Alex Avila: Why Detroit Tigers Must Lock Up Catcher Long Term

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Alex Avila: Why Detroit Tigers Must Lock Up Catcher Long Term
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When it comes to determining the value of a player to an entire team, it is important to look at all of the variables that player has to offer. This is even more important when looking at the value of a catcher.

Not only is a team looking for a catcher who can hit for a decent average and draw walks, teams are also looking for catchers who can both manage a game and play significant defense behind the dish each and every night.

Luckily for the Detroit Tigers, they have Alex Avila.

Avila is eligible for arbitration following the 2012 season, and it is imperative that Detroit locks this man up for the long haul.

No one saw coming what transpired during the 2011 season. After Avila appeared in 104 games during the 2010 season and posting a .228 batting average, not many fans and members of the media could have prophesied what would happen in 2011. 

Not only did Avila have a whopping .295 batting average and 82 RBI, but he also managed to accumulate an impressive .995 fielding percentage. More impressively, he managed to throw out 32 percent of base stealers, which ranked him fourth in the entire league. Lastly, he was able to throw out a total of 40 base stealers, which tied him for first in the entire league with New York's Russell Martin.

While all of these numbers speak to the remarkable season Avila had during 2011, perhaps nothing is more important than his ability to manage a game. 

Will the Tigers sign Avila to a long-term contract after the 2012 season?

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Avila's ability to manage a game is what keeps him in the lineup each and every night. Late in the 2011 season and well into the postseason, Avila was beginning to show signs of fatigue, and his numbers at the plate were beginning to dwindle.

However, Jim Leyland knew that his pitchers wanted the young backstop behind the plate. Avila knew this as well, and he did whatever was possible to stay in those critical games. Dave Valle of the MLB Network recently made a similar statement when ranking the top 10 best catchers in the game today.

"Even though he was getting tired, and his offensive numbers started to drop, the pitching staff wanted him back there. They didn't care if he got a hit, they wanted Alex behind the dish," Valle said.

Catchers with Avila's talent do not come around very often in this league, and they especially don't come around Detroit very often, with the obvious exception of Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez as a big free-agent signing in 2004. 

At only 25 years of age, Avila has the ability and work ethic to continue his improvement with each and every season. Because of this, Detroit needs to see the obvious value that Avila provides to the organization with his defensive skills and game management abilities, not to mention his improving offense, and keep him wearing the old English D for years to come.

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