In the second-half of last season, Mike Aviles may have saved his career. After a huge 2008 that his employers never saw coming, Aviles struggled through injuries and regression to the mean in 2009 and the first chunk of 2010. However, thanks to that rebound, he did much to prove that he can still hit Major League pitching a little, which is to say that he always could.
In 1016 career MLB PAs, Aviles has a .298/.327/.422 triple slash. Those numbers aren't stellar, but they play in the middle infield. Aviles isn't considered a good defender (or a "plus" defender, if we must use scout-speak) but he isn't a disaster either. (He's posted some very good UZR numbers that probably need to be taken with a grain of scout. All told, he's a useful guy to have on the roster, especially for near the minimum salary.
Money has always been in the background of the infielder's career. A big part of Aviles's story is that he was only offered a $1,000 signing bonus by the Royals in 2003. This was the height of the Royals' Going Cheap in the Draft with College Guys era, a much-maligned approach. I'm legitimately happy that Aviles defied the odds and has earned a few years of $400K salary. My question today is this: will he ever earn $1 million dollars in a season?
The question is a good heuristic for thinking about the rest of Avilies's career. He seems like a young guy, but he's already in his age-30 season. If you want to consider Aviles a second-baseman, then we can also note that he's a member of a position player group that notoriously does not age well. Aviles doesn't hit arb-eligibility until 2012, next season, and that first arbitration year raise isn't typically a big one.
If follow the 40-60-80 benchmark for Aviles's salary after this year, it looks to me like he's right on the edge. Assuming an unremarkable 2011, the Royals might want to keep Aviles around for 2012, even if merely as an insurance policy/backup/nominal challenger to presumed 2B of the future Colon. According to Fangraphs WAR Aviles was worth $6 million last season, but I have a hard time seeing him making it all the way to a million dollar salary for 2012.
After 2012, it seems probable that the Royals would not want to bring Aviles back at all. Certainly another hinge moment in Mike's career.
There's been some chatter that the Royals should initiate a trade with the Phillies for Aviles, who have injury concerns all over the infield and a win-now roster. I don't want the Royals to do the Phillies any favors. Aviles has value as a cheap and productive player. He's going to be inexpensive the next two seasons, if not longer, so there's no reason for the Royals to accept a D- prospect from the Phillies.
For Aviles, however, this might be the very best thing. Ruben Amaro has pretty clearly established himself as a GM who pays guys. Aviles is a likeable East Coast guy who is a good bet to bat close to .300. It's not hard to imagine Aviles having a good 2011 in Philadelphia, becoming an Amaro guy, and eventually earning that million dollar payday.