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The Detroit Tigers Once Nearly Traded for Mariano Rivera


Sep 22, 2013; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Mariano Rivera (42) waves to fans during a pre-game ceremony honoring him before the game against the San Francisco Giants at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The story has been around for a few years, but, in this the final year of Mariano Rivera’s illustrious career, we’re reminded that they once not-so-promising prospect almost became member of the Detroit Tigers. Almost.

In a feature on, former Yankees general manager Gene Michael recalls the events surrounding the trade talks that nearly sent Mariano to Detroit as part of a return package for David Wells. Here are some snippets.

"“I really liked David Wells, and the Tigers gave me a list of eight of our guys who they were interested in,” Michael recalls. “Mariano’s name was one of them, even though he really wasn’t a top prospect.”[snip]“And then, like two weeks after we sent him down because he was getting knocked around, his numbers came across my desk again. Now he’s suddenly throwing 94, 95. I thinking, ‘Damn, that can’t happen – I have to see about this.’”[snip]“Right there, I thought we had something strange going on with this kid,” he says now. “So I took his name off the list.”"

The Tigers ultimately dealt Wells to the Cincinnati Reds for C.J. Nitkowski, Mark Lewis, and Dave Tuttle.

Who knows what would have become of Rivera had he landed in the Tigers’ organization. Would he have been able to develop the same devastating cutter that he’s employed to fantastic success all these years? Would he have been given the same opportunity to develop into the dominating closer we’ve enjoyed all these years?

We can’t answer these questions, of course, but it is certainly fun to play the “what if” game.