Baltimore, Md. — There was definitely a spring in manager AJ Hinch’s step here Monday. He’d known for a couple of weeks that, in all likelihood, Tigers chairman and CEO Christopher Ilitch was going to hire San Francisco Giants general manager Scott Harris as the Tigers president of baseball operations.
And finally, he could let the cat out of the bag.
“Man, it’s inspirational to see the direction of the franchise and what Scott can bring to the organization,” Hinch said. “The way his mind thinks. The vision he has for this organization. He’s been around so many successful teams and successful people. I think he’s going to do it his way and he’s going to have a lot of information for us moving forward on what we need to do to get this back to being a winning organization.
“He’s all in and I love how he’s told me that on the front end of our relationship.”
Harris, 35, had been the general manager of the Giants for three seasons after serving multiple roles in the Cubs’ baseball operations department for seven years under Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.
“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 the 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.”
The Cubs played in the postseason for four straight years during his tenure and won the 2016 World Series and the Giants set a franchise record with 107 wins last season.
“Chris (Ilitch) did a incredibly thorough search,” Hinch said. “He was tireless in trying to find our next leader and he landed an exceptional person, a deep thinker and an accomplished guy.
“I just believe in him. This is a good outcome for our organization and I’m looking forward to doing my part.”
Harris replaces Al Avila, who was fired on Aug. 10 after serving as president of baseball operations and general manager. It is unclear whether Harris will hire a general manager.
It is expected that assistant general managers Sam Menzin and Jay Sartori will remain with the club. Scott Bream, vice president of player personnel, was also with the club in Baltimore.
“(Harris) knows the good things we have going here and we’re trying to do,” Hinch said. “He also knows we have a lot of room to grow. I want him to realize he has people here who will run through a wall for him. And I’m one of them.
“We’re going to do our part to bring the fans of Detroit what they deserve — and that’s a winning franchise.”
Since the start of the rebuild in 2017, the Tigers have steadily built up the infrastructure, specifically in terms of player development. Millions of dollars have been spent upgrading facilities and technology, building an analytics data base and department virtually from scratch.
Maybe they haven’t completely caught up to the likes of the Dodgers in that regard, but Harris isn’t exactly coming into bare cupboards.
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“When you have an organization that’s stumbled for a few years and has not quite found its footing, it’s easy to assume that everything is not great,” Hinch said. “The reality is, we have a lot of good people here. We have a lot of good things that can be enhanced.
“And me, for one, I’m going to run through a wall for him.”
Until now, the Tigers always seemed to have one foot planted in traditional ways and one foot in the new school of baseball operations. With Harris on board now, both feet are moving in the same, progressive direction.
“Scott is a difference-maker, innovator and fiercely competitive, always looking for an edge,” Ilitch said in a statement. “We’re excited to welcome Scott and his fiancé, Elle, to the Tigers family, and look forward to the bright future of our organization.”
Hinch has met with and spoken to Harris often over the last couple of weeks. Before that, he’d just known him in passing. But he was sold on Harris almost from the first meeting.
“He wants to win a World Series,” Hinch said. “Like, that’s what we do here. He made that perfectly clear. He’s done it before. He’s been with back-to-back winning organizations. His experience is noteworthy and he is a competitor. He made it well known to me that winning is a priority for him.
“That’s why I feel so aligned with him. I talk about that all the time and he talked about it in our first conversation a he’s pursuing this job. That’s what you want to hear when you are in my seat.”
The Tigers will introduce Harris at a press conference on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m.