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MLB season preview: Do the Tigers have another postseason run left in them?

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With Miguel Cabrera, there’s always hope.

Even in years when it’s tough to diagnose the Tigers, you can always count on Miggy and, thus, you can never truly count out Detroit. This season finds the Tigers in a funky place, though. There were no big splashy moves to be made — either adding or subtracting. So the Tigers enter 2017 looking like a team that’s just as apt for a wild-card run as it is a summer fire sale.

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The Tigers’ best hope for a better 2017 — despite the way things felt last year, remember, they *did* win 86 games — is seeing their moves from last offseason pay off better. If Justin Upton can hit and if Jordan Zimmermann can stay healthy and deliver on that big contract, the Tigers all of a sudden look like a team with playoff hopes. But if the inverse is true, and if Victor Martinez looks more like a 38-year-old and if Anibal Sanchez has another tough year, then the Tigers won’t be able to hang with the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central. Because baseball has taught us this reality all too well — veterans teams with bloated contracts will eventually let you down.

But with Miggy there’s always hope, so the Tigers will start from an optimistic place. If nothing else, that’s better than many clubs around baseball.

ADDITIONS & SUBTRACTIONS
Additions
: Alex Avila, Omar Infante
Subtractions: Erick Aybar, Cameron Maybin, Jarrod Saltalamacchia

So much for the fire sale. The Tigers were expected to make a ton of moves this offseason, but then this happened. The team waited out the market, found there wasn’t much going on and mostly just stood pat. That’s reflected in both their additions and subtractions. Alex Avila and Omar Infante aren’t moving the needle, and the team won’t really miss Erick Aybar, Cameron Maybin or Jarrod Saltalamacchia. In the end, there’s just not much here to talk about. The core remains the same and the Tigers are going to try and squeeze another good year out of their veterans. This time, however, there was no big, flashy free-agent move. Just status quo. (Chris Cwik)

Miguel Cabrera always give the Tigers hope and free-agent-to-be J.D. Martinez (right) is one of the keys on the Tigers' roster. (AP)
Miguel Cabrera always give the Tigers hope and free-agent-to-be J.D. Martinez (right) is one of the keys on the Tigers' roster. (AP)

KEY PLAYER
The most important thing for outfielder J.D. Martinez is to stay healthy. For three straight seasons, he’s proven that he’s got the goods to play full time, but it’s hard to do that if he’s hurt. In 2016, he hit .307/.373/.535 and yanked 22 home runs, and with the Tigers trying to make one last push for postseason glory, they desperately need Martinez’s production. But staying healthy isn’t just important for the team, it’s important for him personally. Martinez is in his walk year. He’s shown that he’s talented, but if he wants to maximize his value, he’s gotta stay on the field. If he can, he’ll be helping both himself and the team. (Liz Roscher)

PROJECTED LINEUP & ROTATION
Lineup
1. Ian Kinsler, 2B (.288/.348/.484, 28 HR, 83 RBI, 117 R, 14 SB)
2. J.D. Martinez, RF (.307/.373/.535, 22 HR, 68 RBI)
3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (.316/.393/.563, 38 HR, 108 RBI, 92 R)
4. Victor Martinez, C (.289/.351/.476, 27 HR, 86 RBI)
5. Justin Upton, LF (.246/.310/.465, 31 HR, 87 RBI, 91 R)
6. Nick Castellanos, 3B (.285/.331/.496, 18 HR, 58 RBI)
7. James McCann, C (.221/.272/.358, 12 HR, 48 RBI)
8. Tyler Collins, CF (.235/.305/.382, 4 HR, 15 RBI)
9. Jose Iglesias, SS (.255/.306/.336, 4 HR, 32 RBI)

Rotation
1. Justin Verlander (16-9, 3.04 ERA, 227.2 IP, 254 K)
2. Jordan Zimmermann (9-7, 4.87 ERA, 105.1 IP, 66 K)
3. Michael Fulmer (11-7, 3.06 ERA, 159 IP, 132 K)
4. Anibal Sanchez (7-13, 5.87 ERA, 153.1 IP, 135 K)
5. Daniel Norris (4-2, 3.38 ERA, 69.1 IP, 71 K)

Reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer can help the Tigers keep up with the Indians. (AP)
Reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer can help the Tigers keep up with the Indians. (AP)

BEST-CASE SCENARIO
The Tigers get off to a hot start. That should motivate the front office to keep an expensive but valuable core in place through the end of the season. The first six weeks really could have that big of an impact on their 2017 outlook, and potentially well beyond. If everything falls into place though this season, the Tigers should make a strong run at 90 wins and a fifth postseason appearance since 2011. (Townsend)

WORST-CASE SCENARIO
They get owned by the Cleveland Indians again after going 4-14 against them last season. That would all but remove them from the division race, and it would certainly irritate the fan base. If they aren’t looking like a real factor come July, the door will be open for some significant trades and their second losing season in the past three. (Townsend)

PRESSING FANTASY QUESTION
Which Justin Upton shows up this year?
Looking at first and second-half splits can be a fool’s errand at times, a jump onto arbitrary endpoints, but perhaps there’s a logical explanation for Upton’s crazy 2016 breakdown. He was a monstrous bust for his first 85 games in Detroit (.235/.289/.381, just nine homers), but he rebounded nicely after the All-Star break (.260/.337/.579, 22 homers in 68 games).

[Related: Pressing fantasy questions about the Detroit Tigers]

Was he pressing to justify his fresh, bountiful contract? Did his first American League season catch him by surprise? Those general theories sound plausible. Or perhaps Upton simply fell into a mechanics mess, but ironed things out over the balance of the summer. Maybe he was playing through an unreported injury that later healed.

As is often the case with two extremes, we’ll look for an answer somewhere in the middle. I figure Upton will be around his career average of .268, with 25-30 homers and a handful of stolen bases. That makes him worth considering in mixed leagues after the first 65 picks or so. (Scott Pianowski)

BEST FOLLOW
This might be the easiest pick of every single team. There is just one Tigers man to follow for your snarky baseball rejoinders, and that’s Justin Verlander.

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On his Instagram, you can find videos and pics of his dogs, his fiancee Kate Upton baseball, and his life in general. On Twitter, the man is a truth-spitting sarcasm machine. You may not like what he says, but he’ll say it just the same. (Roscher)

BEST REASON TO ATTEND A GAME
On a team featuring Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, it might be hard to get excited about a James McCann bobblehead. Though McCann isn’t a premier player on the team, we like the idea behind this one.

On July 29, the first 10,000 fans to the park will take home a James McCann removable mask bobblehead. It’s a neat idea, and not one we’ve seen before. If you’re going to take home a free souvenir, why not make sure it’s unique?

And if McCann doesn’t do it for you, the Tigers offer giveaways built around all the usual suspects.

ALSO IN THIS SERIES: San Diego Padres, Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies, Oakland Athletics, Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Angels, Atlanta Braves, Minnesota Twins, Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago White Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, Detroit Tigers, Colorado Rockies, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays, Texas Rangers, New York Mets, Houston Astros, Washington Nationals, San Francisco Giants, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!