NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tigers had no player deals to announce as baseball’s Winter Meetings began in full force on Monday, but they still had a key signing: Manager A.J. Hinch has agreed to a long-term extension.
Terms of the deal were not announced. Hinch had been managing under a five-year contract he had signed when Detroit hired him after the 2020 season.
“We’re not going to share the terms or details of the contracts for non-players,” said president of baseball operations Scott Harris. “But we are pumped that A.J. is going to be the manager of the Tigers for a long time.”
Harris said the deal was completed the week after the season ended. Detroit’s 78-84 record and second-place finish in the American League Central this year marked its best season since 2016. That timing would have placed the deal before the November managerial shuffle that saw former Brewers manager Craig Counsell land with the Cubs and former Yankees coach Carlos Mendoza hired by the Mets.
Hinch’s extension, Harris said, was more about their ability to work together over the past year since Harris took over Tigers baseball operations from former general manager Al Avila, who originally signed Hinch.
“I approached A.J. the day after the season ended about extending him,” Harris said. “I told A.J. that I had a blast working with him this year and that I thought that he made our players and our staff better every day that he was in the clubhouse.
“I also shared with him that it was important to me that he not feel like an inherited manager. I think sometimes in these situations, it can feel like an arrangement. It was important to me that he felt like he was here because [general manager] Jeff [Greenberg] and I wanted him to be here and we want to work together for a long time. It was also clear from those conversations that he loves it here and he's really bullish on our future and the talent we have in the big leagues, but also the talent we have coming through the Minor Leagues.”
Hinch had made no secret since the season’s end that he planned on remaining the Tigers’ manager for the long haul. He has a 791-717 record in 10 seasons between Detroit, Houston and Arizona, including 221-265 with the Tigers, and he said on the Foul Territory show last week that he expected to be in Detroit for his 1,000th career victory.
“I didn’t really see it coming,” Hinch said of the extension, “but I had tried to make it very clear how much I love working for Scott, getting to know [Greenberg], being a Tiger. And when [Harris] approached me, it was an immediate yes.”
Harris arrived in Detroit in September 2022 preaching the value of dominating the strike zone with disciplined hitting at the plate and pitch command on the mound. Hinch embraced that from the start. The collective work of Harris’ roster-building and Hinch’s instruction and strategy resulted in improvement, not just in wins and losses but in strikeout and walk rates for hitters and pitchers alike.
“From the first month on the job, we started talking about how I and the front office were going to build the team,” Harris said, “and he started chiming in on how he wanted to use the team. And I think part of the progress that we made in the organization was the alignment. … If that’s seamless, then you can squeeze a little bit more performance out of the entire organization. I noticed that immediately, and I also was very appreciative of all the other things he does to make the players and staff around him better.”
Coaching staff announced
The Tigers also announced the addition of four coaches to Hinch’s staff, including veteran third-base coach Joey Cora, whose hire was reported last month.
Also hired was assistant hitting coach Lance Zawadzki, who was previously a hitting coordinator in the Red Sox organization. He replaces James Rowson, who left last month to become Yankees hitting coach.
In addition, Triple-A Toledo manager Anthony Iapoce was promoted to the big league staff to serve as first-base coach, and Minor League field coordinator Ryan Sienko was promoted to Major League catching coach. Tim Federowicz, who coached catchers in Detroit last year, is expected to manage Toledo. Gary Jones, who had been third-base coach, will move to a coaching role in the dugout, where he’ll serve as a liaison between the replay room and Hinch, among other duties.