As an organization, the Detroit Tigers are at an interesting place (to put it nicely). They finally relented to a long-avoided rebuild this year, trading several star talents for prospects. They also parted ways with manager Brad Ausmus, who largely disappointed in his four years at the helm.
We won’t know how the rebuild turns out for several years. Even the 2018 season won’t offer much in terms of prospect-y goodness; other than Christin Stewart and Mike Gerber, we probably won’t see many of the organization’s top talents in the majors for long stretches. However, we can (and will) debate how the team’s new manager will impact those young players.
This week’s question: Who should be the Tigers’ manager in 2018?
Ashley: I like the idea of Gabe Kapler. He was briefly a Tiger in the late 1990s, and is young-ish at 42, which I think might make him a good fit with all the Tigers’ young up-and-coming prospects. Plus, it could make him more open to fresh ideas. Working in player development for the Los Angeles Dodgers means he has prospect experience, which I think will be invaluable with the rebuild. The fact he was considered to manage the Dodgers speaks very highly of his ability. His experience with the Yomiuri Giants would be an asset if the Tigers got Shohei Otani (lol).
Brandon: I agree with Ashley. There are several good candidates already getting buzz, but Gabe Kapler interests me most of all. He has been at the forefront of a lot of cutting edge tools for player development, from the conditioning side, to using biofeedback to help hitters groove better swing paths. Obviously a coach can only get so much credit for the success of talented players, but working with players like Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Alex Verdugo, and others who have had early success is a nice feather in his cap as well. The Dodgers interviewed him before selecting Dave Roberts, so there was at least interest on that front. Kapler is young, has the Tigers connection, and is practically a motivational speaker in his own right on the topics of diet and exercise. Working with the Dodgers has exposed him to key analytics principles, and I think he would be a real breath of fresh air and a valuable asset for a young team. The only drawback is a lack of managerial experience. That's not ideal, but getting him a few years of experience while the team isn't likely to do anything of note would take care of that angle.
Jay: All of this about Kapler seems like spitballing. Do we know anything about him for sure, or is it taking an educated guess at his style?
Brandon: We know everything I just said.
Jay: The entire tone of both your and Ashley's messages implied that he's analytically inclined.
Brandon: Yeah, he's extremely progressive. Maybe too much for the Tigers. Basically he came in second to Dave Roberts in Los Angeles’ manager search, and opted to stay the head of player development instead of joining the Dodgers’ coaching staff. He and Friedman are said to be pretty tight.
Cody: Very progressive.
Jay: Originally, I wanted the Tigers to make a run at current Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, but that always seemed like a long shot. Now that he has signed a contract extension, it’s nearly impossible, so I’m shifting my attention to Fredi Gonzalez. He seemed like a good fit, and as a veteran manager who is currently coaching in the beleaguered Marlins organization, he is probably available.
Commenter 3rdRevelation also mentioned Seattle Mariners bench coach Tim Bogar, who is a more appealing candidate than the other options. Working under Terry Francona and Joe Maddon makes for an encouraging résumé, and being in the good graces of Mariners GM Jerry DiPoto only makes Bogar more interesting. While he isn't established in a management position, he does have minor league managing experience, and the Tigers are in a good position to do a bit of experimentation. He was well-respected by his players during his time with the Red Sox and also appears to be willing to incorporate sabermetrics into his decision making process.
Stubby Clapp would also be fun. He's the St. Louis Cardinals' Triple-A manager, and has a significant amount of experience coaching and managing in the minor leagues. Quite a bit of that time was spent with the forward-thinking Houston Astros organization, which may lend towards an attractive mindset. Plus, his name is Stubby Clapp!
Rob: Spoiler: I'm going to say Ron Gardenhire because I might be insane.
Ashley: I love it. He won't help the team win at all, but I love Gardy.
Rob: Nobody is going to help the team win next year
Ashley: exactly, so who cares. Ashley for manager.
Rob: Normally, I’d hope for a more analytically inclined manager. I was initially duped, like others, into thinking Brad Ausmus would be that forward-thinking skipper when he was hired. However, the information uncovered by Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press has me concerned. If Victor Martinez and other veterans are causing a bit of clubhouse friction, the Tigers might benefit from hiring a more established manager like Gardenhire or Fredi Gonzalez. Neither is a master in-game tactician, but both have the experience that many of the other names mentioned in this thread do not. Gonzalez worked with plenty of young players in Atlanta, and was generally well-liked for how he developed those players. We know Gardenhire’s track record.
Plus, if we go into the season expecting weird bullpen moves, we might not be as upset when they happen?
Patrick O.: The Tigers want someone in the short term who can break young players into the major leagues and get them to establish good habits. The new manager will also need to maintain a positive atmosphere in the clubhouse through some very tough times over the next two seasons. The Tigers desperately need a leader. My choice is Dave Martinez, the current bench coach for the Chicago Cubs. He has no managerial experience at any level, but played with nine teams over 16 seasons in the major leagues, and has been Joe Maddon's bench coach for 10 years. Martinez has worked in an environment that deploys advanced concepts. He has interviewed for a number of managerial jobs including the Dodgers, but has not been hired. I wanted the Tigers to fire Ausmus after 2014 and go hard after Maddon. Now, I would settle for the next best thing.
Peter: I'll go with Tony DeFrancesco. He has 20 years experience in both the Athletics and Astros organizations, two organizations that build heavily from within. The Tigers want to go down that path, so a manager who is familiar with this process would be the smart move. The Tigers aren't going to contend for a few years anyway, so a development guy at the helm would be best and if he makes things click even better. For now they need to mold and polish young talent. DeFrancesco is my pick for that goal.