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Vic Wertz Jersey

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About 20 years ago, I got into the Special Olympics world. My brother, Stephen, was an athlete and was at the age where he could start going to the state games, both winter and summer. My dad took over as his coach and they found snowshoeing would be his best sport to begin with.

Steve was good at snowshoeing. Taking after our mom’s side of the family, he was long and tall, very helpful when running with huge shoes on your feet in the snow. It was quickly evident he needed to go to the State Winter Games to see if he could medal in some of these events.

I didn’t g up to Traverse City every year but when I was in college, I volunteered twice. I went to the Opening Ceremonies every time I was there. The stars of the show were these guys in green jackets. They were normal looking guys lead by a Tigers legend. They were the Wertz Warriors.

The Wertz Warriors were an endurance snowmobile group started in 1982 by former Detroit Tigers player Vic Wertz. He wanted to raise money for the Special Olympics through a long ride through Northern Michigan. He got together a group of six friends to join and they took off. From there they started raising more money, adding more riders and support crew and it has grown to a group that can pay FULLY for the Special Olympics State Winter Games by themselves.

Wertz died just three years after starting the ride but those early riders kept it going, adding Tigers legend Mark The Bird” Fidrych to the roster. He was there when I started in with Special Olympics.

I never gave a whole lot of thought to the group other than supreme thanks. Even then, if they weren’t there, my parents would have paid for my brother to go…it wasn’t my money. But I quickly realized, not many athletes had that luxury of a family that could pay the way for an experience like the State Winter Games and a stay at a resort like Grand Traverse for three days. But because of the Wertz Warriors, they could.

I started working for 9&10 News in 2010. When it came time for the State Winter Games to roll around I, of course, pitched going out to cover them on their ride. I covered their ride for five years as a reporter on the outside, looking in, looking for a way to get the story done early in the day so I could be free to go up to the Opening Ceremonies on Wednesday to be with my family.

While covering the group, the chairman, Ken Mattei was always pushing me to join. They are desperate for new members, especially young ones. I always brushed it off, I didn’t own a sled and barely had ay experience riding one. But Ken persisted.

Eventually in 2016, I broke down and decided to join. At the time I lived in Grand Rapids and every other rider was in metro Detroit or up in Northern Michigan. Ken supplied me with a sled and I didn’t raise any funds, just paid my own way. I only rode for the first half of the week because February is sweeps month in our business and I couldn’t take it off. I was a Wertz Warrior though, at that point.

After that, I got clearance to take the whole week to ride and have done so ever since. When the weather cooperated, we rode across Northern Michigan, stopping in small towns, at local establishments raising money, collecting checks and bringing up the awareness of our cause.

Every year we pay $285,000 to Special Olympics Michigan to COMPLETELY cover the cost of the Winter Games but we regularly raise more than $400,000, with the rest going back to the local Special Olympics areas in the form of grants.

So I say all that to say, Sunday we kick off our 2019 ride. Mother Nature has gifted us with PLENTY of snow and a *bit* of cold weather for the week. We should be able to ride every mile of our ride this year which is very exciting, as long as we avoid frostbite.

I will be here with you every evening of the ride recapping the day’s events and looking ahead to the next day’s itinerary. I will have photos and vides of the action, including a story Tuesday night when we stop in Cadillac and we will be live on Michigan This Morning on Wednesday, January 30th as we take off from Cadillac on our way to the Opening Ceremonies in Traverse City.

Please keep checking in as the week progresses and support the Wertz Warriors and Special Olympics Michigan in every way you can. The difference we can all make in their lives in priceless.

See you along the trail.

Sunday’s Schedule

10:00 AM – Skidway Lake American Legion

12:00 PM – Sand Lake Sports Bar

1:45 PM – T&C Sports Lounge (Au Gres)

3:30 PM – Hank’s (Alger)

4:30 PM – Home Pub (Alger)

5:45 PM Quality Inn (West Branch)

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The Detroit Tigers added six players to the 40-man roster yesterday to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft that takes place in December.
An article on the Free Press revealed that the Detroit Tigers added six players to the 40-man roster yesterday to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft. The draft takes place in December, but the deadline for protection was yesterday. Here are the players they chose to protect.

Isaac Paredes
Paredes has exceeded all expectations at the age of 20, and as expected, he was added to the 40-man roster. There is speculation that he might make an appearance in the big leagues as early as next year, assuming he continues his strong performance. Paredes most recently appeared in the Mexican Pacific League where he has hit .306 over 16 games with two home runs.

Burrows was expected to appear in Detroit in 2019 but had a poor season in Toledo. Nonetheless, he clearly has potential as a pitcher and Detroit doesn’t want to risk losing him to the Rule 5 Draft. He just turned 23 a few months ago and has plenty of time to develop into a solid player. His 5.51 ERA wasn’t pretty last year, but don’t chalk him off just yet.

Kyle Funkhouser
Like Burrows, Funkhouser was expected to pitch in Detroit at some point in 2019 but performed miserably in the minors. Funkhouser is a little older, at 25, but Detroit still believes he could be valuable. He had an 8.53 ERA in Toledo but was able to post a 1.90 ERA in Erie over four starts. Hopefully, for his sake, he can get it together in 2020.

Daz Cameron
Cameron came over from Houston as part of the Verlander trade. Detroit had high hopes for him coming into the 2019 season, but he was never able to get it going in Toledo. Nonetheless, the 22-year-old has plenty of time to grow and develop into a reliable outfielder. After hitting .214 over 120 games in Toledo, Cameron is getting off on the right foot in the Puerto Rican Winter League, starting the season with a .417 average over 13 plate appearances.

Anthony Castro
Castro showed a lot of improvement from 2018 where he had a 8.10 ERA over three appearances in Erie to 2019 where he held a 4.40 ERA over 27 appearances. Castro is already 24-years-old but if he is able to continue improving he could see success as a late bloomer. This is what the Tigers will be counting on.

Derek Hill
Hill was a first-round pick in 2014 and has taken some time to develop. Detroit clearly still believes in him though, and he did hit 14 home runs last season in the minors. He could develop into a reliable outfielder with some power, and that’s what Detroit is banking on by keeping him.

The Detroit Tigers now have 39 players on the 40-man roster, leaving one spot open to draft someone with their pick in the upcoming Rule 5 Draft. The Tigers took Victor Reyes in 2017, who looked extremely promising in 2019, so it will be interesting to see who they decide to go with this year.

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Matthew Boyd was named ‘Tiger of the Year’ by the Baseball Writers Association of America yesterday after his performance with the Detroit Tigers in 2019.
2019 was a season to forget for most of the Detroit Tigers. Matthew Boyd, on the other hand, had the best season of his career. Yesterday, he was named the ‘Tiger of the Year‘ by Detroit’s chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

The 28-year-old left-handed pitcher pitched 185.1 innings over 32 starts and finished the season with a 4.56 ERA and a 9-12 record. His most impressive statistic was the number of strikeouts he recorded. He averaged 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings and had 238 on the season.

Boyd’s stats don’t really reflect how great of a season he had. This is partially due to how poorly he performed at the end of the year. Boyd also had some issues keeping the ball in the park, which was a more common issue in 2019, where home runs were hit with great regularity. Despite these things, he was easily the best performer on a rebuilding team.

The big question surrounding Boyd is whether he will remain a Tiger. There were plenty of rumors about him before the 2019 trade deadline, but Al Avila wasn’t willing to make any trades then. With this being the case, Boyd didn’t do himself any favors in the second half of the 2019 season, and his trade value has probably diminished. Avila hasn’t disclosed whether he plans to deal Boyd this offseason, or at all.

Boyd has made it clear that he hopes to remain a Tiger, but baseball is ultimately a business and it is unclear whether Detroit plans to make him an integral part of their rebuild. As it stands, he is the Tiger of the Year from the 2019 season and will continue to be a Tiger for the time being.

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Only six teams have done what the Washington Nationals must do, win the final two games on the road to win the World Series.
Having lost three straight World Series games at home, the Washington Nationals flew to Houston Monday hopeful of rallying on the road.

The Washington Nationals know they can win two straight in Houston because they just did it last week in Games 1 and 2. Houston ace Gerrit Cole, who pitched seven innings during the Game 5 win, will have limited if any availability for further duty. That’s the good news. The bad news is that coming back from a 3-2 deficit on the road is still a daunting challenge.

In World Series history, 17 teams have come back from a 3-games-to-2 deficit to win the final two games and capture the game’s ultimate title. But only six of those teams did so on the road, only one of them since 1980. That sole exception was the 2016 Chicago Cubs, who ended their 108-year Series drought by beating the Cleveland Indians twice at Cleveland’s Progressive Stadium.

And even the Cubs weren’t coming off three straight home losses. They won Game 5 in Chicago, giving them some bit of a boost entering the final two games. In fact, no team has ever won the last two World Series games on the road after dropping three straight at home.

Aside from the 2016 Cubs, the only other teams to have won the World Series on the road after trailing 3 games to 2 were the 1926 and 1934 St. Louis Cardinals, the 1952 and 1958 New York Yankees, and the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates.

Can the Washington Nationals extract some hope from how those teams managed to overcome the formidable odds they faced? There are no easy formulae for rallying on the road. But here’s a synopsis of how the six teams that did come back on the road managed to do so.

1926 Cardinals. The Cardinals rode their ace, Grover Cleveland Alexander, to a 10-2 sixth game victory over Bob Shawkey, a veteran who was a spare part on the Yanks’ roster. One day later, in a matchup of mid-rotation starters, Jesse Haines led Waite Hoyt 3-2 through six innings, then Alexander covered the final three innings.

1934 Cardinals. In this case, the Cardinals rode into Detroit with their two aces, Dizzy and Paul Dean, ready. Paul, who had beaten Tiger ace Tommy Bridges 4-1 in the third game, beat Schoolboy Rowe, Detroit’s other ace, 4-3. Dean also pushed across the winning run with a seventh-inning base hit that broke a 3-3 tie. One day later, Dizzy – seeking his own second Series win – benefitted from a seven-run third inning outburst against No. 3 Tiger starter Elden Auker. By the end of the 11-0 rout, Tiger fans were throwing fruit and vegetables at Cardinals players.

1952 New York Yankees. This was a road series for the Yankees in name only since their ‘road trip’ involved nothing more taxing than a subway ride to Brooklyn. Again, the Yanks at least had the benefit of pitching advantages. Their two best starters, Allie Reynolds and Vic Raschi, pitched on full rest against Billy Loes (Brooklyn’s No. 2) and Joe Black, the Dodger closer forced into a Game 7 start. Black was chosen ahead of Dodger ace Carl Erskine, who had pitched a Game 5 complete game victory two days earlier. Erskine did pitch two innings in relief during Game 7, but by then it was too late.

1958 New York Yankees. The Yanks overcame the toughest circumstance of all. Not only did they have to defeat the defending World Series champion Braves twice in Milwaukee, but they also faced the Braves’ two aces, Warren Spahn and Lew Burdette, who had already provided all three of Milwaukee’s series wins. In Game 6, 22-game winner Spahn pitched into the 10th inning but lost when Gil McDougald homered off him. One day later, Bill Skowron’s three-run home run defeated Burdette.

1979 Pittsburgh Pirates. In Game 6, Pirate ace John Candelaria shut out the Orioles 4-0, scattering seven hits. One night later, Willie Stargell’s sixth-inning two-run homer broke up Scott McGregor’s scoreless pitching and the Pirates won 4-1. Four Pirate pitchers combined to hold the Orioles to just four hits.

2016 Chicago Cubs. The Cubs hit Cleveland’s Josh Tomlin with seven runs in the first three innings of Game 6 and breezed home 9-3. Game 7 was tougher. Chicago twice seized a lead only to see Rajai Davis’ eighth-inning home run tie the game. Following a rain delay, Chicago won in the 10th inning.

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If you’ve ever spent any time at the Kansas City Royals’ Kauffman Stadium, or the Cincinnati Reds’ Great American Ballpark, you have likely had an opportunity to walk through their incredible Hall of Fame museums. Each one is situated in its own building on site at the park, and is outfitted with great memorabilia from the team’s history, as well as recognizing the franchise’s best players.

The Detroit Tigers don’t ignore their history. The outfield walls at Comerica Park are emblazoned with the names of Hall of Fame Tigers, as well as those whose numbers have been retired by the team. The outfield concourse has a number of beautiful statues depicting great Tigers in action. But it’s not enough.

It was only in 2018 that Alan Trammell and Jack Morris had their induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and Trammell’s longtime double play partner Lou Whitaker remains overlooked even now. There have been calls by fans (us included) for the Tigers to retire Whitaker’s No. 1 jersey for years.

The team could do better than that, though. It’s high time the Tigers built their own Hall of Fame on site at Comerica Park. For a team with 118 years of history, four World Series wins, and some of the greatest players of all-time, it seems like a massive oversight that there isn’t already a shrine to their achievements that fans can visit. There are 27 Tigers in Cooperstown, from Ty Cobb to Jack Morris. Only eight of those were inducted by the BBWAA in the general vote, while the rest were either voted on by the Veterans or Old Timers committees.

That overlooks dozens of other Tigers heroes who may not have the numbers to make it into the Hall of Fame, but still deserve to be remembered by new generations of fans.

A thread on Twitter brought up an incredible list of suggestions, and below I give five picks that aren’t in Cooperstown, who should be recognized by the Tigers with a place in a local Hall of Fame.

Lou Whitaker
Sweet Lou, a true Tigers great. I don’t think there are many who disagree that Whitaker should be in the regular Hall of Fame, and can’t imagine a single Tigers fan would pick anyone different to be the first inductee into a Tigers new Hall of Fame (along with retiring his number). Whitaker was a member of the 1984 World Series team, a five-time All-Star, four-time Silver Slugger, three-time Gold Glove winner, and the 1978 Rookie of the Year. His lifetime batting line was .276/.363/.426 in 19 seasons with the Tigers. Honestly, why isn’t he in the Hall of Fame?

Bill Freehan
Bill Freehan is one of the best Tigers catchers of all-time, full stop. He’s an 11-time All-Star, a five-time Gold Glove winner, and a member of the 1968 World Series team. In terms of JAWS, the metric which measures the seven best seasons of rWAR by position to establish players who should be in the Hall of Fame, Freehan ranks 16th. Of all time. Ten of the 15 men above him are in Cooperstown. Freehan has earned his place in a Comerica Park Hall of Fame.

Dick McAuliffe
There’s a bit of a trend of the next couple names, in that they were members of the 1968 World Series team, but truly a lot of these guys deserve to be acknowledged by the Tigers. A three-time All-Star, McAuliffe played for the Tigers for 14 seasons before ending his career with the Boston Red Sox. He ended his career just shy of 200 home runs, with 197, and had a final line of .247/.343/.403. Not Hall of Fame numbers, but definitely a player who should be in the Tigers Hall.

Denny McLain
Denny McLain is a polarizing choice for some of his off field issues, including an involvement in organized crime and a prison stint, but for the Tigers, he was a two-time Cy Young winner, a three-time All-Star, an AL MVP, and World Series winner. As far as checking some impressive Hall of Fame boxes, McLain has the pedigree. He has a career ERA of 3.39 and in his 1968 season won a whopping 31 games. He might not be in Cooperstown, but he deserves to be in a Comerica Park Hall of Fame.

Boots Poffenberger
A shoe-in for one of the greatest Tigers names of all time, this one was suggested by Tigers History on Twitter, and had to be included for the 80-grade name alone. Poffenberger, who you’ve likely never heard of, played for the Tigers for two seasons from 1937-38 and had a career ERA of 4.75. So, not great, and not better than genuine suggestions like Chet Lemon or the others above, but now you know about Boots, and that makes me happy.

Beyond just being an opportunity to tip a cap to their history and to the incredible men who have played for the team in the past, opening a Hall of Fame at Comerica Park would provide a new feature to the park that would draw fans in, even when the team on the field isn’t at its most exciting. People come to the park for baseball, absolutely, but park amenities are a huge factor of what makes the experience memorable.

By leaning into their history and creating a new feature for fans, the Tigers could bring more people into the park, and also show their respects to the past.

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Last season, Matthew Boyd’s name was mentioned in rare Detroit Tigers air, more than once surpassing strikeout milestones set by fellow left-hander Mickey Lolich in the 1960s and 70s.

Now, Boyd has joined Lolich as one of only two left-handed starting pitchers to win the Detroit chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s Tiger of the Year Award.

Boyd was announced as the 2019 winner on Thursday afternoon.

In 32 starts, Boyd went 9-12 with a 4.56 ERA and 1.230 WHIP in 185⅓ innings. Boyd struck out 238 batters, smashing his career-high with 11.6 strikeouts-per-nine innings.

What began as a breakout season stalled in the second half, and nearly all of Boyd’s cumulative season statistics – strikeouts outstanding – took a dip. The 39 home runs he allowed ranked first in the American League.

Still, Boyd was clearly the best of a very bad Tigers bunch – the team went 47-114, the worst record in the major leagues. In his best season to date, Boyd established himself as a legitimate middle-of-the-rotation pitcher, one who likely will be discussed in trade negotiations this winter and into next season.

Boyd, 28, is in his second season of salary arbitration this winter. He is projected to earn $6.4 million by MLBTradeRumors.com, the industry’s authoritative voice on the subject.

In 2018, Boyd and his wife, Ashley, started Kingdom Home, a non-profit to benefit Ugandan children at risk of sex trafficking.

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Free Press sports writer Anthony Fenech opens a six-pack of Detroit Tigers questions in the latest mailbag:

Tom Miller
@millerth3
Replying to @anthonyfenech @freepsports
Is Miggy basically done physically, or can he regain his former level of output?

9:59 PM – Nov 18, 2019
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I don’t think Miguel Cabrera is done physically, but I think it’s going to take an exemplary level of mental and physical discipline to sniff being the best hitter in baseball again.

[ Miguel Cabrera, even on one leg, did all he could for the Tigers in 2019 ]

It would surprise me if Cabrera, who turns 37 years old in April, did that. But it would not surprise me if he finished his career as a very productive hitter who hits .300 with 20-plus home runs in a season.

The decision ultimately comes down to Cabrera, who is in a Catch-22 of sorts: Because of his chronically-injured knee – which forced him into a permanent designated hitter role in 2019 – he is unable to shed weight through traditional practices like running or cardiovascular activity, which puts pressure on that knee.

Tigers designated hitter Miguel Cabrera gets set to bat in the first inning on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019, at Comerica Park.
Tigers designated hitter Miguel Cabrera gets set to bat in the first inning on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019, at Comerica Park. (Photo: Rick Osentoski USA TODAY Sports)

Cabrera has reportedly hired an in-house chef to improve his diet this winter. That’s a good start, but an incomplete one: In addition to finding a better physical shape, Cabrera must also find a better mental shape, as well.

More on Tigers: They should cut the B.S., let their smart new hires speak for themselves

The big question is whether Cabrera, a future first-ballot Hall of Famer, with hundreds of millions of dollars, playing on a team facing another losing season, still strives for the kind of greatness he once had – and if he is willing to go through the rigors to achieve it.

At full health, I think he can still contribute greatly.

Scott Gauthier
@scoga11
Replying to @anthonyfenech
Chances tigers trade pitching(Not Mize/Manning) for a young MLB ready position player, and if so who might be in play, or who would you like to see?

10:57 PM – Nov 18, 2019
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I think it’s something they’d certainly entertain; Avila said as much in his conference call following the July 31 trade deadline.

Pulling off a trade like that, however, flies in the face of what has been their over-arching strategy in hoarding pitching prospects. It opens them up to the risk of trading the wrong pitcher – would you really move a high-potential pitcher like Tarik Skubal after the season he just had? Or Alex Faedo, with the improvements he showed?

From this perspective, the answer is no. Beau Burrows and Kyle Funkhouser, two pitchers who will be added to the 40-man roster on Wednesday, doesn’t carry much trade capital. Perhaps a buy-low for buy-low situation could emerge.

Also keep in mind that the organization has deep ties with these prospects, only growing over the years. There is a human element to this, as well, when talking about players an organization has drafted and developed.

A good trade in the sense you’re referencing could be a big boon, however.

Geri Pleva
@GeriPleva
Replying to @anthonyfenech
Do you think Franklin Perez will ever pitch in the majors?

10:35 PM – Nov 18, 2019
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Yes, but I’m not sure it will be as a starting pitcher, given his injury history.

Franklin Perez’s potential is well-documented; last spring, the Tigers were very excited about the year to come with Perez, only to be left wondering once again when the young right-hander spent most of the season on the shelf with a shoulder injury.

Sure, there’s the possibility that his mechanics just won’t ever work, but the time may be coming – especially with the emergence of other pitchers in the farm system – for the Tigers to see if Perez responds to a relief role.

He was billed as an inning-eating, workhorse, but Perez hasn’t been able to stay on the field long enough to build up his innings.

Perez’s stunted development mirrors that of the Tigers’ entire return for Justin Verlander two seasons ago: None of the three players have lived up to their billing yet, while Verlander won the American League Cy Young Award this season.

DON W.DELANY
@delanydon
Replying to @anthonyfenech
Why didn’t the tigers make a bid for Gabe http://Kapler.now most likely next year is gardys last year anyway.kapler would have been a natural in the older English D.

1
12:49 AM – Nov 19, 2019
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Because the Tigers have a much better manager under contract for next season.

It was surprising to me that the Giants, and second-year general manager Farhan Zaidi, made such a move, so fresh after Gabe Kapler’s ouster from Philadelphia — which was, generously, a struggle — picking him to succeed likely future Hall of Famer Bruce Bochy.

Kapler – along with David Ross in Chicago and Jayce Tingler in San Diego – were puzzling hires. I think managers are very important. Leadership, authority and experience is important. I wouldn’t hire a manager who played with some of my key players just a few years ago, or a first-year manager who has no experience trying to keep a player like Manny Machado in check.

Speaking of managers: Why Doug Mientkiewicz wasn’t yes-man enough to stay with the Tigers organization

Perhaps the most important subplot of this year’s Tigers season is if the front office will do enough to back Ron Gardenhire and his coaching staff. Another year like 2019 will not suffice, with the way they were left short-handed so many nights, and will likely close the door on their tenure.

From this perspective, Gardenhire and his staff has done an incredible job of keeping things together during these two seasons. I hope they get the opportunity to serve at the helm of a competitive team.

Matthew Teitsma
@theerealmattyt
Replying to @anthonyfenech
With other MLB teams showing off New Jersey’s with Nike, have you heard of anything regarding the Tigers jerseys? I can’t stand the change from 2 seasons ago and would love the old mismatched jersey hat combo to come back!

1
9:23 PM – Nov 19, 2019
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If I had to guess, I would guess the Tigers home uniform will remain the exact same, except for a Nike logo on the right chest.

There is no chance the change from two seasons ago – aligning the Old English D on the home uniform with the Old English D on the hat – is reversed. But good on the Tigers for making the logo on their hat smaller.

Also, Matt, I agree with you. They shouldn’t have changed anything. But I’m a curmudgeon.

Drew
@Drew51762407
Replying to @anthonyfenech
Any chance we try and make a “blockbuster” trade that also involves some of our prospects? For example: Boyd and Mize for Betts. Not exactly that but a trade where we have to give up more to get the “main piece”

3:59 AM – Nov 19, 2019
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There is no chance the Tigers would trade Casey Mize under any circumstances, let alone one with Matthew Boyd – who still has three years of team control remaining – for a player who is one year away from free agency.

I don’t know what qualifies a “blockbuster” trade anymore, but the Tigers don’t seem to have the pieces to execute such a move. Perhaps Boyd for a strong prospect haul could fall into that category, but the Tigers passed on deals for him last trade deadline, and given his second-half regression, the market may not bear similar fruits.

Besides Boyd, I can’t identify any players on the major league team that would command significant prospect hauls, but with 29 other teams, there’s certainly some combination of big-leaguers and prospects that could result in a bold move, I’m just not sold the Tigers have the ability to find it.

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If you’re holding out hope that some of the young players who were part of the Detroit Tigers’ 114-loss season in 2019 are on the verge of turning a corner in 2020, you should probably stop reading now.

The future — the immediate future, anyway — is not very bright.

That’s the opinion of the freshly released Steamer projections at Fangraphs.

As always, any projection system is only a best guess using available data and can’t account for all the individual improvements, adjustments and changes that players make from year to year.

That said, Steamer is a well-respected and generally reliable projection system. It gives a good baseline for expectations going into a new year. Some players will overachieve, others will underachieve, but this is a good starting point.

And the Tigers are starting from a very low point.

Although the official Steamer projections make a best guess at playing time, at this point in the offseason it’s easier to use Steamer 600, which assumes that position players will get 600 plate appearances, starting pitchers will have 200 innings and relief pitchers will have 60.

THE OFFENSE

For simplicity, we’ll use weighted Runs Created scaled to 100. Anything above 100 is above the league average; anything under is worse than the league average.

So let’s plug those numbers in and see — oh my goodness, this is terrible!

There is just one player who is projected to have better-than-league-average run production. That would be Miguel Cabrera (108 wRC+), whose weight, uncertain health and balky knee make it incredibly unlikely that he will log 600 plate appearances.

In Steamer 600, there is only one player who projects to have a WAR greater than 2.0. That’s prospect Isaac Paredes. He hasn’t played a single game in Triple-A Toledo and is unlikely to arrive in Detroit until later in the year.

Repeating for emphasis: Even under the most optimistic projections, there is just a single 2.0 WAR player in the entire organization. And he’ll be starting the season in Toledo.

Let’s take a step back from this ugliness and take a look at some individual projections:

Steamer says not to give up on outfielder Christin Stewart (98 wRC+) or corner infielder Jeimer Candelario (98), which the Tigers seem keen on doing. Stewart and Candelario are both projected to have nearly league average run production, which puts them near the top of the list offensively.

Steamer also hasn’t completely soured on outfielder Travis Demeritte (94 wRC+), even after a modest Major League debut in 2019.

But it’s not terribly excited about Victor Reyes (84 wRC+), predicting that the Tigers could get similar production out of Jacob Robson (84) or recent waiver pickup Troy Stokes (83). Reyes might still be a valuable fourth outfielder, but Steamer doesn’t see the Tigers being rewarded for their investment of a Rule 5 pick and two years of patience.

Not surprisingly, Steamer is even more bearish on the other half of the BABIP Bros, Harold Castro (69 wRC+), whose average was also inflated by a high batting average on balls in play in 2019.

Steamer is unimpressed with JaCoby Jones’ brief offensive resurgence in 2019 (80 wRC+). It’s also not overly impressed with Willi Castro (81 wRC+). But Castro still has room to grow, whereas Dawel Lugo (81) is two years older and out of options.

Steamer also doesn’t like either of the Tigers’ catchers — Grayson Greiner (71 wRC+) or Jake Rogers (72).

Even Niko Goodrum, one of the few bright spots of the last two years, is projected to take a step back (86 wRC+).

That’s about it. In summary, Steamer thinks the Tigers’ offense is almost uniformly awful. Send help. Please.

Matthew Boyd
AP

Detroit Tigers pitcher Matthew Boyd smiles in the dugout against the Philadelphia Phillies in the first inning of a baseball game in Detroit, Tuesday, July 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

PITCHING

What about the pitching?

Steamer thinks Tarik Skubal (2.3 WAR in 200 hypothetical innings) would be the Tigers’ fourth-best starting pitcher. Right now.

That’s behind Matthew Boyd (3.4), Michael Fulmer (2.8) and Spencer Turnbull (2.5).

Then comes Daniel Norris (2.0).

That’s the extent of the Tigers 2.0 WAR pitchers — even under the generous assumption of 200 innings pitched.

Top prospects Matt Manning (1.4) and Casey Mize (1.2) are ranked ahead of Jordan Zimmermann (0.9). In fact, the arrival of one or both of those pitchers might knock Zimmermann to the unemployment line later in 2020, the final year of Zimmermann’s contract.

Among relievers, Joe Jimenez and Buck Farmer are at the top of the bullpen, as you might expect. But Steamer is also surprisingly bullish on Matt Hall (4.15 ERA, 0.6 WAR). It is less excited about David McKay, Gregory Soto and Bryan Garcia.

That shouldn’t be surprising. The Tigers’ piecemeal bullpen at this point is basically Jimenez, Farmer and whoever stands out in spring training. That’s probably as it should be for a rebuilding team.

As for the rotation, the projections suggest that Skubal, Manning and Mize, who will likely start the year in Triple-A Toledo, aren’t too far away.

Next up in the prospect pecking order? Kyle Funkhouser, Alex Faedo, Franklin Perez and Joey Wentz.

You have to go a long way down the list to find Beau Burrows, a first-round pick in 2015 who had an inconsistent debut with Toledo in 2019.

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CARLSBAD, Calif. — Jose Iglesias is not returning to the Detroit Tigers.

That news, weeks ago, comes courtesy of Iglesias himself, who posted a farewell to fans on his Instagram account.

It likely did not take the Tigers by surprise, nor alter their off-season plans much.

After unsuccessfully trying to trade Iglesias for the past two seasons, the team is prepared to go in a different direction at shortstop — though how different, remains to be seen.

This winter’s free agent class of shortstops is not particularly strong, and the Tigers will likely be choosing from a handful of glove-first options at the position.

This isn’t surprising: Shortstops who play defense and hit are All-Stars.

The Tigers, trying to bridge the gap from Iglesias to prospects like Willi Castro and Sergio Alcantara, aren’t looking for a difference-maker, rather a guy who can play a steady shortstop with some pop in the bat.

In many ways, they are looking for Iglesias.

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So why not Iglesias?

In short, it’s time for both sides. Given the team’s motivation to trade him in the past, it’s clear they did not view him as a winning player, nor part of the team’s long-term future. Given Iglesias’ age — he turns 29 in January — and his very highly-regarded defensive ability, he will be seeking more money than the Tigers will be willing to offer. A change of scenery could stand to benefit him going forward.

Of the Tigers’ possibilities, a few stand out:

Freddy Galvis: Likely the best of the bunch, Galvis has played 162 games in each of the past two seasons with Philadelphia in 2017 and San Diego in ’18. He is considered an above-average defensive player and has hit double-digit home runs in three consecutive seasons. At 29 years old, he could be in line for a multi-year deal.

Adeiny Hechavarria: A bit of a journeyman, Hechavarria played with three teams last season. The reason? He is a solid defender at shortstop. He is a .254 hitter in seven seasons. Hechavarria, 29, has not played 100 games in two consecutive seasons. He likely could be had for one season.

Jordy Mercer: The Tigers have their eye on Mercer, who is a solid veteran. He isn’t flashy but could fill the role. In seven seasons, the 32-year-old is a .256 hitter. Mercer’s bat control is of note: He doesn’t strike out much and has the best on-base ability of the bunch.

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Remarkable as it is that Kyle Schwarber made the Cubs’ World Series roster after missing nearly the entire regular season, he isn’t the first to achieve that feat.

In fact, perhaps the most prominent example of that kind of comeback came in the last World Series that featured the Cubs.

Virgil Trucks was one of the more reliable pitchers in baseball in 1942 and 1943, posting ERAs of 2.74 and 2.84, respectively, while spending most of each season in the Detroit Tigers’ rotation. After the 1943 season, he enlisted in the Navy and joined the powerhouse Great Lakes Naval Training Station team managed by Hall of Famer Mickey Cochrane.

That all-star squad composed largely of big-league players who had joined the service routinely beat major league teams and colleges in exhibitions. As his Society for American Baseball Research biography notes, Trucks eventually moved on to active-duty postings in Hawaii and the Pacific in which he was able to pitch regularly against other Navy and Army teams. He was discharged in the summer of 1945 as World War II wound to a close and returned to the United States just in time for the final days of a pennant drive.

Tigers manager Steve O’Neill ultimately gave Trucks the ball to start the season finale Sept. 30 at the St. Louis Browns, which Detroit entered with a one-game lead over the Washington Senators. Trucks, making his first major league appearance since Oct. 2, 1943, allowed one run in 5 1/3 innings before giving way to Tigers ace Hal Newhouser. Detroit trailed 3-2 headed into the ninth before another serviceman recently returned from overseas, Hank Greenberg, hit a grand slam that clinched the AL pennant for the Tigers.

Trucks had proven his worth, and he got the start in Game 2 of the World Series against the Cubs at Detroit’s Briggs Stadium. The Tigers needed a boost coming off a shutout loss in Game 1 and Trucks provided it, allowing one run in a complete-game victory.

“Virgil Trucks was faster than anyone we saw all year in the National League,” Cubs manager Charlie Grimm told The Sporting News afterward.

Trucks also got the start in Game 6 at Wrigley Field, coming away with no decision in a wild affair won by the Cubs in 12 innings. That 8-7 win kept Chicago’s title hopes alive, but Detroit closed out the series two days later in Game 7, starting the clock on a return to the World Series that would take 71 years to arrive.

As for Trucks, he ended up pitching in the majors through the 1958 season, twice making the All-Star team and famously throwing two no-hitters in 1952 despite posting a 5-19 record that year.