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The Detroit Tigers hired Scott Harris as president of baseball operations Monday, choosing the San Francisco Giants’ general manager to run the organization as it tries to transition from a half-decade-long rebuild to contention.
Harris, long seen as a rising star in front-office circles, spent the last three seasons with the Giants, working alongside president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi to build the team that won 107 games in 2021. Previously, Harris had spent seven seasons with the Chicago Cubs, ascending to assistant general manager and playing an integral role in their World Series-winning 2016 season.
The Tigers fired Al Avila, their longtime general manager, Aug. 11 and immediately started a search to replace him in the midst of a season that has gone sideways. Detroit harbored hopes of contending in the American League Central Division after spending $230 million on free agent shortstop Javier Baez and pitchers Eduardo Rodriguez and Andrew Chafin. With young starters Tarik Skubal, Casey Mize and Matt Manning in the big leagues and top prospects Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene nearing their debuts, the desire to transition from a painful rebuild that included a 47-114 record in 2019 was clear.
Instead, the Tigers have backslid. Their 55-91 record is the fourth worst in baseball and they are 24 games behind Central-leading Cleveland, which has the worst record of any division leader. While Baez has been the best player on the team, he has struggled compared to his career numbers. Skubal is on the injured list after undergoing flexor-tendon surgery. Mize is out until at least the middle of next season following Tommy John surgery. Torkelson was demoted following a rough start, though he has shown flashes of his minor league dominance upon being recalled earlier this month.
Harris is seen as a jack of all trades, fluent in scouting, player development and analytics, and joins a front office that includes interim GM Sam Menzin and assistant GMs Jay Sartori and David Chadd. Under Avila, the Tigers were seen as one of the less progressive teams in baseball, though their hiring of manager A.J. Hinch and pitching coach Chris Fetter pointed to a desire to acclimate the organization to more modern methods of thinking.
Detroit’s payroll flexibility moving forward indicates an ability to add talent beyond Baez and Rodriguez, who missed more than three months this year because of personal issues. After 2023, when Miguel Cabrera’s $32 million-a-year deal expires, the Tigers will have only Baez and Rodriguez on the books.
In addition to Torkelson, Greene and the young starters, the Tigers have the makings of a strong bullpen with closer Gregory Soto, curveball maven Alex Lange and a plethora of minor league pitching, including 2021 first-round pick Jackson Jobe, sandwich pick Ty Madden and 21-year-old Wilmer Flores, the younger brother of Giants infielder Wilmer Flores.