The Detroit Tigers are looking for their next leader
The Detroit Tigers fired general manager Al Avila on Aug. 10. Chairman Chris Ilitch said he made the move then—as opposed to after the season— to get a head start on the search for the team’s next GM. He also said the search will be “far and wide.”
One would imagine that a slew of candidates will be considered for the position. There is no shortage of good candidates either. It just comes down to what Chris Ilitch’s vision is for the team—which is scary to think about, but hopefully A.J. Hinch and whoever else is helping guide the search can steer him in the right direction.
Of course, some candidates are more realistic than others. There are a few candidates that have a virtually 0% chance of coming to Detroit. Others are slightly more likely, but still probably wouldn’t come to Detroit.
Still, it’s fun to dream, and there are only 30 of these jobs, so you truly never know. Here are five dream candidates to become the next GM of the Detroit Tigers.
Erik Neander, president of baseball operations—Tampa Bay Rays
Neander, 39, was named the Rays’ president of baseball ops last September after 15 years in the organization, holding various roles in Tampa’s front office. He’s been the team’s top-ranking baseball official since 2017.
The Rays’ record since Neander took over as top dog speaks for itself. They’ve won the AL East in back-to-back seasons in 2020 and 2021, including a franchise record 100 wins a year ago. They also made the World Series in the shortened 2020 season.
This is has all been done with virtually no financial support from Rays’ owner Stuart Sternberg. which makes it all the more impressive how Neander has been able keep the team competitive. This begs the question—how good could the Rays be if they had even a league-average payroll?
That’s where the Detroit Tigers come in. Their 2022 payroll of $132 million is about league average. If they were able to snag a baseball mind like Neander—and actually give him some money to work with—they might finally become a competent organization.
Doing this would basically be copying what the Dodgers did back in 2014, when they poached Andrew Friedman from the Rays and became the team we know them as today: a ridiculously savvy organization that always has a stacked farm system, and also has one of the league’s highest payrolls every year.
The likelihood of Ilitch increasing the Tigers’ payroll to $200+ million seems quite low, but $180 million should suffice. If there’s one team to emulate, it’s the Dodgers.
The question becomes whether Neander would actually leave Tampa. Going from Sternberg to Ilitch isn’t much of an upgrade in terms of ownership, although Ilitch did finally open up the pocketbook last offseason. Having money to spend does have to be attractive if you’re Neander, as it would definitely make his job easier. But who knows, maybe he likes it in Tampa.
The Tigers would almost certainly have to pay up to pry Neander away from the Rays. Whether Ilitch would be willing to do such a thing remains to be seen.