Thirteen years after his major league debut there, Curtis Granderson returned to Comerica Park. This time with the Dodgers, mere hours after he was acquired in a trade with the Mets.
It would be exaggeration to claim Granderson was the most popular player in the park, but not much of a stretch to say the fans were happy to see him again. Even before the game, as the Dodgers took batting practice, fans beyond the left-field wall pointed to the uninitiated that the new guy in the Dodgers jersey was once a very popular Tiger.
And when he stepped to the plate, fans gave him the kind of warm welcome home reserved for only a few who wore the Old English D.
Granderson left his mark this weekend. On Saturday he scored the Dodgers’ first — and winning — run. Sunday he ended Justin Verlander’s no-hitter with a home run off the foul pole.
All the while he did this wearing the No. 6 jersey, the same number Al Kaline wore in Detroit — though Granderson said he picked it because Jackie Robinson’s number was 42, and four plus two equals six.
It’s a kind of pipe dream, but wouldn’t it be great if Granderson could close his career in the same place it began?
This year is the last on a four-year, $60 million deal he signed during the 2013-14 offseason with the Mets. He’s been worth it, with more than 10 WAR (per Baseball Reference) racked up during that time.
Two seasons ago he hit 26 home runs, had an OPS of .821 and finished with 5.1 WAR. Last year he hit 30 home runs with an OPS of .799 and WAR of 2.6.
All of that makes it seem unlikely the Tigers are going to be able to sign him. That and they have an outfield quartet that might feature Justin Upton, Mikie Mahtook, JaCoby Jones and Nick Castellanos.
So it’s probably not going to happen.
But here’s why there’s at least a small chance: Granderson will be 37 at the start of next season. He’s in the sunset period of his career, unlikely to get a deal that takes him into his 40s or costs a team a big investment.
And then there’s Upton, who said it’s too early to decide whether to opt out of his contract. He has good reason not to stay in Detroit: a team that will not be able to rebuild or reload in a single offseason.
Upton will be 30 next season and is currently enjoying a 4.8 WAR season with 26 home runs and .912 OPS.
He will get paid well if he opts out, and has a chance to find a team likely to win.
Castellanos, also, is no sure thing playing in the outfield, though the Tigers certainly have to try it with as poorly as he has played at third.
So, Granderson signing a two-year deal and retiring with the Tigers could make sense from their standpoint. They’d get a veteran outfielder who can be a leader in the clubhouse and give fans a reminder of the good old days while representing the franchise well. That would help them buy time as they transition to a new generation of players.
Would Granderson do it? If he’s lucky he’ll win a World Series ring with the seemingly unstoppable Dodgers this year. He seems to continue to love Detroit and the fans here. Maybe he would.
It’s a pipe dream. But if you’re going to dream about the Tigers, Granderson returning here could be a dream come true.
Kurt Mensching is the editor of Bless You Boys, a Tigers blog (www.blessyouboys.com). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.