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Tigers Den roundtable: Who should be the team’s next manager?

BYB staff mention the usual suspects, but some out of the box options as well.

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Detroit Tigers v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images

With the news of Ron Gardenhire’s retirement finally settled in, we can turn our attention towards the very important question of who will helm the team in the 2021 season.

There are quite a few candidates whose names are coming up with some regularity, from former Houston Astros manager AJ Hinch, to beloved fan-favorite utility man Don Kelly (who incidentally also coached within the Astros org).

There are a plenty of think-pieces on this from a variety of writers and sources, and the speculation is sure to heat up after the World Series, but for now we took some time to chat among the BYB staff to see who we all through would be a good fit for the team next season and beyond.

Cameron: DONNIE. KELLY. BABY. (That’s the answer and the explanation)

Ashley: I’m going with Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro. I don’t think his name has been mentioned much, but the Rays bench coaches have a track record of becoming managers elsewhere to varying degrees of success, mostly good (Rocco Baldelli wasn’t a bench coach, but he was a coach in the Rays org, Charlie Montoyo has done well with the Jays who look poised to reach the postseason this year, and of course Davey Martinez managed the World Series winners just last year.)

Matt Quatraro has worked within the Rays farm system, one of the best in baseball, and has also worked as a hitting and catching instructor in varying capacity. I think working under Kevin Cash and seeing outside the box thinking like the Opener, managing bullpen games, and this season’s incredible work on the Rays running game can only have served Quatraro well, making him a very appealing candidate in my eyes.

Trevor: As much as I’d like to see a Brayan Pena or Marcus Thames, I think I have to go with Fredi Gonzalez. I remember him being heavily involved in the manager race a few years back only to lose out to Gardenhire. Ken Rosenthal reported that the Tigers would likely be looking for someone with experience. He hasn’t held a manager position since 2016, but he’s got 10 years experience. With a Tigers team that is (good lord, hopefully) on the precipitous of not getting a top 10 draft pick, or maybe even winning, his career managerial record of 710-692 shows he might just do that. I have no idea how that would go in Detroit, and he’s not my first choice. But I don’t get a say in the hiring, so I think this is the direction the Tigers will head. It could be worse, but it’s not ideal if you ask me.

Source for the Rosenthal thing.

Jay: I’d be completely fine with that pick. Not the direction I’d go either if I was the guy making the hire, but he’s better than the ultra conservative old school dudes they trend towards.

I’m not super confident this because I can’t remember where I read it but I thought I saw someone had numbers showing that he was one of the better bullpen managers in the league when he was active.

Trevor: Yeah, it’s nothing against Fredi, I think he’d be fine. Just not who I’d pick, personally.

Zane: I want Quatraro now that Ashley has sold us so hard on him. With that said, I’m totally expecting either Don Kelly or Lloyd McClendon. So it goes.

Cameron: If it’s Lloyd then we know they aren’t trying for another 2-3 seasons and might as well farther rip this roster down.

Rob: I’m expecting Lloyd and will be pleasantly surprised if it’s anyone else

Chris: I’d be intrigued by any younger, up-and-coming candidate. But, my being a Tigers fan aside, Don Kelly is a very enticing choice. In addition to being the only true Donnie Baseball he’s been one that folks around the league have seen as being on the managerial track with his post-playing career experience. He’s done work as a scout with the Tigers, as well as the coaching experience he’s gotten under his belt the last couple of seasons with Houston and Pittsburgh. He might be viewed as a bit of a cop out choice, but there’s definitely potential with him.Shorter form: Marcus Thames and Will Venable are also intriguing, but we’ll see where things go.

Adam: This is a difficult question to answer at the moment given that the season is still underway and we still have the post season until the dust settles and we get a chance to see who truly is available. That said, based on one recent list of available candidates, if we’re going to go with a former Tiger, I’m intrigued by Vance Wilson. We all know the penchant catchers have for coaching and managing, so he’s got that going for him (which is nice). He’s currently the third base coach for the KC Royals, and while I’m not sure he’s picked up too much with that franchise, he may be a solid option thanks to his experience as a skipper in the minors. I dunno, I kinda have a soft spot for former catchers in the dugout as well.

Brandon: AJ Hinch. Do it. Otherwise I really have no idea. Managers don’t have the control they used to have. More decisions are made with the front office, and the better teams really lean into a data heavy, cooperative decision making. You want someone who is great with players, can bridge the gap in bringing useful info to them, hire good coaches, and represent the organization well. AJ comes with baggage, but he’s the best answer I can give. Otherwise it’s a crapshoot and it’s really impossible to know who would be a good fit, particularly as I don’t like the front office they’d have to be a fit with. (edited)

Adam: My only beef with Hinch is the taint he brings along with him from the Astros. Otherwise, I’d be all in on him.

Brandon: Sure, but that’s the only reason we really have a shot at a young manager who has a ton of experience and a ring, tainted as it is. Otherwise he’d be in demand everywhere.

Brady: I agree with Brandon that Hinch is probably far and away the best option if we want the most talented manager possible. Obviously you need to address the scandal and probably take some decent heat for it, but that’s temporary. As long as he can keep a clean nose with the Tigers, I think he could lead the org back to glory should the right pieces emerge. Sometimes the best option just happens to fall right into your lap.

If we’re going less controversial/former Tiger, Marcus Thames is intriguing. It’s easy to tell by his tenure with the Yankees that the dude knows what he’s doing. They’ve gotten every bit out of the hitters they’ve had on their rosters, and he certainly has had a hand in that. He’s been on the job for nearly a decade now and has stuck in one of the premier orgs in sports and, to me, that says a lot. He was a fan favorite when he played with the Tigers, is more than qualified and we all know that the league could use more Black men in positions of power.

Ashley sold Quatraro really well too. I’d be happy with him based on what I’ve heard. And if it’s Lloyd McClendon, I will throw things.

Brandon: Quatraro and Thames both interest me too.

Trevor: I would LOVE Thames, but with no managerial experience it’s tough to see the Tigers going that route. Especially if Avila is approaching the end of his endless leash.

Adam: Bonus if he can be a player-manager and come off the bench for some country strong once in a while.

Brandon: I wouldn’t mind him shouldering guys out of the way during BP to show ‘em how it’s done.

Jay: I’d be on board bringing in someone from the Rays to helm the Tigers in 2021 and of course AJ Hinch seems like an appealing option if he can present a convincing case that he isn’t a risk to the team. There are a number of other people who would interest me for the Tigers’ managing job who haven’t been mentioned here. Among them are Joe McEwing, Mike Rabelo, and Hensley Meulens.

The Tigers are in a position to take a gamble with their pick, but from where we sit, it’s tough to peg the best candidate. The cream of the managerial crop will have better opportunities than what Detroit can offer, so I’d be looking for someone with a good coaching track record who can effectively communicate with players and has a solid grasp of modern baseball. Of the candidates already linked to the club, Marcus Thames and AJ Hinch probably fit that mold best, but I have a hard time seeing the Tigers taking on Hinch’s baggage.


Ashley: Oh he’s from Windsor, Ontario! He probably actually grew up watching the Tigers.

Trevor: Clapp is a really good option. Took the Memphis Redbirds to back to back PCL championships.

Jay: I’m really surprised that Joe Espada hasn’t been included in this conversation. Coming from the Astros, he’d have the same baggage as Hinch, but he wasn’t in a real position of power at the time. He has been included in a lot of managerial searches in recent years and has been praised for his communication skills as well as his grasp of both the traditional and progressive aspects of the sport. (edited)

Peter: My vote is for AJ Hinch. He has taken over a young team that leads the league in strikeouts but boasts a strong farm system and turned them into a contender before. As long as he’s learned his lesson, this is a perfect shot to let him redeem himself.

Trevor: I’ll pose a question, with all the talk of Hinch..would there be any interest in Cora?

Brady: Definitely.

Chris: To me, it seems like the lack of interest in Cora is since, by most accounts, he was more actively involved in being a master mind/furthering the Astros scandal while Hinch’s crime is seemingly one that’s more to do with his inaction towards stopping it even though he was aware it was happening. But I could be off since it’s been a minute since I’ve read any reports/write ups on the subject.

Brandon: Perhaps Cora, sure. Less experience but he’s got a ring and was really well regarded before the scandal. Just seems like he was pretty central to the sign stealing even beyond Hinch’s involvement. I would be good with either.

Trevor: I’d agree, it just seems like if there’s come buzz for Hinch then maybe Cora would be seen in the same light.

Ashley: I would like neither.

Jason: I’m with Rob; McClendon wouldn’t surprise me. But Hinch is an interesting guy: sure, he has a history, but come on, it’s Detroit, it’s a clean slate for him. Everyone loves a redemption story; wouldn’t this be a great one? Besides, I think Hinch would love a chance to show everyone that he can win without the help that he got in Houston.

Also, add my vote for one Stubby Clapp. He’s the man. Best baseball name in decades.