Tigers close to hiring hitting coach, and other notes
While Detroit debates the Tigers’ organizational direction, there were other odds and ends discussed at general manager Al Avila’s end-of-season media session:
First, the Tigers’ search for a new hitting coach could be concluded by the end of the week. Manager Brad Ausmus has talked to a few candidates, both inside and outside the organization, according to Avila.
“I feel that we’re coming close,” Avila said. “Hopefully by the end of the week, we’ll be able to announce this.”
Second, Avila said there are no offseason surgeries on the schedule for any players. You’ll recall that Miguel Cabrera planned on having his surgically repaired ankle checked out for any possible damage. That appears to have been resolved.
“These guys, after 162 games, what they need is basically rest,” Avila said, “then start the process again of rehab/strength and conditioning offseason program and get back at it. As far as any surgeries or anything like that, there aren’t any scheduled.”
Third, with no decision yet on Francisco Rodriguez’s contract option, the question came up about the club’s plans for Joe Jimenez going into next season. At this point, Avila said, they’re expecting him to compete for a job in Spring Training, but continue to exercise caution with his development.
In explaining their caution with Jimenez, Avila referenced Bruce Rondon and what they now view as rushing him too quickly to the big leagues in 2013.
“I know there was a big push for him to come up here [in September],” Avila said, “but trust me, that would not have been in his best interests — or our best interests. There were some things he needed to work on, in particular his slider, and just his command overall.
“There are certain things that you can do in the minor leagues that you can’t do at the big-league level. When we bring him up, we want to make sure that he’s coming up to have success. We don’t want to go through the same mistake we did with Bruce in the past where it just didn’t work out right away. We want to be a little bit more cautious with Jimenez. In saying that, I’m hopeful that he can contribute to our success at some point in 2017. I can’t rule out that right out of the chute in Spring Training; you’ve got to give a guy an opportunity. But is it going to be a month, two months, three months in Toledo before he makes an impact? Obviously that’s into play, too.”
The Tigers are also hoping to give JaCoby Jones more time in Toledo, which might play a role in their decision on Cameron Maybin’s contract option.
“JaCoby Jones is a viable option,” Avila said. “I think there [are] people in the organization that feel that he could use more time in Toledo. I’m of the opinion that he could use more time in Toledo. But if he has a strong Arizona Fall League, comes into Spring Training and really has a good spring, I can’t rule out that he might not be the guy, particularly if you can match him up with another guy that hits from the left side and can give him some days off against some tough right-handed pitchers.”
Lastly, the one area where the Tigers might hit the free-agent market is for a backup catcher, with Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s contract up.
“We have to make a decision on who that other catcher is that we’re going to try to acquire to go along with [James] McCann,” Avila said. “Saltalamacchia obviously is under consideration, amongst a list of catchers we have identified.”
That list, Avila confirmed, includes former Tiger Alex Avila, also a free agent after playing out his one-year deal with the White Sox.