Ausmus' future remains uncertain amid rebuild

Ausmus' future remains uncertain amid rebuild

DETROIT -- The question has come up periodically this season, and as general manager Al Avila discussed the Justin Verlander trade and the Tigers' looming rebuilding project Friday, the question of Brad Ausmus' future as Tigers manager came up again.

"I have not talked with Brad about his situation at this point," Avila said. "As you see, we've been pretty much focused on just making trades. … Me and him will sit down at some point when we have time and things settle down and see where that goes."

Ausmus is finishing out the final season of his original contract, signed when Avila's predecessor as GM, Dave Dombrowski, hired him to replace Jim Leyland after the Tigers were eliminated in the 2013 American League Championship Series. The Tigers' shift in focus from win-now to develop young talent -- punctuated by Thursday's trades of Verlander and Justin Upton -- makes the manager's position a much different job than what Ausmus signed up for back then, though that shift was expected eventually.

When Avila picked up the option year on Ausmus' contract last fall, a few days after the Tigers' season ended just short of an AL Wild Card berth, the two sides knew a rebuild was looming. Avila pursued potential trades last offseason before a tepid trade market led him to keep the roster largely intact for one more run.

At the time, Avila said the two sides hadn't discussed a long-term extension, saying they agreed it was better for both sides to go year to year. That likely won't be a consideration this time around. Whomever manages the Tigers next year will likely want some long-term security ahead of a 2018 season that Avila acknowledged Friday could be rough.

"We're going to have a rough month of September, and next year may not be all that pretty, either," Avila said Friday. "But at some point in the near future, we expect this to turn around, that some of these prospects will be coming up and making a difference."

Two years ago, when then-promoted GM Avila announced he was keeping Ausmus as manager, Avila cited Ausmus' ability to work with young players as one of the reasons, noting the improvement of James McCann, Nicholas Castellanos, Anthony Gose and the many young pitchers. Their improvement since then has been mixed, though McCann this summer has looked more and more like an everyday catcher, and Castellanos has looked more like an impact run producer at the plate.

Ausmus has repeatedly refused to discuss his status, and declined again Friday, though he said he's not worried about it. As a player whose contracts generated more than $36 million over the course of his 18-year career, he doesn't have to worry.

To punctuate the point of his status, Ausmus has hesitated to address some player situations for next year and beyond, because he doesn't know if he'll be the one making decisions. But while he acknowledged that managers want to win, he disputed the idea that working with young players on a rebuilding team would be unappealing.

"I think there's a lot of upside to [managing] young players," Ausmus said. "Experience is great, but there's a lot of upside to young players because of the enthusiasm, energy and the will to learn. They want to become good and learn. But I won't talk about my situation."

At least now, though, there's clarity on what next year's manager is going to have.

"I think this was kind of the direction things were going, really since last winter," Ausmus said. "In that sense, the broad picture, I'm not surprised by it. I'm a little surprised by what happened [Thursday], but the big picture, I'm not surprised by what's going on. There's more clarity, I guess. As opposed to going into the offseason and possibly trading some guys, now a couple of those guys have been traded."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.