Tigers top scout Mike Russell joins Diamondbacks as special assistant (updated with likely replacement)
One of the remarkable notes about Dave Dombrowski’s reign running the Tigers is the continuity in the front office and player personnel. He has been able to keep his inner circle of trusted advisors together, more or less, for more than a decade in an era when even top evaluators often bounce around and success usually leads to bigger things for assistants.
That said, the Tigers just lost someone from their core group. In the case of veteran scout Mike Russell, he’s leaving for a new opportunity and an old friend, heading to the Arizona Diamondbacks as a special assistant for pro scouting.
Russell will serve as a special assistant to new Diamondbacks senior VP of baseball operations De Jon Watson, whom he has known since they worked together with the Florida Marlins in the mid-1990s, both working under Dombrowski. He’ll help coordinate the extensive pro scouting staff the Diamondbacks have put together.
“I’m really excited about it,” Russell said. “It was nothing negative. It was just a promotion and a chance to go help a friend.”
Russell’s ties with Dombrowski date back to 1996, when he joined the Marlins as an area supervisor and a special assignment scout. When Dombrowski left Florida for the Tigers, Russell was one of his earliest hires, coming on board as a Major League scout in 2002. He had been in that role ever since, making him the longest-tenured member of the Tigers scouting staff, and one of Detroit’s longest-tenured evaluators.
Russell’s primary role was scouting Eastern Division teams and players. However, he also went out on several special assignments to evaluate Tigers prospects. Russell has scouted for four World Series teams, signed seven Major League players and provided the background work that led to franchise-changing trades such as the Miguel Cabrera deal.
Along with assistant GM Al Avila, VP of player personnel Scott Reid and VP/special assistant David Chadd, Russell was part of the core group on the scouting side.
“Our pro scouting department was very successful in what we did,” Russell said. “I’m proud of it. I’m proud to be able to say I helped Dave and played a small part.”
Russell was inducted into the Professional Baseball Scouts Hall of Fame last summer. He also made his impact on the charitable side, including a donation to pay for the funeral for James Van Horn, better known for his Eat ‘Em Up Tigers chant around Comerica Park, after Van Horn was killed in a hit-and-run accident last summer.
Russell thanked Dombrowski for the opportunity. He also thanked Tigers owner Mike Ilitch, who helped Russell and his family rebuild their Florida home when Hurricane Ivan hit the Gulf Coast in 2004.
“I benefited by being a part of his organization,” Russell said.
As for filling the void, the Tigers are still working that out, Dombrowski said in an email Saturday morning, but he appears likely to turn to an ex-member of his core group. Former Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield, who served as assistant GM under Dombrowski with the Marlins from 1999 to 2001, is expected to join the Tigers scouting staff. Littlefield spent the past seven seasons with the Cubs, most recently as a Major League scout.