Tigers restructure front office, begin search for a new player development boss
Detroit — General manager Al Avila announced Tuesday a significant restructuring of the Tigers front office and opened a search for new leadership of the club’s player development branch.
“We’re looking to be a more progressive organization,” he said. “We’ve been a very traditional organization as far as our way of teaching. And that will stay. We will not lose our old-school ways by any means. But we want to be more progressive.
“We want to start using more technology and more science. We want to be able to start writing up plans for pitchers and hitters across the board.”
► David Chadd, who has worked with Avila since 2003 and has been his top lieutenant since he replaced Dave Dombrowski in 2015, will remain vice president and assistant general manager — but he will shift his focus more to player development and scouting.
He will be based now out of his home in Wichita, Kansas, but spending a lot of time in Lakeland and with the club’s minor-league affiliates.
► David Littlefield, who had been in charge of player development since 2015, will transition into a pro scouting role.
► Sam Menzin, 31, who had been director of baseball operations and professional scouting, was promoted to vice president and assistant general manager.
More: Henning: Tigers' front-office moves may signal line of succession for Avila
► Jay Sartori, 42, who built the Tigers analytics and science and tech departments from scratch, also was promoted to vice president and assistant general manager. Sartori will still oversee the analytics and science operations, but he’s also involved in arbitration and player evaluations.
“These promotions were well-merited to recognize the job they’ve done,” Avila said. “Sam and I have worked day to day together at the major-league level and he’s involved in every aspect of the organization.”
Menzin remains involved in major-league scouting (he has overseen the Rule 5 drafts in recent years). He’s the club’s expert on rules and compliance. He heads the arbitration process, is in on contract negotiations and works closely with manager AJ Hinch and the big-league staff.
"In my opinion, he's a star on the upswing," Avila said. "This is to recognize the job he's done and what he brings to the table."
One of Sartori’s projects going forward, Avila said, was to update and upgrade the club’s analytics data base and structure.
► Kenny Graham, who has been the director of player development, will take over on an interim basis as the vice president of player development, replacing Littlefield.
“One of the things the was attractive about Dave when we hired him, he is a good evaluator of talent,” Avila said. “So in using his strengths to the maximum, we felt it would be good for him to go around the major leagues and the minor leagues and evaluate talent.”
Avila said Graham, who the Tigers hired two years ago to develop an organizational hitting system, will be interviewed for the vice president of player development job. But an industry-wide search already has begun.
“We’re looking for new leadership at the minor-league level,” Avila said. “We’re actively starting to call teams asking permission on candidates we want to interview for the position.”
Avila said the moves were made now to get a jump on the offseason.
“We’ve already spent the majority of the year evaluating the whole system,” he said. “And traditionally, September is the month most clubs will start making changes. You want to start preparing for the offseason. You don’t want to wait until the offseason to prepare.
“Also, the interview process takes a long time.”
Around the horn
Reliever Miguel Del Pozo required five stitches in his chin after he was hit with a 95-mph line drive Monday night. He threw a bullpen before the game and is expected to be available. “There was no concussion or any other issue,” Hinch said. “Fortunately we did avoid anything major.”
Athletics at Tigers
► First pitch: 7:10 p.m. Wednesday, Comerica Park, Detroit
► TV/radio: BSD/97.1 FM
► RHP James Kaprielian (7-4, 3.65), Athletics: He’s coming off a rough one against the Yankees, who blasted three homers off him in five innings. He pitches off a 93-mph four-seam fastball, throwing sliders to right-handed hitters (.215 opponent average) and a change-up to lefties (.222). He also mixes in a two-seamer and a curveball.
► RHP Wily Peralta (3-3, 3.63), Tigers: This will be his first start back off the injured list. After a strong outing in Toronto (six innings, two runs) on Aug. 21, he developed a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand and was shut down for 10 days. Amazingly, in his ninth season he has never faced the A’s.