Who’s your ex-Tiger? 20 could make playoffs
For the third consecutive year, the Tigers will be sitting out the postseason.
But the ex-Tigers? Oh, boy, they’re all over the place on playoff-bound rosters — as many as 20 of them could find their way into the postseason.
So at least there’ll be at least some hint of a rooting interest among Tigers fans who are facing the reality that their team’s rebuilding and is gonna be down for a few years, so you might as well find a side fling. A “Who’s Your Ex-Tiger,” if you will.
The preference here: A Nationals-Astros World Series, with Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander meeting in Game 7.
How about you, Jim Leyland?
“Well, I don’t really pick a team,” he said. “I’m certainly pulling for Verlander, I’m pulling for Max Scherzer, I’m pulling for Rick Porcello, I could go anywhere and be pulling for somebody, J.D. Martinez.
“I want to see all those guys do well, but there’s only going to be one winner, and hopefully it will be somebody that has played and pitched for the Tigers in the past, and there’s a good chance that’s going to happen.”
Here’s a look at the former Tigers heading to the playoffs, or possibly heading to the playoffs.
Boston Red Sox, probable AL East champions
■ Rajai Davis, OF: The speedster played two seasons with Detroit before nearly becoming the hero of the Indians’ World Series run last year. He was dealt from the A’s to the Red Sox last month, though he hasn’t had much of an impact in Boston. He has hit just .200 with two stolen bases in limited duty, and might not make the postseason roster cut.
■ Doug Fister, P: A three-year Tiger during their recent heyday, he’s fallen on hard times the last three years, and has been just OK with the Red Sox — in 17 appearances (14 starts), he has a 4.87 ERA and a 1.400 WHIP, and almost certainly wouldn’t be among the four best starters for the postseason. A bullpen role could be an option.
■ Rick Porcello, SP: What a difference a year makes. He edged out Verlander in the AL Cy Young race last year, but this year has been a disaster for the former Tiger — dealt to the Red Sox in December 2014 for Yoenis Cespedes and Alex Wilson. The homegrown Tiger is 10-17 with a 4.55 and 1.391 WHIP. In 2016, his WHIP was a career-best 1.009.
■ David Price, P: This is an interesting guy to watch. He’s battled injuries this offseason, and also has made enemies among the Red Sox fan base. A Tiger briefly in 2014-15, the one-time ace has made just 13 starts and might just be heading to the bullpen for the postseason — something he has experience with, from his Rays days.
Cleveland Indians, AL Central champions
■ Austin Jackson, OF: His biggest impact came with the Tigers, with whom he spent the first five seasons of his career. He’s been minimally impactful since, with a host of teams. But he’s contributed to the Indians, after being a late-spring signing, and surprisingly winning an Opening Day roster spot. He’s slugging .867 in a part-time role.
■ Andrew Miller, RP: It sure seems forever ago that he was a Tiger, as Detroit’s first-round pick in 2006. Dealt away in the Miguel Cabrera trade, he’s gone on to become one of the game’s elite relievers — and put on a show during the 2016 playoffs. He’s had a lingering knee injury, but he’s back, and dangerous as ever (90 Ks in 60.1 innings).
Houston Astros, AL West champions
■ Cameron Maybin, OF: A Tiger early in his career and later, he joined the Astros on Aug. 31 — the same day as Verlander. And interesting, he was the hero of Verlander’s first start, with a huge home run. There haven’t been many highlights since, though he has had four home runs in 18 games, and hitting just six in 93 games with the Angels.
■ Justin Verlander, SP: It’s so weird to see him in another uniform. He’d been a Tiger since debuting in 2005, but the Tigers needed to rebuild, and Verlander deserved the chance to chase that elusive ring. He’s doing everything in his power to get it, too, at 4-0 (including the West clincher) with a 0.64 ERA and 11 hits allowed.
New York Yankees, probable AL wild card
■ Chad Green, RP: This is one of the more unfamiliar names; not for long. An 11th-round pick by the Tigers in 2013, he was dealt to the Yankees for Justin Wilson before he made his major-league debut. He broke in last year, and took off this year, with a 1.87 ERA and 102 strikeouts in 67.1 innings as a key cog of the game’s elite bullpen.
Minnesota Twins, probable AL wild card
No former Tigers to speak of on this roster, easily the most surprising playoff-bound team. They lost 103 games last season, and were so down on their playoff hopes several weeks back, they were sellers at the deadline.
Washington Nationals, NL East champions
■ Edwin Jackson, P: Remember him? He was a Tiger in 2009, and a pretty good one. In fact, you could say that was the best of his 15-year career, at least as a starter. He’s been up and mostly down since, while changing uniforms as often as he changes socks. He’s basically filling a rotation spot in D.C., but surely not in the postseason.
■ Max Scherzer, SP: Remember him? What, too soon? He spent five mostly magnificent seasons with the Tigers, before a money dispute sent him to the Nationals, where’s gotten even better — which doesn’t seem possible. He won the Cy Young last year, and probably will again this year, too. Let’s face it. He’s the world’s $210 million bargain.
Chicago Cubs, probable NL Central champions
■ Alex Avila, C: Finally healthy, he’s having his best season (.839 OPS) since his All-Star year of 2011. The Tigers got him back at a bargain-basement rate this offseason, then his own dad, GM Al Avila, had to trade him at the deadline as part of the Wilson package. Who knows? Maybe they’ll repeat the whole process over the next year.
■ Justin Wilson, RP: This was the blue chip in that trade package, the one that got the Tigers a nifty haul of prospects — yet, the Tigers former closer has been an absolute disaster with the Cubs. In 21 games as a setup man, he has a 5.74 ERA and a 2.234 WHIP. In 15.2 innings, he’s allowed 17 hits and 18 walks. This is a big concern.
Los Angeles Dodgers, NL West champions
■ Curtis Granderson, OF: Another homegrown Tiger, he remains popular in Detroit, even though he was dealt away after the 2009 season (in the deal that was booed by fans, until Scherzer did his thing). The Dodgers got him from the Mets in an August deal, and he has just a .624 OPS. Granderson brings six years of playoff experience, though.
Arizona Diamondbacks, NL wild card
■ J.D. Martinez, OF: Outside of Scherzer, and maybe not even him, no ex-Tiger has made a bigger impact this year for his current team than Martinez. Acquired in mid-July, as it became clear the Tigers weren’t going to be able to afford to keep him, he’s been an absolute machine (28 homers, 64 RBIs in 58 games). A nine-figure payday looms.
■ Robbie Ray, SP: He was never given a fair shake from Tigers fans, who were disgusted that’s basically “all” they got in the Fister trade. Traded away a year later, in December 2014, he’d be the ace in Arizona, if not for Zack Greinke. The lefty is 15-5 with a 2.86 ERA and a whopping 217 strikeouts in 160.1 innings. This is a dangerous team.
■ Fernando Rodney, RP: Leave it to Rodney and his crooked hat to land on his feet yet again. Signed in December for just $2.75 million, he joined his eighth major-league franchise. The homegrown Tiger, who pitched seven years in Detroit in the early 2000s, produced 39 saves and a 1.185 WHIP for Arizona. Still, he can be a rollercoaster.
Colorado Rockies, probable NL wild card
Again, none here, though there is a Michigan connection. Birmingham Brother Rice graduate D.J. LeMahieu, the All-Star second baseman, could be heading to the postseason for the first time in his career.
Milwaukee Brewers, possible NL wild card
■ Quintin Berry, UT: He was quite popular among Tigers fans in 2012. He’s been with four teams since, and with the Brewers, he’s back in the major leagues for the first time since 2015. A speedster who was never caught stealing his first three seasons in the major leagues, he’s a long shot to see the playoffs. Of course, so are the Brewers.
■ Corey Knebel, RP: A first-round pick in 2013, the Tigers dealt him to Texas in July 2014 for veteran reliever Joakim Soria. Soria eventually netted the Tigers JaCoby Jones, but Knebel has become an elite closer — this year, with a 1.58 ERA, 38 saves and 122 strikeouts. He has at least one K in all but five of his 74 games.
■ Hernan Perez, UT: He never got much playing time in Detroit, with whom he spent his first four seasons. And when he did, he did very little. But he’s become a key piece of Craig Counsell’s roster, with 27 homers and 107 RBIs, combined, in two seasons with the Brewers, while playing every position on the diamond except catcher.
St. Louis Cardinals, possible NL wild card
One more team with no former Tigers connections, though the Cardinals are likely to sit out this October.