The Tigers signed Mike Aviles to a one year deal worth $2 million on Friday. Because it’s the offseason, we’ll talk about it, but in reality it’s a very minor move. Aviles is a career .265/.297/.385 hitter while playing something around average defense with okay base running. Aviles has primarily played the infield during his career but does have around 500 innings of outfield work to his name as well.
In one sense, signing Aviles is basically a no-risk move. $2 million is nothing. It’s a drop in the bucket for a team that will spend $170 million or more in 2016 and it isn’t a big enough commitment to tie the club to him if he struggles. It’s the kind of move that doesn’t preclude the team for going in another direction. On the other hand, signing Aviles led the Tigers to bounce Kyle Lobstein from the 40-man roster. Perhaps Lobstein isn’t healthy and this won’t matter at all, but if the Tigers lose a healthy Lobstein to squeeze Aviles onto the roster this move is kind of a head scratcher. I don’t see any reason why he’s more useful than Romine or Machado.
The thing about Aviles is that he isn’t any good. He’s had good offensive seasons in his career twice, way back in 2008 and 2010. Since 2011, his wRC+ have been 85, 75, 77, 72, and 65. If you can play decent infield defense with an 85 wRC+ that’s a fine guy to have on the roster but Aviles has been more in the 75 wRC+ range with okay defense for the last four seasons. He doesn’t walk, strikeout, or hit for much power. You’re going to get balls in play with Aviles but you won’t get much damage.
To be valuable with his offensive profile, you need to be a really strong defender, and while Aviles isn’t a liability in the field, it’s been a while since he’s put up high quality defensive numbers. The best case scenario is he’s worth maybe 0.5 WAR, but it’s very plausible that he’s a replacement level player.
Now this isn’t a big deal because you have to pay everyone at least $500,000, so you’re basically risking $1.5 million on the chance that he adds a little positive value and some good influence in the clubhouse. He’s versatile on defense, which always helps, but he’s a 25th man in every sense of the word.
The only potential risk with Aviles is that you might lose Lobstein who can serve as a good depth piece on the pitching side. Otherwise, it’s very little money and the club can still bring someone in to take his roster spot if they find the money for a good player. There’s nothing wrong with this move, but don’t expect him to be a meaningful contributor on the field.