For years, Wichitan David Chadd said he was happy being a major-league scouting director, a job he filled for more than 20 years with the Miami Marlins, Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers.
Being a scouting director fit well with his home life. He was able to maintain his residence in Wichita while being on the road when necessary.
But Chadd, 49, recently received an offer that was too good to refuse, even though it means more time away. When Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski was unexpectedly dismissed, he was replaced by top lieutenant Al Avila. And Avila asked Chadd, a graduate of Bishop Carroll who played baseball at Kansas State, to take over his job as vice president and assistant general manager.
The first thing Chadd did was to purchase a condo in Detroit, where he’ll live for much of the year. His wife, Janet, and family, which includes a 16-year-old daughter who is a junior at Carroll, will stay in Wichita, where Janet still assists her father with a family farm.
“It was a tough call whether to take this job,” Chadd said. “It’ll require me to be in Detroit a lot more. I have Janet’s support and when I accepted this job, it was something we knew we had to make work. I knew it was going to be a different type of commitment.”
Chadd was hired by Dombrowski as a scout for the Marlins and steadily moved up the front-office ranks. Many Tigers fans were dismayed when the team traded starting pitcher David Price, reliever Joakim Soria and outfielder Yoenis Cespedes before the July 31 trade deadline.
They were Dombrowski’s final moves. He is expected to catch on with another organization. For now, though, the Tigers are three games below .500, trail the Kansas City Royals by 12 1/2 games in the American League Central and are 5 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Angels for the second wild-card playoff spot.
Even with a roster that includes first baseman Miguel Cabrera (currently on the disabled list), second baseman Ian Kinsler, shortstop Jose Iglesias, third baseman Nick Castellanos, catcher James McCann, DH Victor Martinez and outfielder J.D. Martinez, there are indications that the Tigers are falling out of contending status.
That’s mostly because the Tigers’ once-feared pitching staff has a 4.48 ERA, the 13th-best in the American League. Opposing hitters are batting an AL-high .270 against Tigers pitchers. A team that once was able to line up the most fearsome starting rotation in the league now has an inaudible growl.
After winning four consecutive AL Central titles, there is now a lot of work to do.
“Deciding what to do at the deadline was a tough call,” Chadd said. “We went all the way to the wire trying to decide what we were going to do. After looking at the club with Cabrera being hurt, we had to make a baseball decision with the best interest of the future of the organization.”
Chadd has been consulted on many of the Tigers’ moves over the past several years. Now, though, he’s the general manager’s right-hand man.
“The biggest change for me will be working day to day with Al,” Chadd said. “I’ll continue to be on top of the amateur scouting and play a role in player development as well as international scouting. I’ll basically be doing whatever Al has me doing.”
Tigers owner Mike Ilitch is one of the most aggressive in baseball, so there won’t be any honeymoon period. The Tigers, despite their trade-deadline moves, haven’t thrown in the towel on this season. And you can bet they will be one of the most active teams in the offseason.
Chadd is with the Tigers in Kansas City this week. He’ll be evaluating some of the Tigers newcomers, especially left-handed pitchers Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd, who came over from Toronto in the Price deal.
The Tigers have too much talent to flounder for long. They’ve allowed a bullpen to dissipate for a few seasons now and have started to adjust to the departure of Max Scherzer and the decline of Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez.
Chadd will be one the main architects of whatever the Tigers build from here.
“Somebody said it’s more of a re-tool than a rebuild,” he said. “I’m excited. This is challenging and and a big change.”
The biggest adjustment for Chadd, though, is his family life. He’s always cherished being able to return frequently to his home base in Wichita.
But if he was ever going to be a general manager – and Chadd has decided that’s his career goal – he had to make this move.
“My mom and dad are still in Wichita and so is Janet’s dad,” Chadd said. “We have a bunch of other relatives there. But I had to take this step if I want to further my growth in this game. It was a tough decision because of the sacrifices I know I’m going to have to make and that the family is going to have to make. But once we made it, we jumped all in.”