"The White Sox did us a big favor."
That's what someone with the Detroit Tigers told The Athletic on Thursday after the White Sox ended their manager search by hiring Tony La Russa and leaving their division rivals free to hire A.J. Hinch for their managerial opening.
That's exactly what happened Friday, the Tigers making Hinch their new skipper.
The White Sox said they got their man Thursday, general manager Rick Hahn admitting that the search didn't go the way he expected it to but describing La Russa as "the best man to help us win championships over the next several years."
They reportedly didn't even interview Hinch, despite talking in some capacity. ESPN's Jeff Passan wrote Friday that Hinch was interested in the White Sox job, and it seemed like a logical match. Hinch, who took the Houston Astros to the top of baseball's mountain, was viewed by plenty of evaluators as the most attractive candidate on the market. The White Sox, with their fleet of uber-talented youngsters seemingly ready to make a similar leap, were seen to be the most attractive landing spot.
But per Hahn, the White Sox search — which he described the day the team parted ways with Rick Renteria as one that would be wide-ranging and an opportunity to glean information from a host of candidates — changed entirely when La Russa was surprisingly receptive to team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf's "overtures" to his longtime friend.
Hinch going to Detroit doesn't mean the White Sox made the wrong hire, of course. La Russa brings an incredible resume and a Hall-of-Fame history to the job and is more than capable, with this roster, of adding to his jewelry collection on the South Side. But the White Sox will now get an up-close look at the road untraveled, with Hinch taking the reins of another up-and-coming organization in their division.
The Tigers have loaded up their farm system in a hurry and boast four of the top 25 prospects in baseball and five of the top 42, according to MLB.com's rankings. Now they have a World Series winning manager to go along with the young talent.
The AL Central gets more interesting by the day.