DETROIT — Jeff Greenberg remembers the first time he met his new boss, Scott Harris. The Cubs had just hired Harris in 2012 as director of baseball operations, and Greenberg was working in the department.
“I was actually the guy who opened the door and brought him into the office and showed him his office for the first time,” Greenberg said Tuesday. “So, literally, I think I was the first person in the organization Scott met at the Cubs. And then it just kind of went from there.”
The two worked together on a near-daily basis for seven years until Harris left to become the Giants’ general manager. Now, after a lengthy search from Harris for a GM to work with him for the Tigers, the tables have turned.
“In Jeff, we are adding a talented executive who cut his teeth in baseball helping the Cubs win the 2016 World Series,” Harris, Tigers president of baseball operations, said in introducing Greenberg at a Tuesday press conference. “But we’re also adding an executive who challenged himself to succeed in another sport.”
Greenberg, who spent just over a year as associate GM with the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks, is the 20th general manager in the history of the Tigers franchise, dating back to 1901. But aside from a few months when Randy Smith and Dave Dombrowski overlapped, Greenberg is the first Tigers GM to work under a president of baseball operations.
It’s a setup that more Major League clubs have adopted as a way to build bigger, talented front office groups. The Tigers are joining the trend, but the two are emphasizing a collaborative approach, echoing a theme Harris referenced when he was hired last September.
“There isn’t really a blueprint for the president/GM structure,” Harris said. “Many front offices do it differently. We are going to structure it as a true partnership. We’re not going to divide departments up between us. …
“I think we share the belief that two minds are better than one on the most complex issues that are facing the Tigers. We’re here just to roll our sleeves up and work on everything together, because we feel like that’s going to put the Tigers in the best decision environment to make the right decisions, as opposed to the sort of divide and conquer approach.”
Said Greenberg: “That was one of the reasons why this opportunity was so uniquely compelling, that relationship with Scott. We worked together in Chicago for seven years. We have that relationship where we’re not afraid to push each other, to challenge each other to think differently.”
Part of that different thinking comes from their job histories. Greenberg spent more than a decade with the Cubs, rising to assistant GM, before jumping over to the Blackhawks and taking his decision processes to another sport.
“I’m a baseball guy at heart. That’s what I know best,” Greenberg said. “I have deep connections in the game. I have deep connections to the game. Going into hockey was an incredible opportunity to tackle a new set of challenges, and I think it made me a better leader, made me think through problems in a way that I think can help us here.”
Asked about those processes, Greenberg said, “It’s more about growing the connective issue between scouting and development and what’s happening in the big leagues, drawing support from all the other central areas of our organization to support decision making, to support development. That’s, I think, a sign of a healthy foundation of an organization that can really drive progress moving forward. … I think a lot of those ingredients are already in place here.”
Greenberg arrives just in time for the end of the season and the approach of what shapes up to be a critical offseason for the Tigers, trying to build on improvement in 2023 with an influx of prospects and emergence of young stars.
“I wanted him to meet a bunch of people with the big league team that are not going to be around Detroit in the offseason,” Harris said. “I also wanted him to be here for Miggy’s celebration this weekend. He’s going to see the best that Detroit has to offer. He’s going to see a ton of fans here that are going to be really enthusiastic.”