Al Avila, Detroit Tigers
Division rank: fifth
MLB rank: tie 24th
Avila was a holdover from the ownership of Mike Illitch, deceased father of current owner Chris Illitch, and he had run the Tigers since 2015. Combine that with the fact that, in eight seasons, Avila’s various moves have only once actually improved the Tigers and it was no surprise when Chris Illitch handed him his release as general manager this past August.
The Tiger front office banked most of its 2022 hopes on one signature move, that being the promotion of 2020 No. 1 draft pick Spencer Torkelson, who hit 30 home runs during the 2021 minor league season. In the big leagues, however, Torkelson found the adjustment difficult. He batted only .203 with eight home runs and a .604 OPS, good for -2.6 WAA.
Over the course of the season, Avila made 39 moves involving players with MLB experience in 2022, but aside from the Torkelson promotion none of them ever held much promise of materially affecting the Tigers’ status. Like Picollo in Kansas City, Avila leaned disproportionately on his farm system as 18 of his 39 moves involved promotion of a system product like Torkelson.
But the net impact of those 18 callups was a desultory -6.7 games, leaving Avila’s front office the distinction of having the worst farm system in baseball — for major league impact — in 2022.
Aside from Torkelson, the most impactful callup was pitcher Elvin Rodriguez, who made just five starts, all of them disastrous. In those starts, Rodriguez piled up a 10.62 ERA and cost the Tigers -1.7 WAA.
The Tigers had the 21st-best farm system for trade impact and they ranked 13th for free agent impact, although those moves were inconsequential. Avila’s trades involved only four players. The only trades of consequence involved sending Isaac Paredes to Tampa Bay for Austin Meadows in April and acquiring Tucker Barnhart for a minor leaguer in November. Barnhart was worth -1.0 WAA to Detroit, Meadows +0.2.