DETROIT – Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila announced Friday that Brad Ausmus will not return as the team's manager after the 2017 season.
Ausmus and his coaching staff will coach through the end of the 2017 season, Avila said.
In four seasons with the team, Ausmus has gone 312-325 with one division title and an appearance in the American League Division Series.
"As we transition the ballclub in a new direction, I feel it’s best we have a new approach and a fresh start with the manager position," Avila said. “Brad has done an admirable job under, at times, difficult circumstances, especially this season, and we appreciate his professionalism and dedication to the Tigers the past four years."
Avila said the Tigers are already searching for a new manager, who will lead the team as it turns to a new crop of young players.
"Our search for a new manager is underway," Avila said. "We plan to keep an open-mind in considering current members of the coaching staff for positions in 2018, but that will be in conjunction with the manager we hire."
Why make the move now?
Avila said once he made a decision, he wanted to tell Ausmus and make the announced.
"It doesn't really do any good to continue to wait until the end of the season," Avila said. "I felt that once the decision was made, the right thing to do is to tell Brad, make the announcement and move forward."
Avila said he spoke with Ausmus about the decision Wednesday. He said they confirmed it with a meeting Thursday.
YOU CAN WATCH THE FULL INTERVIEW WITH AL AVILA BELOW:
Ausmus' reaction to firing
After the news of his firing went public, Ausmus sat down in the Tigers' dugout to address the issue.
Ausmus said he and Avila had a 45-minute conversation earlier this week and that he was told he wouldn't be brought back.
"It was emotional," Ausmus said. "But I told him I understood."
He said it's important for a manager to be able to evaluate himself, and said the two sides are parting ways, "very amicably."
When asked about the criticism he's faced in Detroit, Ausmus said "you have to have thick skin," to be a manager. He said he has thick skin, so the criticism didn't bother him very much.
He didn't use injuries or players who underperformed as an excuse.
"We win an lose as a group," Ausmus said.
"Ever since the Aug. 31 trade deadline, I felt like this is the direction it should go."
Avila said Ausmus was very professional throughout the process.
"He's been a professional," Avila said. "He worked hard. He's very knowledgeable. He understood the reasoning."
YOU CAN WATCH THE FULL INTERVIEW WITH BRAD AUSMUS BELOW:
Ausmus' tenure as Tigers manager
Ausmus took over as Tigers manager Nov. 3, 2013, after Jim Leyland stepped down following the team's third straight American League Central Division title in 2013.
Ausmus was the 37th manager in team history.
As a first-time MLB manager, Ausmus inherited a team with star veterans and World Series expectations.
In his first season, Ausmus led the Tigers to their fourth straight AL Central title with a 90-72 record. The Tigers were then swept in three games by the Baltimore Orioles in the ALDS.
They haven't returned to the playoffs since.
Detroit took a major step back in 2015, finishing with a 74-87 records. The team was out of contention by the All-Star break, and former general manager Dave Dombrowski traded away stars David Price and Yoenis Cespedes in exchange for prospects.
Dombrowski was fired in favor of assistant general manager Avila, who still holds the position.
Ausmus nearly found himself back in the postseason in 2016, as the Tigers were within a game of a wild-card spot heading into the final series of the year. But the Braves beat the Tigers in the final series at Turner Field, and Detroit finished with an 86-75 record.
They were 2 1/2 games out of the final wild-card spot despite finishing second in the division.
This season, fans watched this era of Tigers baseball officially come to an end. With a 62-91 record heading into Friday's action, the Tigers are the worst team in the American League and third-worst in all of baseball.
In July, the Tigers traded away star outfielder J.D. Martinez and closer Justin Wilson. Avila also traded his son, catcher Alex Avila, to the Cubs with Wilson.
The total rebuild began in August, when the Tigers shipped Justin Upton to the Angels and franchise pitcher Justin Verlander to the Astros.
Detroit is on pace to finish with its worst record since 2003, when it lost 119 games and narrowly avoided the worst season in MLB history.
'Obviously, we didn't win'
Avila said the decision to make a chance at manager came down to wins and losses. He said Ausmus understood that the team didn't win enough games over the past three seasons.
"Obviously, we didn't win," Avila said. "The organization got to a point where we need a change on the field."
Avila said since the team had to make so many changes to the roster, it was time to "take a whole brand new road and open up to new things."
Avila said it will be a fresh start for the team as it begins to rebuild with young players.
"We felt that it's a new beginning, a fresh start," Avila said. "We'll have fresh leadership, new leadership as we move forward."
Avila said he believes Ausmas has a bright future. He expects Ausmus to get another job as a manager and be very successful.
Ausmus as a player
Before becoming a manager, Ausmus was a very solid player at the major-league level.
He played 18 seasons in MLB, including 352 games with the Tigers in two separate stints. He made his only All-Star appearance as a member of the Tigers in 1999, when he batted .275 with a .365 on-base percentage and .779 OPS.
Ausmus played primarily at catcher in his major-league career. He won Gold Glove Awards in 2001, 2002 and 2006, all with the Houston Astros.
In total, he played 1,971 games in his major-league career, batting .251 with 80 home runs, 270 doubles and a .669 OPS. When he retired, he had a 16.5 WAR.
He made $36,264,500 over his 18 seasons. The Tigers paid him $6,200,000 for parts of three years.
State of the Tigers
As the Tigers move on from Ausmus, they do so with a major rebuild ahead.
Without Verlander, Martinez, Upton and Wilson, the roster is bare. Even Miguel Cabrera hasn't been the same, slugging just .401 with a .731 OPS. He's got a -0.7 WAR, which means he's been worse than a replacement-level player this season.
But Al Avila did a nice job restocking the farm system, which for years was ranked among the worst in baseball.
In the last three years, the Tigers have added eight of their top 10 prospects through trades and the draft. Beau Burrows, Matt Manning and Alex Faedo were the team's last three first-round draft picks, and they're all ranked among the organization's top five prospects.
Franklin Perez is the team's No. 1 overall prospect, and he was brought over in the Verlander trade. Perez is the No. 41 prospect in baseball, and he's only 19 years old.
Jake Rogers was another piece in the Verlander trade. Rogers is the team's No. 8 prospect and the No. 8 catching prospect in all of baseball.
The third piece in the Verlander deal was outfielder Daz Cameron, who is the Tigers' No. 6 overall prospect and top outfield prospect. He's only 20 years old, but scouts like his power-speed combination, and he's a good fielder, which the Tigers sorely need in the outfield.
No. 4 prospect Jeimer Candelario is raking in the majors right now after being acquired in the Wilson/Avila trade. Candelario is the team's top position prospect and the No. 81 overall player in baseball.
In 20 games with the Tigers this season, Candelario is batting .362 with a .457 on-base percentage and .551 slugging percentage. He's drawn 12 walks and struck out just 10 times while hitting two homers and seven doubles.
The trade that brought Candelario to Detroit also brought shortstop Isaac Paredes, who is the Tigers' No. 10 prospect. He's considered a solid hitter and decent fielder, but he's only 18 years old, so the Tigers don't really know what they have in the young player.