15 worst Detroit Tigers free agent signings in franchise history

Detroit Tigers v Oakland Athletics
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13. Eric Davis, 1994

  • 1 year, $3 million
  • -0.3 WAR, 37 games

On rare occasions in the 1990s did the Detroit Tigers give fans something to be excited about. They were, in fact, the losingest franchise of the entire decade. Generally, the team went into every year with little chance of making the playoffs and the only question would be which of their top players would be donning another team’s jersey by the end of the year. 

In 1993, however, they caught fire early in the season and were fully 17 games above .500 and in first place in late June. Things soured a bit from there, but an August winning streak put them back into contention, so they made a trade with the Dodgers for star center fielder Eric Davis. They ultimately missed the playoffs (though did win an impressive 85 games that year), and David put up a .904 OPS during his time in Detroit. Combined with his time in LA, he finished the season with 35 steals to go with 20 home runs. So they decided to bring him back on a two-year deal.

It did not go well. He played just 37 games in the Tigers uniform in the strike-shortened 1994 season. He decided to retire and was granted free agency in October of 1994. He finished the contract with a .183 batting average and .582 OPS. 

Only in the spring of 1995 did Davis learn from his doctor and announce was battling cancer. He eventually returned to baseball in 1996 and played for six more years. That’s certainly something to cheer on and feel good about in the end, but yet ultimately it’s hard to see his 1994 season in Detroit as anything but a failure.

You can read more about Davis’ time with the Tigers from Dan Holmes at Vintage Detroit.