GM Meetings first order of business for Avila

GM Meetings first order of business for Avila

DETROIT -- For most teams, baseball's General Managers Meetings are a setup for the rest of the Hot Stove season. For the Tigers last year, it was the main attraction. This year, it's looking more like an opening chapter.

When the Tigers left last year's GM Meetings, they had Victor Martinez under contract to remain their designated hitter and Anthony Gose on the roster to become their center fielder. A setting that generally sees few major moves saw the Tigers make two of them mere hours apart, re-signing Martinez and acquiring Gose in a trade with the Blue Jays.

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Barring something crazy, the Tigers won't be as active this time, at least in transactions. Even so, they'll be talking.

When general managers and their staffs mingle Monday in Boca Raton, Fla., it'll mark the first offseason gathering for Al Avila as the man in charge of the Tigers. He attended plenty of them as the top assistant for former team president Dave Dombrowski, taking part in trade discussions and talking with agents. The difference now is that he'll be at the head of the table in the Tigers' suite, making the decisions.

Most decisions will come later, either at the larger Winter Meetings next month in Nashville, Tenn., or back home. What the GM Meetings often do is initiate discussion. When Detroit acquired Max Scherzer and Austin Jackson in a three-team deal for Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson at the Winter Meetings six years ago, the move culminated talks that began at the GM Meetings. The Prince Fielder-Ian Kinsler trade two years ago was an idea first floated between Dombrowski and the Rangers' Jon Daniels at the GM Meetings a week beforehand. At those same meetings, the Tigers initiated talks about sending a starting pitcher to the Nationals, eventually leading to the Doug Fister trade.

What made last year's GM Meetings different for Detroit was the timetable. Martinez was the Tigers' offseason priority. With offense in demand and a specific group of teams looking for a designated hitter, his market moved quickly, forcing the Tigers to either raise their offer or move on from the American League MVP runner-up. The club had heavy discussions with Martinez's agents and agreed on a four-year, $68 million deal on the last full day of meetings.

Though more signings happen later, many agents drop in on the GM Meetings to get an early gauge on the market. That is expected to happen with the Tigers and Joakim Soria's agent, Oscar Suarez, though no deal is likely to happen quickly. Detroit could get a similar read on the market for Rajai Davis, who at season's end expressed a desire to return and could fit in a left-field platoon with Tyler Collins. Similarly, the meetings should give the Tigers a chance to see where many free-agent starters stand early in the process.

The Gose trade was a product of priority. With the Tigers seeking a center fielder and options thin on the market, they identified trade targets and moved quickly, finding a common urgency from then-Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos. With many clubs looking for alternatives to free agency to fill some needs, this is where the Tigers could make some progress as they try to make several pitching additions within a limited payroll.

Moves or none, next week's GM Meetings are likely to be big for the Tigers and Avila, even if they don't clutter the transactions page.

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