Detroit Tigers: The most important offseason move

Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila watches spring training.
Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila watches spring training. /
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The 2021 Detroit Tigers have surpassed expectations in nearly every way, and that, naturally, has fans excited about the future.

Rest assured, the staff at Motor City Bengals will spend most of the offseason proffering ideas for how the Detroit Tigers can improve, but why wait a few weeks when we can start talking about the most important move right now?

And no, it’s not finding a shortstop. The Detroit Tigers DO need a shortstop, of course, but this team is still 15-20 wins away from playoff contention. One player isn’t going to put them over the top.

The most important move for the Detroit Tigers this offseason is finding the right director of player development.

In case you missed it, just a few weeks ago the Tigers made a few surprising, if not slightly overdue changes to their front office.

"Dave Littlefield, the Tigers’ vice president of player development for the last six years, has been reassigned to a role as a special assignment scout. Kenny Graham, Detroit’s player development director, will oversee the department as the organization searches for a full-time replacement. David Chadd, Al Avila’s top assistant in the front office since the latter took over as general manager in 2015, will retain his title of VP and assistant GM but will shift his role toward a focus on player development and scouting."

It’s rare for MLB General Managers to simply dismiss members of their front office, particularly when they’ve long been trusted lieutenants, like Chadd and Littlefield have been for Al Avila. Instead we see reassignments. But make no mistake, these men were demoted in lieu of being fired, because the results simply haven’t been there.

What does the head of Player Development do?

This may seem self explanatory, but it’s probably worth it to provide a quick overview of what player development is. At a very basic level, a Director of Player Development is charged with putting in place the minor-league personnel and processes to help produce big-league players.

In a more abstract sense, player development is a license for flexibility. Teams covet MLB talent, and the more contributors and trade chips they can produce, the easier it is for them to improve at the highest level.

Player development isn’t about taking someone off the street and making him an all-star. It’s about finding every possible way to help already talented baseball players improve and maximize their natural ability.

And it doesn’t just happen at the minor-league level. We’ve seen plenty of player development take place in Detroit this year, and much of the credit for that seems to rightfully fall on the shoulders of A.J. Hinch, Chris Fetter, and the rest of the coaching staff.

But one also has to wonder if all that development in the big leagues helped lead to these front office changes. Players will always have to adjust at the highest level, but perhaps Hinch and Fetter would prefer players be a bit more polished when they arrive in Detroit.

And Hinch, of course, knows what great player development looks like. The Houston Astros are among the best in baseball at development, and because of that they’re about to win their 4th division title in the last five seasons.

Sustained success is the goal for the Detroit Tigers. And a huge part of achieving that goal lies with the new Director of Player Development. They absoutley have to nail this hire.

So who are some of the top candidates to fill the position? Hit the jump see our suggestions.