Tigers’ Harris opens up on GM search, Rule 5 protection, Cabrera and more

Detroit News

Las Vegas – Tigers president Scott Harris presently has three assistant general managers (Sam Menzin, Jay Sartori and Rob Metzler), a vice president of player personnel (Scott Bream) and a vice president of player development (Ryan Garko).

But he’s come to the league’s general managers meetings in Las Vegas without an actual general manager. And from the sound of it, there isn’t going to be one any time soon.

Which is quite all right with Harris.

“I’m going to take my time,” he said Tuesday. “You’ve seen in other places, it can take up to a year or longer. I don’t have a firm deadline in my mind.”

The plan is to just keep interviewing candidates until he finds what he’s looking for.

“As some point an individual is going to stand out and we’re going to hire that individual,” he said. “I don’t think there is a lot of pressure on this. It’s a really important decision and it’s important we get it right and we’re going to take all the time we need to get it right.”

Rule 5 vs. roster flexibility

By next Tuesday, Harris will have to decide which prospects to put on the 40-man roster to protect them in the Rule 5 draft.

Pitchers Reese Olson, Austin Bergner and Elvis Alvarado, plus infielder Wenceel Perez and outfielder Parker Meadows are among those who would be Rule 5 eligible.

More:Tigers president Harris to ‘reshape’ position-player group around Báez

Harris, though, is a waiver-wire scourge – he’s already made three waiver claims since taking over − and thus values roster flexibility. Protecting Rule 5 guys and keeping the roster flexible are conflicting goals.

“You never want to lose talented young players in Rule 5,” Harris said. “However, I really appreciate 40-man flexibility and I know what we can do with available roster spots. We will try to walk the line between protecting the players who are most likely to be taken in the Rule 5 draft while maintaining 40-man flexibility.

“We’re going to stay nimble and seize opportunities throughout the winter. It’s a trade-off with every spot.”

On trading prospects

Harris said he’s already gotten a lot of calls from general managers around the league making initial inquiries about players he’d make available in trades. Presumably, relievers like Alex Lange, Gregory Soto and Joe Jimenez would be getting most of the attention, but Harris wouldn’t say.

He did say, though, that he would not be opposed to trading prospects in the right deal.

“I don’t think we can rule out any way to get better,” he said. “If trading prospects for an established big-leaguer makes sense and helps us build a more functional team, we’re going to do that. If trading big-leaguers for high-performing, upper level prospects can make us better soon, we’ll do that.”

Around the horn

… Harris said he was “energized” after his exit interview with Miguel Cabrera last month. “Just by how committed he is to putting in the work this offseason and showing up to Lakeland in excellent shape.” There will be a plan next season, but Harris wasn’t ready to divulge the specifics: “We’ve got to see how healthy his knee is,” he said. “I’m sure we’re going to sit down and talk about playing time and usage. It’s probably not going to be an everyday role. I think everybody knows that.”

… The news was good regarding starting pitcher Matt Manning. He is symptom-free and cleared to do his normal offseason program. He was scheduled to visit a specialist (Dr. Keith Meister) for a second opinion on his ailing forearm.

…The news was less encouraging for right-handed reliever Kyle Funkhouser, who missed all last season with a shoulder injury. He is still working on range of motion and still hasn’t been cleared to throw.

…Two others who missed all last year after Tommy John surgery are on track to begin spring training on time. Catcher Jake Rogers has started a throwing progression and is throwing out to 60 feet. Starting pitcher Spencer Turnbull is also symptom-free and into his normal off-season throwing program.

cmccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @cmccosky

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