Mike Aviles was in upstate New York on Friday, visiting his family and celebrating the birthday of one of his daughters when he got an unexpected telephone call.
It was one of his agents saying that the Red Sox were about to trade him to Toronto as compensation for manager John Farrell.
“I was shocked. I had to just process everything at first,” Aviles said on Monday. “At first you think about all the little things that are tough, like moving your family. But for me, all the little negatives don’t come close to outweighing the big positive. I’m pretty excited about it.”
Aviles was traded from the Royals to the Red Sox on July 30, 2011. He spent a memorable season and a half with the team.
Aviles was there for the historic collapse of the 2011 team, starting 10 games in September in place of an injured Kevin Youkilis. Aviles was one of the few players who performed well that month, hitting .313.
“I still can’t believe that happened,” he said. “It was totally unexpected.”
The complete unraveling of the 2012 team under manager Bobby Valentine was an even bigger shock. Aviles was at the center of an incident during spring training that many felt contributed to Valentine having a rocky relationship with the veteran players.
During a standard fielding drill on a practice field, Valentine chewed out Aviles for being in the wrong position, going after the good-natured infielder to a point where veteran players spoke up against it.
A series of other incidents followed. By the August, it was evident that Valentine wouldn’t last with the Red Sox. That led to the team pursuing Farrell, who will be introduced at noon on Tuesday at Fenway Park.
“I don’t know what the effect was on other people, but for me it was forgotten pretty quickly,” Aviles said. “In baseball, those things happen. It’s like a marriage, you’re going to have your fights. When you’re around people for so long, there are always going to be issues and you have to move past them. People butt heads and for me, it’s normal.
“It can be with players, coaches, managers. Things happen. For me it wasn’t a major issue. Maybe it was for other people; I guess it was. I appreciated them having my back.”
Aviles said that contrary to reports that labeled the Red Sox as having clubhouse turmoil, the players respected each other.
“It was a band of brothers,” he said. “We all got along and we hung out together. That part of it was fine. The team had issues because of injuries and the new manager and things like that. But it was never an issue of the players not getting along. I think that stuff was overblown.”
The most difficult part, he said, was being part of a team that underachieved.
“It was surprising for me and disappointing because when you join a team like the Red Sox, you expect that you’re going to win and you’re going to be in the playoffs,” he said. “But I honestly feel that it was one of those experiences that is going to make them stronger. Every team goes through struggles and championship teams learn from those.”
Aviles hit .250 with a .663 OPS this season. He had a career-best 13 home runs and 60 RBIs. Aviles also had a solid season in the field, grading out well in defensive statistics.
Aviles and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia were the lone position players to stay on the roster for all 162 games.
Now Aviles will be on his third team in as many years. But he views the trade as a good step in his career. The Blue Jays sees Aviles playing a significant role as a utility player or their every day second baseman.
“That’s all I want, an opportunity,” he said. “Their GM [Alex Anthopoulos] was straightforward with me and I told him I appreciated that. They said I can play a lot and battle for at-bats at second base. That’s all I ask. Getting traded, I think, is a good thing because it shows that a team wants you.”
With Aviles off to Toronto, the Red Sox will need a new shortstop. Aviles believes rookie Jose Iglesias can handle the job. The 22-year-old was only 8 for 68 at the plate this season, but Aviles has faith that will change over time.
“That kid is special. He does things in the field I’ve never seen anybody do and I know I can’t do,” Aviles said. “His hand-eye coordination in the field is amazing and it’s only a matter of time before that translates into hitting for him. It will happen.
“I like Jose a lot. I was planning to talk to him a lot in the winter and I still will. He can do the job and I hope they give him the chance. It’s fun to watch him play.”
Aviles joked about the fun he will have playing against Dustin Pedroia and Will Middlebrooks next season, two teammates he became especially close to.
“I’m sure Pedey will tell me how much better he is at second than I am,” Aviles said. “But that’s OK. We’ll have a good time.”
He also will miss Boston.
“The way I was treated here, I felt like I came up through the organization, that’s how great people were to me,” Aviles said. “It was an honor to play there and to play at Fenway. I wish we had done better, that’s what gets to me. But getting the chance to play shortstop and play with those guys was special for me.”