Second-guessing is possibly the most intriguing element of sports, and outside of watching your team win, it’s certainly the most entertaining. That’s why sports talk radio and online discussion forums thrive; people love engaging in discussion and debate with their fellow fans. Specifically, sports fans love to analyze and re-analyze trades and transactions executed by their team.
Since the Tigers are headed to the playoffs and looking strong, we can take a more light-hearted approach to this. There are certainly some notable players out there who have recently parted ways with the Detroit franchise only to thrive with another club. The most remarkable case of this is Curtis Granderson, who is considered by some to be the front-runner for the AL MVP award. His departure looks quite regrettable at times, but a majority of this town still follows his progress and looks favorably on his triumphs.
I’ve found that when players leave the Tigers, Detroit’s fans often maintain some affection for talents that the Tigers developed themselves, in their own minor league system. Tiger fans cheered these guys on throughout the most tender stages of their careers; we watched them play their hearts out to earn and keep jobs in the major-leagues. Players we see at that stage in their careers are easy to like, and can sometimes be hard to forget.
Here’s a look at eight former Tigers who were first signed or drafted by Detroit, fought their way through various levels of minor-league ball with the Tigers’ organization, broke the majors with the club, and have eventually seen major-league success elsewhere. Where are they now?
Andrew Miller – Drafted by the Tigers in the 1st round (6th pick) of the 2006 amateur draft and a part of the six-player package that was shipped from Detroit to the Florida Marlins in exchange for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis on December 4th, 2007. Over the next few years, he pitched at various levels for the Marlins, including 41 starts in the majors. He struggled to hold down a rotation spot long term, and was traded in the most recent off-season to the Boston Red Sox. For Boston, there’s a lot to like in Miller. He got a shot in the rotation in mid-June because of multiple injuries, and posted a 3.57 ERA and a 3-0 record through his first four starts with the club. Though he’s steadily declined since, and was eventually relegated to the bullpen, he still has considerable potential and, in my opinion, should factor in to Boston’s plans beyond this year.
Cameron Maybin – Drafted by the Tigers in the 1st round (10th pick) of the 2005 amateur draft and was the other key piece of the deal, along with Miller, that brought Cabrera to the Tigers. Now with the San Diego Padres, Maybin is finally experiencing life as an everyday major-leaguer, and his production has increased concurrently with his playing time. He’s likely to receive a long-term extension and be a focal point in the Padres’ rebuilding process.
Casper Wells – Drafted by the Tigers in the 14th round of the 2005 amateur draft and dealt to Seattle as part of the package that netted Doug Fister and David Pauley for Detroit on July 30th, a day before this year’s non-waiver trade deadline. With the Mariners, Wells’ immediately went from being a fringe outfielder in Detroit to an everyday player. In his first 15 games after being traded, Wells hit .340 with six home runs. He struggled mightily in his next 15, but it was recently discovered that he was having difficulties due to what are being called “severe sinus issues.” Upon diagnosis, he was shut down for the season. Casper is expected to assume a regular outfield spot and be a part of the solution to the Mariners’ offensive problems.
Charlie Furbush – Drafted by the Tigers in the 4th round of the 2007 amateur draft and traded to Seattle in the same deal as Wells. For the most part, Furbush was a reliever in his tenure with the Tigers. He’s made ten appearances with the Mariners and nine of them have been starts. He’s 3-6 and has been plagued by consistency issues. His new club may choose to pitch him out of the bullpen, or at the back end of the rotation, in 2012, but there’s not much chance he’ll miss out on the Mariners’ roster. Like Wells, he probably wouldn’t be a lock for the majors if he had remained with the Tigers.
Curtis Granderson – Drafted by the Tigers in the 3rd round of the 2002 amateur draft and sent to the Yankees in the three-team transaction for four of the Tigers’ current regulars contributors–Phil Coke, Austin Jackson, Max Scherzer, and Daniel Schlereth–to the club on December 8th, 2009. Though his break-out season came in 2007 with Detroit when he became the fourth all-time member of the 20-20-20-20 club, he’s having his best season to date this year with the Yankees. He’s taken advantage of Yankee Stadium’s almost miniature dimensions and turned himself into a legitimate power threat, racking up a career-high 41 home runs. He has a chance to finish the year as the leader for home runs and triples in the AL, and has a great shot at winning the MVP award.
Jair Jurrjens – Signed by the Tigers as an amateur free agent in 2003 and traded along with Gorkys Hernandez to the Atlanta Braves for Edgar Renteria on October 29th, 2007. He remains with the Braves, and has put together a spectacular season for them this year; he started the All-Star game for the NL and was, for a good part of the season, in the conversation for the league’s Cy Young award.
Matt Joyce – Drafted by the Tigers in the 12th round of the 2005 amateur draft and traded to Tampa Bay straight up for Edwin Jackson on December 10th, 2008. Since then, he’s established himself as a regular with the playoff-contending Rays. This year, he’s hitting a very respectable .278 with 18 home runs and even earned a spot on the AL All-Star team.
Scott Sizemore – Drafted by the Tigers in the 5th round of the 2006 amateur draft and moved to the Oakland Athletics on May 27th of this year in a one-for-one swap to acquire reliever David Purcey. His fielding is suspect and his bat is still developing, but despite his disappointing performance with the Tigers, he had his fans in Detroit and many felt that he wasn’t given sufficient time to prove himself. For what it’s worth, he’s become a fixture at third base for a struggling Oakland team.
As regrettable as some of those trades look in hindsight (for me, considering how little was returned for Jurrjens, that trade hurts the most), it’s nice to have some guys to root for around the league. Who, among these players, do you hope goes on to accomplish great things despite no longer donning the Olde English D?