Under Scott Harris, Tigers ready to make moves and take risks

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Scott Harris isn't interested in labels. He doesn't find them "instructive." When the Tigers new president of baseball operations was asked at his introductory press conference Tuesday whether he views the job ahead as a 'rebuild,' he said, "I view it as an opportunity to make smart baseball decisions."

And "an opportunity to get better this winter."

"That’s what we’re going to do," Harris said. "We’re going to make a lot of moves, and a lot of those moves are going to have strong conviction behind them. Some of those moves are going to be calculated risks. We have to take calculated risks in this organization to narrow the gap between us and the organizations we’re chasing.

"When we go into this winter, we’re not going to be risk averse. We can’t be risk averse. Taking calculated risks as part of a broader strategy of roster building and organization building will pay off in the end."

A.J. Hinch and Harris have been talking for a couple weeks, future partners fleshing out a shared vision. When Hinch came on the radio last week and said the Tigers are "going to have a busy offseason," now we know why. Under Harris, this organization will be active. It will explore every avenue toward building a better big-league roster.

"Listen, there’s a lot of work to do," Harris said Wednesday on the Stoney & Jansen Show. "We have a lot of work to do this winter. I think everyone who’s watched the Tigers knows that."

In the infield, the Tigers will be searching for a new third baseman after Jeimer Candelario had one of the worst seasons in the majors. They'll also be in the market for a catcher to replace Tucker Barnhart. In the outfield, Riley Greene is the only given. The Tigers can make significant upgrades around him. And they'll almost certainly be adding a starting pitcher or two, considering the only locks for the 2023 Opening Day rotation are Eduardo Rodriguez and Matt Manning.

Asked about potentially adding more salary -- the Tigers' payroll ranks 18th in the majors at $135 million -- Harris said he's received assurances from owner Chris Ilitch that he'll have the financial backing to build a winning team.

"We talked about resources. This ownership group has a long history of supporting baseball operation," Harris said. "It’s on me to come up with compelling opportunities and to pitch those opportunities to Chris. And I know that if I do, I’ll have his full support."

Harris, 35, had a dream situation in San Francisco, where he was the GM of his childhood team. The opportunity in Detroit, he said, "was too good to pass on." Ilitch, for one, likely made Harris an offer he couldn't refuse. And Harris said he's "bullish on the Tigers future and excited to build something special here."

"I’m bullish," he said, "because there is an interesting combination of young talent, resources, an excellent manager in AJ Hinch and a canvas that we’re going to be able to fill in. And I know as we start to fill in that canvas, we’re going to have a passionate fan base supporting us at every turn, and that really excites me. I appreciate all the pageantry of the last few days, but I’m here to work. I can’t wait to dive in and make some decisions to help us build that team that I’m so bullish on.

Under former general manager Al Avila, this was supposed to be the season that the Tigers re-entered the playoff picture. They spent big last winter to fortify a roster featuring several top prospects. It didn't pan out. Next season will mark year seven of the team's rebuild, whether Harris wants to label it that or not. Asked about Detroit's competitive timeline, Harris said he'll "have a much better feel for when the most competitive Tigers team is going to come out" by the end of this winter.

"I don’t believe in strict five-year plans with specific benchmarks that you have to reach year over year," he said. "There’s too much variability in this sport to define a plan as concretely as that. If we keep our heads down and string together smart baseball decisions, one smart decision after another through winters and trade deadlines and draft opportunities and international signing opportunities, we’re going to look up and have a darn good baseball team.

"That’s my intent from day one and that will remain my intent through my tenure here."

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