Tigers hire SF GM Harris to lead baseball ops

September 19th, 2022

BALTIMORE -- The Tigers’ search for a new front office leader has concluded, with the club announcing on Monday that Giants GM Scott Harris will be Detroit’s new president of baseball operations.

Harris, 36, fills the vacancy left when Detroit parted ways with vice president/general manager Al Avila in August. He will be officially introduced in a press conference on Tuesday at Comerica Park.

“Throughout this extensive search process, we were determined to find the best person to run our baseball operations,” Tigers chairman and CEO Christopher Ilitch said in a statement. “Scott’s vision for how to construct a baseball organization to compete and win in the modern game is impressive. His leadership ability is polished from both his experience as an executive at multiple levels and mentorship from some of the game’s most talented baseball operations leaders. Scott is a difference maker, innovator and fiercely competitive, always looking for an edge. We’re excited to welcome Scott and his fiancé, Elle, to the Tigers family, and look forward to the bright future of our organization.”

Prior to joining San Francisco, Harris spent seven seasons working in the Cubs’ front office, rising from director of baseball operations to assistant general manager under Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer and helping build the roster that snapped the club's 108-year World Series title drought in 2016. After the Giants hired Harris as their GM under president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi in November 2019, the team posted the third-best winning percentage in the Majors (.613) across his first two seasons.

Prior to his tenure in Chicago, Harris worked for Major League Baseball as the league’s coordinator of Major League Operations, and also spent time with the Nationals (2008) and Reds (2010). A native of Redwood City, Ca., Harris graduated from UCLA with an economics degree in 2009, attended Columbia Business School and earned his MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management in 2015.

“This is an exciting day for me and my family, and I’m humbled by the opportunity to lead baseball operations for the Detroit Tigers,” Harris said in a statement. “The Tigers have a rich history and tradition as a charter member of the American League, and I can’t wait to get to work on the next chapter of Tigers baseball. I’d like to thank Chris Ilitch for believing in my vision for this organization and being so accommodating throughout the interview process. I’d also like to thank Greg Johnson, Rob Dean, Farhan Zaidi, Larry Baer and the entire Giants organization for their support over the last three years.”

Seeking their first postseason berth since 2014, Detroit entered 2022 with renewed optimism after finishing ‘21 strong and adding free agents Javier Báez and Eduardo Rodriguez to a roster with intriguing young players, including former No. 1 overall Draft picks Casey Mize and Spencer Torkelson. But things quickly went awry, leading to the dismissal of Avila. The club handed baseball operations to VP and assistant GM Sam Menzin on an interim basis after Avila’s firing.

Harris’ hire completes a search that had largely gone under the radar since the Tigers parted ways with Avila a month ago. Ilitch took a lead role in the search and was believed to be looking for a fresh voice as well as previous GM experience. The 36-year-old Harris fits both categories.

The Giants were one of baseball’s best success stories last season, winning 107 games and a NL West title before losing to the Dodgers in the NL Division Series. They’ve struggled to repeat that success this year in part due to injuries, but they’ve made shrewd short-term signings such as pitchers Carlos Rodón and Alex Cobb and outfielder Joc Pederson while developing young talent such as starter Logan Webb and closer Camilo Doval.

“I'm a huge Scott Harris fan,” said Orioles manager Brandon Hyde, who worked under Harris in the Cubs front office. “We're good friends. He's extremely bright, great with people, an unbelievable listener and gets along with everybody. He’s got a great balance to him. He knows the game extremely well. He's got great people skills and makes very, very thought-out, really good decisions. That's a great hire.”

In Detroit, Harris – the team’s youngest baseball operations chief since then-owner Mike Ilitch hired Randy Smith in 1996 -- not only gets his opportunity at the top job, he has an opportunity to shape an organization that has young talent from its recent rebuild but has struggled to translate it into sustained success.

“He is someone who really understands the landscape of the game,” said Epstein, currently working for MLB as a consultant. “He’s smart, analytical, process-oriented and patient. A really strategic thinker. He’s always plugged in because he has this really unique ability to connect and build trust with everyone in and around an organization — players, staff, scouts, front office, fans. He’s naturally progressive in the way he integrates technology and data to the organization, and he’s got a great work ethic. He really knows how to lift up the people around him. People genuinely love working with him and connecting with him.

“He really values information. He’s just as comfortable in the analytics suite as he is in the clubhouse. He’s always had really strong relationships with players, managers, and coaches. When he’s on the road, he’s visiting with scouts. He understands how it all comes together and that the game is played by human beings. He also has the discipline and logical thinking from coming up in the analytics era and being immersed in that way of thinking.”

Still to be determined is the setup of the Tigers front office under Harris, including a general manager. Menzin, who rose from an intern in Detroit’s front office a decade ago under then-GM Dave Dombrowski to eventually become a top assistant, is well regarded within the organization and around baseball. The Tigers have built up their analytics and player performance departments under Avila with support from Ilitch, and hired Ryan Garko last year as vice president of player development as part of an overhaul of that department.

Thomas Harrigan contributed to this report.