office signed in August once Dombrowski formally received his extension from owner Mike Ilitch. The Mets had interest in Avila for their opening last fall, but with Sandy Alderson believed to be an overwhelming favorite for the job, the Tigers denied permission.

The only change between then and now is the stability of a long-term contract in Detroit. In theory, had that extension been held until season's end rather than midseason, Avila's situation might have changed. But by inking everyone, manager included, in August, the Tigers ensured that stability remained.

The big similarity, the consistent stance, is that the Tigers aren't likely to give teams a chance to talk with Avila simply for the sake of interviewing. He has done that in the past, with Seattle three years ago, as well as for past openings in Cincinnati, Baltimore and Arizona. If another team truly targets Avila for its top job, he'll likely interview again.

That chance likely will come up at some point in the next four years. Until then he'll remain a perennially rumored candidate, but not a perpetually interviewed one. The more time passes, the more tied the 52-year-old Avila becomes to the Tigers, not just with the chance to watch his son Alex play every day, but with the organization he has helped build.

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