The last time the Tigers had a managerial search, they were conducting interviews during the first days of the postseason and had hired Ron Gardenhire by the end of the League Championship Series. Their search to replace Gardenhire is likely to have a more deliberate pace.
“At this time, I really don’t know where it’s going to end. We could finish this sometime in October. It might go into November,” general manager Al Avila said in a Friday morning teleconference with reporters. “Really, we’re not in a rush. We’re kind of taking our time with it and just checking everything out.”
For now, they’re collecting names and doing research. Once they’ve finished their opening list, they’ll whittle it down to what Avila called a “manageable list,” no pun intended, and begin an initial round of interviews via video conference. Once they cut down that list to two or three finalists, they’ll likely set up face-to-face meetings.
There are a couple good reasons for the Tigers’ slower pace this time around:
First, some likely candidates are coaching on teams currently in the postseason, and won’t be allowed to leave their clubs between rounds, though they might be able to talk via video conference. Yankees hitting coach Marcus Thames and Dodgers first-base coach George Lombard have been among those mentioned as potential candidates; both have Tigers ties.
Second, two prominent former managers -- AJ Hinch and Alex Cora -- cannot be interviewed until after the World Series while they serve out their suspensions from Major League Baseball for sign-stealing investigations in Houston and Boston, respectively. Both have won a World Series, and both carry baggage due to the controversies.
And yes, Avila confirmed, both will be considered.
“I have them on my list,” he said.
Both have prior connections to the Tigers. Cora interviewed for the managerial opening three years ago before he went to Boston and Gardenhire took the Tigers job. Hinch was a catcher for the Tigers in 2003 under then-manager and current special assistant Alan Trammell. Hinch also worked closely with current Tigers vice president of player personnel Scott Bream while Hinch was the Padres’ scouting director a decade ago and Bream was a Padres scout.
“Obviously the cheating scandal is not a good sign,” Avila said. “It’s not a good thing, obviously. They’re serving their suspensions and once their suspensions are over, then they’ll be free to pursue their career. So we have not eliminated anybody from our list at this point.”
Avila is admittedly casting a wide net. After leaning on experience to select Gardenhire to lead the team through the toughest part of the rebuild, Avila said he isn’t centered on an ex-manager or a first-timer for this stage to try to lead the Tigers into contention.
“There’s a lot of names on my list right now,” Avila said. “They’re guys on there that have managerial experience, and there’s guys that do not have managerial experience, but they’re guys that have coaching experience. I’m not going to predict anything, but I guess one thing you could eliminate is a guy that maybe played and has absolutely no coaching experience, no managerial experience, and goes from being a player directly to a Major League manager. I probably wouldn’t go that way.
“But everything else, I would say, is in play. We’re going to take a look at everything and we’re going to select the best guy that we feel can lead the Detroit Tigers and make them a winning club.”
Tigers’ free agent plan uncertain
With Jordan Zimmermann’s contract expiring, the Tigers are down to one player on a guaranteed contract, with Miguel Cabrera under contract through at least 2023. Avila has focused the last few offseasons on signing free agents with one-year contracts as stopgaps. He isn’t sure whether that will change this offseason.
“It’s really a little early for us with what we just came out of, playing 58 games with no fans and going into this offseason and next season with really not a good idea of what’s going to be in front of us as far as fans in the stadium, what the season looks like,” Avila said. “It’s really uncertain. We’re going to have to just take it week by week, month by month and see how things develop as we move forward.”
Manning, Faedo in instructional league, but won’t pitch
The Tigers will begin their annual fall instructional league for prospects next week and run it through Nov. 8. Any players in the organization not on the 40-man roster are eligible to take part. That includes pitching prospects Matt Manning and Alex Faedo, who were in Spring Training and Summer Camp as non-roster invites but were shut down at the alternate training site in Toledo, Ohio, with forearm soreness.
Both Manning and Faedo will work out but won’t pitch in games.
“They’re more going to be just working out and building back up strength,” Avila said. “Right now, they’re perfectly healthy and they’re doing really good. We’re just not going to pitch them in games at this point.”
Manning and Faedo rank third and 10th, respectively, on MLB Pipeline’s Tigers Top 30 Prospects list. Other prospects joining them in instructional league include top prospect Spencer Torkelson, outfielders Riley Greene (4th), Daniel Cabrera (11th), Parker Meadows (13th), Bryant Packard (18th) and Jose De La Cruz (25th), shortstop Wenceel Perez (16th), second baseman Kody Clemens (19th), infielders Colt Keith (21st), Gage Workman (22nd), Nick Quintana (24th), Trei Cruz (27th) and Andre Lipcius (28th), and right-handers Paul Richan (29th) and Elvin Rodriguez (30th).
Tigers let go of seven pro scouts
Though the Tigers’ baseball operations department avoided the furloughs and layoffs that were made on the business operations side earlier this week, they still made some adjustments in pro scouting. Seven scouts were told Thursday their contracts will not be renewed, sources confirmed to MLB.com.
“We just felt that we need to make some adjustments and be more efficient in that area,” Avila said. “As we speak, I’m getting reports every day from our professional scouts. They’ve been scouting via video.”
The Tigers did not make any changes in amateur scouting, Avila said. They made a few minor changes in player development, but are currently budgeting for a full Minor League season with their entire cast of affiliates.