1. Justin Verlander - Why JV over Miggy? Two primary reasons. Verlander was with both pennant winners (2006 and 2012) during the era and had a higher WAR in a Tigers’ uniform (56.1 compared to 51.3). Verlander pitched two no hitters, won series-deciding games in the postseason and was an MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year recipient as a Tiger. He is proof the upcoming MLB Draft has consequences. Selecting Verlander second overall in 2004 was arguably the biggest factor in the Tigers’ turnaround after a dozen straight losing seasons.
2. Miguel Cabrera - Miggy has garnered back-to-back MVP Awards, four batting titles and led the American League in RBI, home runs and OPS twice as a Tiger. Beyond the stats is the sheer brilliance he presented during his prime as a hitter. During this generation, it’s only been matched by Albert Pujols and Mike Trout by right-handed batters.
3. Max Scherzer - During his stint with the Tigers, Scherzer went from a middle-of-the rotation starter to Cy Young Award winner. He won 70 percent of his decisions as a Tiger. After excelling even more with the Nationals, Scherzer has a shot at the Baseball Hall of Fame. A big-time competitor with exceptional arm strength and command.
4. Ivan Rodriguez - The Tigers had an AL record 119-loss season in 2003 and only started to pull together after signing the future Hall of Famer. He hit .334 in ’04 and was Top 10 in MVP voting. He hit .300 when the Tigers won the pennant in 2006. Sure, there were a few down moments with Pudge, one of baseball’s all-time best defensive catchers. He was past his prime and didn’t play nearly as effectively with the Tigers as with the Rangers and Marlins overall. But can you imagine if he hadn’t signed with the Tigers when they were by far the worst team in MLB? The course of the franchise undoubtedly would have been different.
5. Magglio Ordonez - There was a constant debate about the value of Ordonez’s contract while he played for Detroit. There were some disappointing seasons at the end. He wasn’t that good with the glove. Yet, Ordonez had one of the greatest seasons in Tigers’ history in 2007 (.363 batting average, 54 doubles, 1.029 OPS, 139 RBI, 28 homers, second in MVP voting). He also clubbed a home run for the ages to clinch the ‘06 pennant vs. Oakland. In seven seasons with the Tigers, Ordonez hit .312 with a .849 OPS.
6. Curtis Granderson - A third-round draft choice, Granderson was a rare Tigers’ homegrown position player, who thrived in the organization. Early in his career, he was a plus center fielder. He cranked out an amazing 23 triples in 2007. Even given his youth, Granderson was a solid presence in the clubhouse.
7. Victor Martinez - Admittedly, it’s splitting hairs with these rankings beyond the Big 3 at the top. Like Pudge and Ordonez, VMart didn’t have the best metrics while wearing the Old English “D.” He was, however, a clutch hitter and long-time leader during an exceptionally successful period of Tigers’ history. At 35, he was second in MVP voting in 2014 as a DH, leading the league in OPS (.994) and on-base percentage (.409).
8. Carlos Guillen - One of the best trades in Tigers’ history was acquiring Guillen from Seattle. That deal was at least as important as the Rodriguez signing in regard to tangible bearing. He hit .318 or higher three years in a row (2004-06) at a premier position (shortstop). His 6.0 WAR topped the ’06 pennant winners.
9. Placido Polanco - Steady as it goes is the best way to describe Polanco, but some of his numbers were pretty spectacular, too. A.341 batting average in one season for Detroit, and .338 during another. He had a 14.1 WAR in four-plus seasons with the club. He also won two Gold Glove Awards, a Silver Slugger and played in the All Star Game.
10. J.D. Martinez and Doug Fister (tie) - Martinez was a .300 hitter with power for the Tigers. He more than made up for his defensive deficiencies with his bat. Martinez was a fan favorite for good reason. Fister was amazingly effective in a little more than two seasons with the Tigers. He had a 3.29 ERA and WAR above nine in a short period.