Acquired SS-B Erick Aybar from Atlanta Braves in exchange for IF-R Mike Aviles and C-R Kade Scivicque. [8/16]
It may be unfortunate to say so, but this deal may not really be about Aybar at all. More likely, it’s about the Faberge legs of incumbent Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias. With Iglesias heading to the disabled list to rest a wrecked hamstring, the Tigers need some competent regular to man shortstop until their defensive bulwark returns. The team has shown precious little trust in current potential backups Andrew Romine and Dixon Machado, and relying on the journeyman Aviles and his -1.4 WARP would have been … unadvisable. So, the Tigers packed up two of their most disposable assets–a bad reserve and a top 15-25 team prospect–in order to get someone, anyone, to fill in at an average level. Enter Aybar.
To start his first season in Atlanta, Aybar was dreadful. In the first half, he had a triple-slash line of .212/.265/.267, bad enough to be bad even in the context of the miserable Braves offense. (Seriously, if the Tigers thought that would be his regular production, they would’ve just stuck with Mike Aviles or brought back Ramon Santiago.) Fortunately, things picked back up in June, and the switch-hitting six used a .390 BABIP to launch himself back to relevance. Today, his seasonal line looks not dissimilar to last year’s production: his .233 True Average a far sight from his peak, but suitable enough as a regular shortstop with other average qualities.
The two major differences between this season and those past are defense and baserunning. BP’s FRAA metric has been particularly hard on Aybar over the past half-decade, but this year pegs him as something close to average (-1.1 FRAA) up the middle. And ever the solid baserunner, Aybar has fallen off this year, only earning the Braves about a run according to our BRR metric, unlike many previous seasons where he was worth half a win or more.
Once an average or better major leaguer, Aybar is now one of those players on the fringes of respectability–overpaid for his production, flitting between teams, hoping to stave off the indignity of returning to the minor leagues or independent ball. His mid-season surge has earned him not only a temporary reprieve, but also a move from downtrodden Atlanta to anxious, playoff-hunting Detroit. He’s not the player the Tigers want, but faced with limited options and a hobbled Iglesias, he may be the player the Tigers need … at least for a month or so. —Bryan Grosnick
Purchased the contract of OF-R Teoscar Hernandez from Triple-A Fresno. [8/12]
Hernandez has seen his stock fluctuate more than (joke about stock market goes here), but at the ripe old age of 23, he's "settled" into become a solid--but not spectacular--prospect. He's a quality athlete, and his best asset is plus speed that helps him both on the bases and in the outfield. He's shown a more advanced approach at the plate, and his above-average hand-eye coordination allows him to make consistent contact. That contact isn't always of the hard variety because of a choppy swing, and despite some leverage and bat speed he likely maxes out as a 45-grade power guy. He can play all three outfield positions, and his above-average throwing arm suits him well in center field and the corners. He likely maxes out as a fourth outfielder, but that could be the floor as well. —Christopher Crawford
Purchased the contract of 1B/OF-R Tyler Austin from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [8/13]
Austin has seen his stock go up and down, but he's re-established some of that value with a strong 2016 season. A 13th-round pick in the 2010 draft, Austin has long showed power potential, and he's begun to tape into that projection, as seen in his .637 slugging percentage in the International League. The swing does have some length, and contact issues have followed him at each level. He does compensate for the strikeouts by drawing his share of walks, and rarely gives up on at-bats by swinging at pitches outside the strike zone.
He's lost some speed since entering the system some five-plus years ago, but he's a good enough athlete to handle the corner outfield, and the Yankees even had him play some third base in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. There's an ever-so-slight chance he's a regular, but Austin profiles best as quality bench bat who can fill four different spots in a pinch while crushing left-handed pitching. —Christopher Crawford
Acquired IF-R Mike Aviles and C-R Kade Scivicque from Detroit Tigers in exchange for SS-B Erick Aybar. [8/16]
The trick to effectively deploying Aviles is simple: don’t. Once an effective utility player capable of occasionally beating up a left-hander and filling in at multiple infield positions, the ex-Tiger is now a player who firmly resides in the below-replacement basement. This season, the Tigers have relied on Aviles for 181 plate appearances, only 71 of which were against his preferred target: left-handed pitching. Unfortunately, despite a textbook career platoon split, Aviles was even more miserable against lefties (.261 OBP and .219 slugging) than he was against right-handers (.257 OBP and .301 slugging). Worst of all, Aviles’ meager bat and failing glove were most often posted up in the worst possible place for him to show his remaining skills: right field. In no world–no sequestered parallel universe–should a Wild Card-contending team’s right fielder be the 2016 edition of Mike Aviles.
With Dansby Swanson on his way to the major-league roster, one can only imagine that Aviles’ time in Atlanta will be short–he’s the most disposable piece on a heavily disposable roster, and his acquisition was likely for the purposes of offsetting a portion of Aybar’s hefty salary. If the veteran utility man does happen to stick around in Atlanta, here’s hoping the Braves use him more judiciously than the Tigers did, which is to say against left-handed pitchers, in the infield mostly, and barely (if at all). —Bryan Grosnick