Detroit Tigers hire A.J. Hinch as new manager
Hinch, 46, interviewed with general manager Al Avila on Thursday and spent the entire day in Detroit with him and other members of the front office. He was hired on Friday.
“I’d like to thank Chris Ilitch and Al Avila for giving me a chance and the opportunity to get back in the dugout to lead this historic ballclub,” Hinch said in a statement. “The last year was the most difficult of my life. It gave me time to reflect, which was such a big part of this process. Everything that has transpired over the past year, personally and professionally, has put so much in perspective for me, and re-enforced how important it is to do things with integrity and honesty.”
The financial terms of Hinch's agreement weren't immediately available. His introductory news conference is set for 2 p.m.
Hinch takes over for Ron Gardenhire, who retired Sept. 19 before his contract was set to expire at the end of the season. Hinch played for the Tigers in 2003 under then-manager and Hall of Famer Alan Trammell, now a special assistant to the general manager within the organization.
Hinch will be tasked with leading the Tigers out of their three-year rebuild and back to postseason and World Series contention. The organization believes the future is bright for the Tigers, with prospects such as Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Matt Manning, Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene emerging. However, the Tigers are not expected to contend next season.
For subscribers: Why Detroit Tigers fans should take this crop of prospects seriously
Detroit hasn’t made the postseason since 2014, finishing last in the American League Central in four of the last six years. The Tigers lost 114 games in 2019 and went 23-35 in the shortened 60-game season in 2020.
“ I’m so proud to play a role in growing that tradition here with the Tigers," Hinch said. "Having a talented young core of players, dedicated leadership group and passionate fan base was exactly what I was looking for in a team, and it’s clear we have that here in Detroit. It’s time to start playing winning baseball, and I am confident this organization is positioned to make that happen.”
How long it takes the Tigers to return to contention will depend on Hinch’s leadership and player development abilities. The sign-stealing plan tarnished the Astros' championship season after players were heard on video banging on trash cans to deliver signs to batters. .
Ultimately, MLB investigators decided Hinch didn't do enough to stop it. Former Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora, the Astros' bench coach at the time, also was suspended for the 2020 season. Avila had Cora, who helped the Red Sox win a championship in 2019 as manager, on his initial list of candidates, though it’s unclear whether he was interviewed.
“Coming into this managerial search we already knew that A.J.’s diverse baseball acumen, knowledge of analytics and passion for the game were second to none,” Avila said. “However, we also knew there were some important conversations to have about A.J.’s time in Houston. Throughout that dialogue he was clearly remorseful and used that time to reflect on the situation, and we believe he will emerge as a better leader because of it. This ballclub is entering an extremely exciting period, with young players primed and ready to make an impact at the Major League level. I’m confident A.J. is the best man for this job as we strive to bring a World Series Championship back to the city of Detroit.”
The Tigers picked Hinch because of his knowledge within the player development department, analytics department and the front office. He served as manager of minor league operations and director of player development for the Arizona Diamondbacks in the mid-2000s, and then as the vice president of professional scouting from 2010-14 with the San Diego Padres.
For subscribers: Making the case for Detroit Tigers hiring A.J. Hinch as next manager
Hinch moved into a managerial role with the Diamondbacks at age 34 in May 2009. He finished the season with a 58-75 record in 133 games but was fired in July 2010 after a 31-48 start to his second campaign. Kirk Gibson replaced him as interim mangaer.
Hinch has a 570-452 record as a manager in seven seasons, with 481 of those wins coming with the Astros in 2015-19. He took Houston to its first playoff appearance since 2005 in his debut season, losing in the ALDS. While his squad missed the postseason in 2016 despite a winning record, Hinch reached the pinnacle of his career in 2017 with a controversial World Series title.
Under Hinch, the Astros lost in the 2018 ALCS and the 2019 World Series. They finished first in the AL West in three consecutive seasons before Hinch was suspended and fired in January 2020 for his role in the 2017 plot. He is second to Bill Virdon for wins among Astros managers and has the highest winning percentage (.594) in franchise history.
Now, Hinch will wear a Tigers uniform for the first time since 2003. That season, he hit .203 with three home runs and 11 RBIs in 27 games.
It's unknown whether Hinch will retain any members of Gardenhire's coaching staff in 2020.
The Tigers interviewed a slew of candidates while waiting for Hinch's suspension to end. The list includes: Tigers interim manager Lloyd McClendon, New York Yankees hitting coach Marcus Thames, Yankees third base coach Phil Nevin, Yankees bench coach Carlos Mendoza, Chicago Cubs third base coach Will Venable, Pittsburgh Pirates bench coach Don Kelly, Los Angeles Dodgers third base coach George Lombard, Kansas City Royals bench coach Pedro Grifol, Oakland Athletics quality control coach Mark Kotsay and Atlanta Braves catching instructor Sal Fasano.
Among them, Hinch and McClendon were the only candidates with major-league managerial experience.