12:02 pm: The Tigers have announced Hinch’s hiring on a “multi-year” contract.
12:01 pm: The Tigers are expected to officially announce the hiring of A.J. Hinch as the club’s manager by the end of the day, hears Jon Morosi of MLB Network (Twitter link). Lynn Henning and Chris McCosky of the Detroit News previously reported Hinch and the club were nearing agreement on a three-year contract. The deal is done, hears Cody Stavenhagen of the Athletic (via Twitter).
The hiring process moved quickly, as Hinch first interviewed just yesterday. Almost immediately thereafter, it became clear he was overwhelmingly likely to get the position. Given that rapid turnaround, it seems likely the 46-year-old was the target (or at least a top candidate) for GM Al Avila and the rest of the front office from the moment Ron Gardenhire retired.
Given Hinch’s recent on-field success, it’s easy to understand the appeal. He managed the Astros to great heights between 2015-19, winning a pair of American League pennants and the 2017 World Series. He had plenty of extremely talented players with whom to work, to be sure, but Hinch was generally regarded as one of the top managers in the game just twelve months ago.
That all preceded the exhaustive reporting that emerged on the sign-stealing scandal perpetrated by the Astros during some of Hinch’s tenure, most notably throughout that World Series-winning season. Commissioner Rob Manfred suspended Hinch (and then-Houston GM Jeff Lunhow) for one year in January. Within hours, Astros owner Jim Crane ousted both Hinch and Lunhow.
In his report, the commissioner noted that Hinch did not approve of nor orchestrate the Astros’ illicit activities. Nevertheless, he was unquestionably aware of the scheme and didn’t do nearly enough to stop it. There’s no question the manager bears some of the responsibility for knowingly permitting players and other staff to brazenly conduct a cheating operation, regardless of his involvement (or lack thereof) in setting it up. There figures to be plenty of backlash if/when Hinch is officially hired, but the Tigers certainly don’t seem to be the only team comfortable granting those involved with the Astros’ scandal another chance.
Hinch was reportedly a candidate for the White Sox managerial vacancy, as well. Detroit’s division rival instead turned to Tony La Russa. There’s also speculation that Alex Cora, who was Hinch’s bench coach on the 2017 Astros (and by the commissioner’s account, more actively involved in orchestrating the sign-stealing operation than Hinch was) might return from his own suspension to again manage the Red Sox, as he did from 2018-19.
The Tigers’ roster isn’t one set up to contend immediately, but the organization is beginning to see the fruits of its rebuild. Top prospects Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal are already in the majors, while Matt Manning and Spencer Torkelson probably aren’t far behind. Jeimer Candelario and Willi Castro also impressed in 2020 and will continue to try to cement themselves as long-term pieces on the position player side. Hinch will be tasked with trying to guide that young core back to the postseason for the first time since 2014.