Alex Avila had his best season at the plate since 2011, returning to the Tigers after a one-year stay with the White Sox to hit .274/.394/.475 over 77 games before a midseason trade to the Cubs. Once he was traded, Avila was a temporary starter in Chicago while Willson Contreras was on the DL, and while he continued to get on base at a steady clip in the second half (.369), his average (.239) and slugging percentage (.380) plummeted while his strikeout rate jumped to 35.7 percent. Now 31, and with a significant injury history that includes multiple concussions, Avila is ideally suited for part-time duty at catcher. He figures to lead a three-headed catching timeshare in Arizona after signing a two-year deal in January.
Avila has recorded one hit -- a solo home run -- across 20 at-bats through eight appearances in spring training. According to Owen Perkins of MLB.com, manager Torey Lovullo said Friday that Avila's timing remains off, but neither the skipper nor the backstop seem concerned about the slump carrying over to the regular season. While a strong finish to the spring would give Avila owners more confidence heading into Opening Day, the 31-year-old is locked in as the Diamondbacks' primary catcher regardless of how he performs the rest of camp after inking a two-year, $8.25 million deal in January.
Avila agreed to a deal with the Diamondbacks on Tuesday night, Jon Heyman of FanRagSports.com reports. While the specific details regarding the length and value of Avila's deal have yet to be revealed, it appears the 31-year-old is headed to Arizona. Avila had a solid season in 2017, as he slashed .264/.387/.447 with 14 home runs over 112 games. Although the Diamondbacks already have Jeff Mathis and Chris Herrmann as options behind the dish, neither had as good of a season as Avila in terms of offensive production. Avila has played in more than 124 games just once in his career (141 games in 2011), so he'll likely share time with Herrmann or Mathis over the course of the upcoming season. However, a solid showing during spring training could cement his status as Arizona's primary option.
Avila is out of the lineup for Sunday's game against the Brewers. Avila started the first two games of the series against Milwaukee, but he'll head to the bench for Sunday's day game finale. Rene Rivera will start and bat eighth in Avila's place.
Avila went 1-for-4 with a triple and an RBI in Wednesday's 1-0 win over the Pirates. Avila came through in the top of the ninth inning with a line drive down the right field line to deliver the only run of the game. The 30-year-old isn't known for his wheels, and this was his first triple of the season. In fact, it was his first triple since 2013.
Avila is out of the lineup Sunday against the Braves. It's no surprise that Avila is sitting out with a lefty (Max Fried) starting for the opposition, but the catcher has been losing out on starts of late against right-handed pitching too, as he went unused against Braves righty Lucas Sims a day earlier. Avila is reaching base at an excellent .370 clip since being acquired by the Cubs prior to the trade deadline, but August waiver pickup Rene Rivera has been nearly as effective, slashing .350/.435/.550 since joining the team. Until Willson Contreras (hamstring) returns from the disabled list, it appears Rivera may handle the bulk of the catching duties, at least while he sports a hot bat.