One of the more under-appreciated aspects of new player acquisitions is their selection of a jersey number. Some fans grow attached to certain player-number combinations — hence our success with the jersey number countdowns of yesteryear. Remember how heated Detroit Tigers fans were when Ian Kinsler chose to wear Alan Trammell’s No. 3 jersey when he arrived in Detroit? Or that we’re calling it “Trammell’s No. 3” in the first place?” Jersey numbers matter.
Fortunately, there won’t be much controversy this year. New center fielder Mikie Mahtook will wear No. 15, according to Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press. Most fans associate this number with former catcher and third baseman Brandon Inge, but Erick Aybar was actually the last Tiger to don the 15 jersey. It has been one of the most popular numbers in circulation in Tigers history, and has been worn by the likes of Rusty Kuntz, Dizzy Trout, and Hall of Famers Jim Bunning and George Kell (in 1955 and 1948, respectively).
The Tigers have not confirmed any other new numbers yet, but center fielder JaCoby Jones expressed interest in switching from 40 to 4 earlier this offseason. The No. 4 jersey was last worn by Cameron Maybin in 2016. Other Tigers favorites to wear that jersey include Omar Infante, Bobby Higginson, Tony Phillips, and Aurelio Rodriguez.
Jones’ old No. 40 has not been quite as popular throughout Tigers history, but fans will remember left-handed reliever Phil Coke’s famous glove spike after clinching the 2012 ALCS. Coke is arguably the most famous Tiger to wear the No. 40, unless you’re really attached to franchise legends such as Josh Wilson, Freddy Dolsi, or Nook Logan.
Catcher Alex Avila will not don the No. 13 jersey he wore from 2009 to 2015. Avila was the last Tigers player to wear 13, and one of just 11 such players in franchise history. His accomplishments in that jersey pale in comparison to former Tigers backstop Lance Parrish, who accumulated 29.9 WAR with the Tigers from 1977 to 1986. Current first base coach Omar Vizquel is wearing No. 13, so Avila will switch to No. 31.
The only other players on the Tigers 40-man roster without an assigned uniform number are all pitchers: Victor Alcantara, Sandy Baez, Chad Bell, Myles Jaye, and Rule 5 selection Daniel Stumpf. Stumpf wore No. 53 with the Philadelphia Phillies last season, but that number is currently held by Australian righthander Warwick Saupold.