On Saturday, Chris McCosky of The Detroit News published an interesting story regarding the ongoing contract situation of Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire. As McCosky points out, both Tigers owner Christopher Illitch and GM Al Avila have been complimentary of Gardenhire’s influence on Detroit’s young roster, and the veteran manager has himself indicated that he expects to return in 2020 to execute the third and final season of his current managerial contract. There may be one thing standing in the way of that goal: the status of Gardenhire’s staff.
When he joined the Tigers before the 2018 season, Gardenhire brought with him a number of familiar faces from his time managing the Twins: pitching coach Rick Anderson, bench coach Steve Liddle, and quality control coach Joe Vavra all worked with Gardenhire in Minnesota. The rest of the Tigers’ staff—a group that includes Lloyd McClendon and Ramon Santiago, among others—has evidently earned Gardenhire’s trust and respect, and he may now look at those coaches as an invaluable part of his working process.
If the 61-year-old will indeed continue to shepherd the Tigers toward eventual contention, it seems like the retention of his current staff is something of a non-starter. “I want to talk about my coaches more than anything else. I defend those guys no matter what happens here,” Gardenhire told McCosky. “That would be hard for me to take–if anything happens to my coaches. Those are the conversations we’re going to have.”
For the time being, the possibility of an extension beyond 2020 seems to be the last thing on Gardenhire’s mind. That conversation will happen in due time, assuming there is mutual interest. Avila inked a “multi-year” contract extension earlier this season, which will keep him in Detroit for an as-yet-unreported length of time.
“It’s always up to the boss and Al has said I want you back; I don’t have to worry about that,” Gardenhire said Saturday. “Now we’ll have to have a conversation on the rest of it. Not about an extension; I don’t (care) about that. That’s to be determined.”
For his managerial career, Gardenhire holds an 1175-1240 record, including playoff berths in six of the thirteen years he spent in Minnesota. Since joining the Tigers, though, it’s been a different story: in nearly two full seasons in Detroit, Gardy’s teams have managed just a .347 winning percentage as the club has jettisoned productive veterans like Mike Fiers and Nicholas Castellanos from the active roster in pursuit of a prospect-oriented setup.