Detroit Tigers

2019 MLB preview and predictions: How the White Sox stack up against the Detroit Tigers

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USA TODAY

2019 MLB preview and predictions: How the White Sox stack up against the Detroit Tigers

As the 2019 season nears and the White Sox get ready to take on the rest of the American League, we're taking a team-by-team look at all 14 of their opponents.

The Tigers, somehow, finished with a better record than the White Sox last season.

Despite Miguel Cabrera playing in just 38 games, despite them no longer having Justin Verlander or Max Scherzer, despite them losing an identical 98 games the year prior, the Tigers did win two more contests than the South Siders in 2018. That, perhaps, had something to do with the 12 wins they had in the 19 head-to-head matchups, a winning record against the White Sox powered almost single-handedly by Nicholas Castellanos, who crushed South Side pitching last season. In those 19 games, he slashed .363/.414/.625 with 29 hits, six doubles, five homers and 29 RBIs. He's the newest Sox killer, and though his name was included in many a rumor this offseason, he didn't go anywhere. Castellanos' bashing of the White Sox was part of a nice .298/.354/.500 season, and it wouldn't be surprising to see his name floated around again at the trade deadline.

Unfortunately for the now-rebuilding Tigers, Castellanos is perhaps the lone bright spot on this squad.

They got some tough news Tuesday, when No. 1 starting pitcher Michael Fulmer was recommended to have Tommy John surgery, an outcome that would wipe out his 2019 season. Fulmer didn't put up terrific numbers last season, right on par with currently uninjured starters Matthew Boyd and Jordan Zimmermann, who had 4.39 and 4.52 ERAs, respectively, in 2018. Detroit's got a pair of unexciting newcomers in their rotation, too, free-agent signings Matt Moore and Tyson Ross. Moore had an ERA near 7.00 in just 12 appearances last season, while Ross fared far better out of the St. Louis Cardinals' bullpen than he did in the San Diego Padres' rotation.

Of course, the Tigers still have Cabrera, who as mentioned missed most of the 2018 season. He was faring far better than he did in 2017 before he got hurt, with an on-base percentage up around .400. But given the amount of missed time, it's not like he's bounced back from that ugly 2017, a .249 average, a .329 on-base percentage and just 16 homers, quite yet. While Cabrera is a slam-dunk first-ballot Hall of Famer, he could be standing in the way of the Tigers making headway in their rebuilding effort, as he'll be making at least $30 million a year for the next five seasons.

But the rest of the lineup, even with a solid offseason addition in Josh Harrison, doesn't look terribly potent. Former Cubs prospect Jeimer Candelario was OK in his first full season in the bigs, hitting 19 homers but only posting a .224/.317/.393 slash line. Niko Goodrum? About the same. JaCoby Jones? Just a .207/.266/.364 line. Prospect outfielder Christin Stewart (probably not the star of the "Twilight" movies) had an .844 OPS in Triple-A last season.

Nothing terribly imposing there.

What the Tigers do have is a trio of highly rated pitching prospects, all ranked in the top 100 prospects in baseball. They're a ways away but could make for one heck of a 2021 rotation. Casey Mize was the No. 1 overall pick in last year's draft and is now the No. 17 prospect in the game. Matt manning is the No. 52 prospect in baseball, and Franklin Perez is No. 78. But again, they're not going to be showing up this year.

And so there's not much for Motor City baseball fans to get excited about. At least they've got the entire Motown catalog to listen to this summer.

2018 record: 64-98, fourth place in AL Central

Offseason additions: Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer, Matt Moore, Tyson Ross

Offseason departures: Victor Martinez, James McCann, Francisco Liriano, Jose Iglesias

X-factor: Harrison wasn't awesome last season. He played in only 97 games and reached base at a sub-.300 clip. But he's just two seasons removed from his second career All-Star appearance, when he slashed .272/.339/.432 with a career-high 16 homers in 2017. Harrison brings infield versatility and if he can bounce back from last season, he can provide a boost to the Tigers' lineup. Yeah, it might be a reach, but there's not a lot to go on with these Tigers.

Projected lineup:

1. Josh Harrison, 2B
2. Nicholas Castellanos, RF
3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
4. Jeimer Candelario, 3B
5. Christin Stewart, LF
6. Niko Goodrum, DH
7. Jordy Mercer, SS
8. Grayson Greiner, C
9. JaCoby Jones, CF

Projected rotation:

1. Matthew Boyd
2. Jordan Zimmermann
3. Tyson Ross
4. Matt Moore
5. Daniel Norris

Prediction: Fourth place in AL Central, no playoffs

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Favorite Cubs Games of 2018: Javier Báez's Fourth of July fireworks display on the basepaths

Favorite Cubs Games of 2018: Javier Báez's Fourth of July fireworks display on the basepaths

Javy Báez became the most electric player in Major League Baseball in 2018, appointment viewing. That is a very hard thing to accomplish when your team plays 162 games per season. After the Cubs 5-2 win over the Tigers, Joe Maddon was very complimentary of Báez.

“It never gets old watching him play baseball," Maddon said.

“El Mago” was already at the top of the MVP ballot before his fireworks display on the base-paths on July 4. By the time the game was over, Baez had stolen home for the second time in just over a month, almost already assuring himself of a top-three finish in the MVP voting with still half the season to play.

How many other players in MLB can finish a game 1-for-4 with a strikeout, but still steal the headlines in the process?

Stealing home is one of the most exciting – and difficult – plays in baseball, and Baez was adding even more buzz with his patented “swim-move” slides. The fact that Javy tied the game in such spectacular fashion seems impossible, until you remember who you’re dealing with. Nothing seems impossible with Javy Báez.

This game was a sort-of high-water mark for the 2018 season. The Cubs had just won six straight games, Willson Contreras was red-hot, David Bote hit his first homer and Brandon Morrow had just converted on his 19th save in 20 opportunities. Sadly, the other three stars of this particular game would fizzle out by the time October rolled around.

But not Javy. His star burned bright all season long, and probably never brighter than on that sunny Independence Day afternoon at Wrigley Field.

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Let's make a deal: Joe Maddon jokingly offers up two months in RV in exchange for Tigers win over Brewers

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USA TODAY

Let's make a deal: Joe Maddon jokingly offers up two months in RV in exchange for Tigers win over Brewers

The Detroit Tigers have been out of playoff contention for quite some time. But if they need some extra incentive to pull out a win on what’s shaken out to be an all-important final day of the regular season, Joe Maddon is willing to provide some.

“I was going to offer up my RV for at least two months,” the Cubs skipper joked when asked if he reached out to Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire prior to Detroit’s Game 162 matchup with the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Cubs and Brewers entered the season’s final day tied atop the National League Central standings, and the games at Wrigley Field and Miller Park will determine which team wins the division title — or if there’s a one-game playoff Monday on the North Side.

The Cubs probably won’t get any favors from the rival St. Louis Cardinals, and even a win doesn’t guarantee anything but a 163rd game Monday. But perhaps a joking attempt at buttering up the Tigers could make the difference between the Cubs playing Monday or waiting until Thursday, the start of the NLDS.

Maddon and Gardenhire go back, of course, both managerial veterans of Florida-based spring trainings. And Maddon relayed that Gardenhire helped him in his own recreational-vehicle evolution, which explained why two months in what Maddon calls the “Cousin Eddie” is such a enticing offer.

“Gardy’s a big RV’er, also,” Maddon said. “He and I used to talk all the time in spring training. He’s the one who really gave me the nerve to step up to that 40-, 45-foot RV because I was still in the 30-foot range at that point, I was a novice.

“And we actually talked about going pink slips on 75 (that’s I-75, which runs down the Gulf Coast of Florida) just to see who had the faster RV. He’s such a good fellow. But I’d be happy to offer up two months of the ‘Cousin Eddie’ for a win today.”

So what do you say, Tigers? Any interest in that offer?

Facetious offers aside, the Cubs would appreciate the boys from the Motor City raining on the Brewers’ parade.