AJ Hinch came to Detroit this week for some winter meetings -- just in time for some winter weather.
"I got welcomed with a few inches of snow," the Tigers' new manager said from his office on Tuesday. "Opening Day is how many days away?"
66. The Indians will be at Comerica Park on April 1. Between now and then, the Tigers have a lot to do.
There are needs to address in free agency, the most obvious at catcher. The team is also eyeing help at first base, in the outfield and in the starting rotation. The market has been expectedly slow, though Hinch said the Tigers have "had more dialogue than gets reported."
Detroit's biggest signing so far has been OF Robbie Grossman to a two-year, $10 million deal. GM Al Avila has been resisting the urge to spend more as he waits for the organization's young talent to reach the majors -- and as revenue concerns persist across baseball.
"We can only do so much," Hinch said. "You gotta have a partner on the other side that wants to sign and be here for the opportunities that we have. I do think there’s going to be deals at the end of free agency and into spring training that could make us better. Al and the group are working tirelessly to try and figure that out."
Hinch said it's possible the Tigers could add as many as four more players before the start of the season. Whoever they bring in, "it will be for a specific reason to make our team better -- and ultimately to push some of those young guys."
"Because as much as you want to give the opportunity to the young guys, they have to play well to stay here," Hinch said. "I do want all the young pitching to be in the big leagues. I do want the young position players to get the at-bats that are needed for us to evaluate.
"But this is an accountability league. You have to play well to be here. It’s not just a team you can come to and fill out a roster. That’s not how we’re going to operate."
It's already been a busy offseason for Hinch. He's spent the past couple months trying to get to know his team, in a world where everything is virtual. He said he's communicated with about two-thirds of the roster via calls or texts.
He's also done his own homework. That's made for a lot of late nights reading through scouting reports in the Tigers' database, "trying to get a feel for a player through other people’s eyes." And a lot of conversations with contacts outside the organization, looking for a scoop on the players within. You can bet he's phoned Justin Verlander to ask about some of his former teammates in Detroit.
"What makes Miggy tick? What makes Candelario good? What makes Paredes such an up-and-coming prospect?" Hinch said. "The college ranks will tell you a little about, what was Casey Mize like before and after? And then I compare all that and develop my gameplan for each particular player."
For Hinch, every data point has value.
"It’s all-inclusive," he said. "There’s no information that I’ll turn away, whether it’s a statistical analysis, a scout's vision and what they see in the player, video that I’ve seen. And I have a coaching staff full of guys that are doing that as well. We’re going to meet together when we get to Lakeland, we have Zooms every week that go over stuff like this.
"We’ve been going 100 miles an hour for the last month and a half or so, and I don’t think Tigers fans would expect anything less out of a new coaching staff."