It has been almost a month since the Tigers parted ways with GM Al Avila, and since Lynn Henning of The Detroit News notes that ownership puts a high priority on keeping matters close to the vest, there hasn’t been much public news about potential targets to take over the front office. However, Hennig lists current Tigers assistant GM Sam Menzin, Dodgers senior VP of baseball ops Josh Byrnes, and Cardinals special assistant to the GM Matt Slater as “three people are believed to be under heavy consideration” for the full-time general manager role.
Several other front office members from multiple teams were also mentioned as plausible further candidates, though Henning was more circumspect about naming any of this group as surefire names in the hunt — Twins assistant GM Daniel Adler, Braves VP of scouting Dana Brown, Cardinals assistant GM Randy Flores, Guardians assistant GM James Harris, Orioles VP and assistant GM Sig Mejdal, Astros assistant GM Pete Putila, and Rays VP of baseball operations Carlos Rodriguez. Former Tigers director of baseball operations Mike Smith could also potentially receive consideration.
There is no shortage of work ahead of Detroit’s next baseball operations leader, given how the Tigers have floundered in a season that was supposed to mark their return to contention. While it isn’t expected that the Tigers will step back entirely into rebuild mode, the next GM will have to both make the big league team better while also bolstering the farm system at the same time. According to league officials speaking with Henning, upgrading the Tigers’ international development system will be a priority, and “trades are expected to be made with more aggression and more initiative than was practiced by Avila.” The next front office will also need to focus on how to better apply analytics to development and on-field work.
Byrnes is the most familiar name to baseball fans, and the former Padres/Diamondbacks GM is also the only one of the known candidates with experience in leading a front office. Byrnes ran the D’Backs from 2006-2010 and then the Padres from 2011-14, in both cases being fired around midway through his final season with the organization. Of those eight full and partial seasons for Byrnes, only two (2007 and 2008 with Arizona) resulted in a winning record, and the 2007 NL West-winning Diamondbacks were the only Byrnes team to reach the postseason.
Still only 52 years old, Byrnes’ long career in baseball has also included stretches as an assistant GM and VP with the Rockies, Red Sox, and (since 2014) Dodgers, and Byrnes has been a part of two World Series-winning front offices. Back in August, the New York Post’s Jon Heyman suggested Byrnes as a natural candidate for Detroit given Byrnes’ past familiarity and working relationship with Tigers manager A.J. Hinch, who will be remaining with the team and will have some influence in the hiring of the next GM.
Menzin is also naturally a familiar face for Hinch, and Henning writes that the assistant GM “is known to enjoy great favor with Hinch.” Only 31 years old, Menzin already has a decade of experience in Detroit’s front office, starting as an intern and gaining experience working within several different departments of the Tigers’ baseball operations. Since Avila’s firing, Menzin has also been as the de facto interim general manager.
Slater doesn’t have any ties to Hinch or the Tigers organization, and given the amount of work that might need to be done, it is possible he might be attractive to the club as a fresh voice. The 51-year-old Slater’s specific role with the Cardinals is in player procurement, with the St. Louis website describing him as the franchise’s “senior talent evaluator.” The Cards’ excellent track record at finding and developing homegrown talent is certainly a point in Slater’s favor, and he has been with the team since 2007. Before coming to St. Louis, Slater also worked in a number of different scouting and baseball ops roles with the Brewers, Orioles, and (for nine years) Dodgers.