The Detroit Tigers begin the search for the next head of baseball operations
When it comes to the Detroit Tigers, there are several words that can describe the season. In this case, one comes to mind. Silence. Brandon Day’s title in his recent Bless You Boys post titled “Ominous silence at the deadline preceded Avila’s ouster” was accurate.
Then this Simon and Garfunkel track popped into my head:
“Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Within the sound of silence”
The vision of what Al Avila created. The seeds, if you will, sit within the Detroit Tigers fanbase and will remain for quite some time. While that song has zero to do with baseball, my interpretation of the entire Al Avila tenure via those lyrics feels like it fits.
The light of the fuse
The first domino for Al Avila fell last August, when David Littlefield’s role of vice president of player development was changed to special scout, and VP and assistant general manager David Chadd had his role reassigned to focus on player development and scouting.
From there, an influx of new faces came into the fold. Ryan Garko became the new vice president of player development in September. A few weeks later, Gabe Ribas was hired as the director of pitching. Then Toledo manager Tom Price was let go despite a first place finish with the Mud Hens. He was hired by Littlefield, so his ouster seemed to fit with the changes that were underway.
More new faces joined during the winter to complement the minor-league staff, and these additions may have been more important than any of the free agent signings the Tigers made. That may sound like a bold statement, but here are two reasons why:
- The improved pitching development has already had an impact on the Detroit Tigers. While Beau Brieske was showing signs in 2021, he took major strides as a pitcher over the offseason and early in 2022. Garrett Hill is another late-round pick who has developed into a viable big-league arm. Wilmer Flores went from an undrafted free agent, to an intriguing arm in Low-A, to a top-100 prospect and Futures Game participant. Not all the players are household names, but for the first time in decades the Tigers have been able get real contributions from pitchers who weren’t high draft picks.
- The development of hitters in the Tigers’ system. Kerry Carpenter, comes to mind as a recent example. While he did get some outside swing help, he went from an unknown prospect drafted in the 19th round to leading the minor leagues in home runs. Parker Meadows and Wenceel Perez, who were highly regarded at one point in the Tigers’ system, are having their best seasons in the minor leagues.
Down in Low-A Lakeland, Roberto Campos and Cristian Santana seem to be developing well, and that is good news for a team that has struggled to find talent on the international market. Colt Keith, Izaac Pacheco, and Josh Crouch are other players who have shown good bat-to-ball skills and are exciting to watch. The next step is obviously getting these players to produce at the major league level.
The Tigers are seeing results from players who have been in the system for years without doing much. It could just be them getting more game experience, but there have been some huge data jumps regarding Carpenter, Meadows, and Perez.
The Menzin and Hinch show
During the Tigers broadcast this afternoon, Dan Dickerson discussed his conversion with manager A.J. Hinch.
Three names to consider for the Detroit Tigers
Sam Menzin, who takes over the day-to-day operations, may already have the inside track for the position. Combine that with Jay Sartori, who oversees the analytics department, they could continue that relationship and continue to run the team. Hinch’s input will play a role in who the next head of baseball operations will be. Let’s take a look at three candidates.
- Carlos Rodriguez: VP of player development and international scouting, Tampa Bay Rays. Rodriguez has a decade’s worth of work within the Rays system. In 2021, the minor league system under his watch won at a .653 clip. He signed players like Wander Franco and Vidal Brujan, just to name a few. He may wait for his opportunity and stick around in Tampa as he grew up in South Florida.
- James Harris: Assistant GM, Cleveland Guardians. Harris has a unique background as he comes from pro football. He spending three seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles before heading to baseball. He was the director of player development for the Guardians prior to his promotion. With the development of their pitching and international players, Harris’s background fits what Detroit will need.
- Josh Byrnes: Senior VP of Baseball Operations, Los Angeles Dodgers. Byrnes hired Hinch back in 2009 when he was the GM of the Diamondbacks and they worked together in San Diego as Hinch was his assistant GM. Baseball people work with people they are familiar with.
Chris Ilitch referenced Baltimore and Seattle as examples of success Detroit should try to emulate. Drafts, prospect development and moving left field back have been huge factors. Perhaps it is time to revisit moving in centerfield?
It will take some time for Detroit to get there. However, under the right person, it may not take as long as the fans believe it will.