| Detroit Free Press
Detroit Tigers GM Al Avila explains manager search, offseason expectations
Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila speaks with reporters Friday, October 2, 2020, following his team’s season to share offseason expectations.
For the first time since 2008, the Chicago White Sox made the postseason.
Although the White Sox (35-25) lost in the American League Wild Card series, they proved to have completed the rebuild, tying for second place in the AL Central after finishing fourth or worse six of the past seven seasons.
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn on Monday fired manager Rick Renteria after four seasons.
As Chicago begins its search for a leader, the Detroit Tigers are forced out of the spotlight. In September, Ron Gardenhire retired after two-plus seasons, and general manager Al Avila is tasked with finding a new manager to finish the rebuild.
The three teams with managerial openings are the Boston Red Sox, White Sox and Tigers. Some of the top candidates are A.J. Hinch and Alex Cora — both involved in the 2017 Houston Astros cheating scandal — along with Fredi Gonzalez, Don Kelly and, at least for the Tigers, interim manager Lloyd McClendon.
“The ideal candidate will be someone who has experience in a championship organization in recent years,” Hahn said Monday.
That describes Hinch and Cora, two people Avila confirmed Oct. 2 the Tigers are considering: “I have them on my list.” MLB reached out to the Tigers after Avila’s comment to remind them neither can be approached about the job until after the 2020 World Series, which begins Oct. 20.
Each manager is nearing the conclusion of one-year suspensions from MLB for their roles in the 2017 Astros scandal — Cora as a ringleader, Hinch as a bystander who didn’t do enough to control his clubhouse.
Hinch, with seven seasons of managerial experience, won the 2017 World Series with Cora as his bench coach. He lost the ALCS in 2018 before returning to the World Series in 2019, when the Astros lost to the Washington Nationals in seven games.
Cora has two years of managerial experience, leading the Red Sox to a 2018 World Series victory in his first season. In 2019, the Red Sox finished third in the AL East and missed the postseason. The Red Sox had a sign-stealing scandal in 2018, but Cora didn’t face further discipline.
What does this mean?
Before Renteria was fired, the Tigers were expected to take their pick (after the Red Sox) between Hinch, Cora, Gonzalez, McClendon and other candidates without much or any managerial experience.
Monday’s decision by the White Sox could leave the Tigers with one less option.
The Red Sox’s opening still might be the most coveted in baseball. The franchise has nine World Series championships (third-most in the majors) and secured 14 AL pennants. Because of Boston’s prestige, the team’s chief baseball officer, Chaim Bloom, could get the first pick.
There is growing sentiment that Cora will return to the Red Sox, even if Bloom isn’t giving away any hints.
“I still don’t want to get into any detail on my thoughts on Alex,” Bloom said Sept. 27. “I don’t want to say anything about Alex that I haven’t said to Alex. Obviously, I haven’t spoken to Alex. There will be a time where I can get into more detail on Alex and his situation, my thoughts on it. That time isn’t now. I’m hoping everybody will respect that.”
A Boston homecoming for Cora makes sense. He played there from 2005-08 and is considered one of baseball’s best managers at 44 years old.
That would open the door for the Tigers to take Hinch.
For subscribers: Making the case for hiring A.J. Hinch as the next Tigers manager
But the White Sox have shaken up each team’s situation, as the job in Chicago is the most attractive destination for a free-agent manager when considering recent results.
The White Sox made the postseason in 2020 with an offensive juggernaut built around Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Yoan Moncada and Nick Madrigal — all 27 years old or younger — along with veterans Jose Abreu and Yasmani Grandal.
Chicago’s rotation features Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel, with Dane Dunning and Dylan Cease having completed the important development stages in their young careers. Giolito tossed a no-hitter this season; Keuchel finished with a 1.99 ERA.
The White Sox and Red Sox appear to be Nos. 1 and 2 for the most desirable landing spot. If the White Sox and Red Sox split Hinch and Cora, the Tigers will be without two of their top targets in the search for a manager to lead the organization out of the rebuild, which featured 98 losses in 2018 and 114 losses in 2019.
“I don’t look at trying to hire a guy for a year or two, and then move on,” Avila said. “You’re always trying to hire the guy that you feel can take you as far as you need to go.”
Sounds a lot like Hinch and Cora.
But neither may be options for the Tigers anymore, leaving Avila with slimmer pickings than he initially projected.
Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Detroit Tigers content.