Tigers manager Ausmus will not return in 2018
(TSX / STATS) -- DETROIT -- Brad Ausmus will not be brought back as manager of the Detroit Tigers, the club announced Friday, but he and his staff will finish out the season.
"This is not a happy day for me or for the organization," general manager Al Avila said. "We will not be extending the contract of Brad Ausmus for 2018.
"The club got a point where we needed a change on the field. We needed to change the roster. That's when we started trading players. So we said, 'You know what? Let's just take a whole new road and open up to new things.' We'll have fresh leadership, new leadership as we move forward. He understood that very well."
Ausmus was brought in to succeed Jim Leyland for the 2014 season and made the playoffs that season, getting swept by the Baltimore Orioles. This will mark the third straight year Detroit finishes out of the postseason.
The Tigers fielded an aging club with a payroll of about $200 million this year that prevented it from making any move that might have made a difference. And with four free agents who could leave with little or no compensation, trading them away seemed inevitable.
Avila dealt left-hander Justin Wilson and catcher Alex Avila, his son, to the Chicago Cubs for prospects and slugging right fielder J.D. Martinez to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a similar package as the July 31 non-waiver deadline approached.
Right-hander Justin Verlander, holder of an expensive contract, and outfielder Justin Upton, who has an opt-out clause this year, were dealt on Aug. 31 to the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Angels, respectively.
"I think maybe the regret was that we were not able to make enough adjustments to the club to make it better," Avila said. "That's where the rebuild comes in.
"Our payroll basically paralyzed us from making the team better. The lack of top prospects and depth in the minor league system also didn't allow us to make trades to make the team better. That's why we have to go into full rebuild mode. We're reducing payroll, getting younger. At the end of the day the transition is necessary to get better in the future."
Ausmus, 48, said he found out before the Minnesota series he would not be returning.
"Al and I talked a couple days ago," Ausmus said. "It was about a 45-minute conversation. Al and I have become very good friends in the four years I was here. It was a little emotional. He told me he wasn't going to bring me back. Frankly, I told him I fully understood.
"I told him if he'd walked in and offered me a contract I thought I wouldn't have come back. I think this team starting over, they need a new voice. And sometimes you've got to be able to evaluate yourself. I looked in the mirror and think it's probably a good idea that they do this. I'm completely comfortable with it. I've enjoyed me time clearly."
Ausmus said leaving the team before the end of the season was never a consideration.
"Why finish out the season? I'm under contract for 2017 and my job is to manage the Tigers," he said. "And I'm going to do that until I finish the season.
"I felt like this was the right move to make. I wasn't going to come back anyway. I just think the Tigers need a different voice. So I was very at ease with it. There's some very good players in there, some really good guys. Really, the thing that hurt the most from my angle was leaving coaches out to dry without a job. And a front office I really got along with."
Ausmus brought a 312-325 managerial record into Friday night's game with Minnesota.
Avila said the search for a new manager will begin immediately.
"We're going to be open-minded to everything," he said. "When I did talk to the staff, I did tell them that anyone that has interest in being interviewed for the managerial position that I will certainly be open-minded and interview them also. So anybody in house, obviously.
"At the minor league level, I don't believe there is a guy right now that's ready for that job. But here at the major league level there's a possibility."
Ausmus was a former catcher for the Tigers, playing in 1996 and again from 1999 to 2000.
Updated September 22, 2017