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MLB - US Sports: Pressure on Detroit and Hinch

16 August 2022 08:00:25 EST
AJ Hinch intends to be in Detroit for the long haul.

The Detroit Tigers sacked their executive vice president and general manager Al Avila last week due to results stalling over the past couple of seasons.

Tigers chairman and CEO Christopher Ilitch was looking to make progress each and every year and they certainly haven't improved in recent years. But could they go further and sack the team manager AJ Hinch next?

Why sack Avila?

The Tigers went 86-75 in 2016, but that was the teams' only winning campaign with Avila in charge of baseball operations.

There were hopes for a turnaround this season, as Detroit finished third in the American League Central division at 77-85 in 2021 and were aggressive in signings heading into 2022. Sadly, for Avila, most of his moves have fallen flat this season.

The most notable addition was Javier Baez, who they signed to a six-year, $140 million contract in November.

The shortstop is only hitting .227 with 11 home runs so far this season. The worst signing was Eduardo Rodriguez though, who signed a five-year, $77 million deal but has been on the restricted list since 13th June due to personal matters.

Christopher Ilitch spoke to the Detroit press about the Tigers progress going forward, saying: "We have been a team that has ample resources to support our baseball operations leadership, as we move forward to build a team to accomplish our objectives.

"First and foremost, a winning team. And then we want to qualify for the playoffs and we want to ultimately win a World Series. The resources have been (and) continue to be available for us to build a winning team. There's no issues there.” 

Stability now lacking

The Detroit Tigers don't usually sack their baseball executives. There is always an air of stability about them going back as far as 2015 when they got rid of Dave Dombrowski and appointed his assistant Al Avila.

Since then they have rebooted the baseball operations department to adapt to the rise of analytics and technology.

The Tigers are searching for a new general manager to lead this franchise through a rebuild process that has stalled because of injuries and youthful struggles.

Hinch to be part of the process

It's been announced by IIitch that AJ Hinch will be part of the process for hiring a general manager.

It's a different dynamic to other franchises searching for GM's, but this is the reason why. Hinch is under a long-term contract and whoever gets the GM job will have to forge a good relationship with him.

Speaking to the official Detroit Tigers website, Hinch spoke about the search for the new GM: "Obviously, this organisation has committed a ton to me and vice versa.

"And I want to help to get it right. (This move) is another reminder that we haven't succeeded.

"The Detroit Tigers' organisation is a good place. We have a ton of opportunities. This is the same place that was attractive a couple of years ago when I came here. Obviously, the players, the fan base, the commitment from ownership, the opportunity to build kind of your own brand here with a fresh start.”

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Re-think required going forward

The Tigers will need a GM who can integrate a modern vision for the franchise and is compatible with Hinch. Internally, assistant GM's, Sam Menzin and Jay Sartori could be candidates.

A major focus for this new GM will be to add MLB-level talent to help the team compete. However, they will also need to improve the team's drafting and player development weaknesses.

The Tigers would like to build a forward-thinking organisation modelled on the Los Angeles Dodgers or Houston Astros. Some changes happened last year, notably when the Tigers overhauled their player development system, putting former Dodgers Double-A manager Ryan Garko in charge of the farm system.

Apart from the two assistant GM's already helping with the role on an interim basis, other candidates for the job could be Brandon Gomes, the Dodgers general manager, Alex Slater the Dodgers assistant GM, Dana Brown the Atlanta Braves VP of scouting or Pete Putila, the Astros assistant GM.

The idea of hiring a young executive from a winning and forward-thinking organisation seems like the move that could benefit the Tigers.

Theo Epstein, the former Red Sox and Cubs president of baseball operations, is currently a consultant for Major League Baseball, and his name being mentioned is rather fanciful from a Tigers point-of-view, but you never know.

One thing is for certain, the GM role is not for Hinch, he said: "I'm the manager, I plan on being the manager."

Seems he will be in Detroit for a long time and, hopefully for Tigers' fans, a good time.

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