It was a bit of a strange sight Saturday: Jordan Zimmermann took the mound in a Tigers uniform and shut down the Nationals over 2 2/3 innings in a Grapefruit League contest in Viera, Fla. Zimmermann, who spent his first seven seasons with Washington, signed as a free agent with Detroit in November.
Although the Tigers and Nats do face each other in an Interleague series this May, Zimmermann will not get many opportunities to do the same during the regular season. However, many other players who changed uniforms this offseason will be in position to do damage to their former clubs.
With an unbalanced schedule in place, those who moved within a division obviously have the most significant chance to burn former clubs. Here are 10 such players.
1. Jason Heyward, OF, Cubs vs. Cardinals
This rivalry was reignited in a big way last season, and it didn't cool off this winter. After one highly productive all-around season in St. Louis, Heyward spurned the Cardinals for the Cubs, and his reasoning for the decision ruffled some feathers with his former club. As an everyday player and top-of-the-order hitter, Heyward figures to accrue a lot of plate appearances against the Cards (last year he racked up 80 against the Cubs, with a .400 on-base percentage). Add that to his ability to contribute on the bases and in the outfield, and you have the potential for an extremely high-impact signing.
2. Zack Greinke, SP, D-backs vs. Dodgers
There seemed to be a chance Greinke would move to the rival Giants after opting out of his contract with the Dodgers. Instead, he shocked the baseball world by signing with a different National League West club, for more than $200 million. If Arizona is going to jump from 79 wins to its first postseason berth since 2011, Greinke figures to play a major part, a year after posting a 1.66 ERA. Starting pitchers typically get three or four outings against a particular division foe, which does limit Greinke's potential contributions in a specific matchup. But considering the D-backs went 10-28 against the Dodgers over the past two years, they'll take however much help they can get.
3. David Price, SP, Red Sox vs. Blue Jays
The left-hander was only a Blue Jay for 14 starts, including the postseason, but he also will be in the same division as his original team (the Rays) and in the same league as his other former team (the Tigers). Price landed a huge deal to lead Boston's rotation, and it should be interesting to see him go head to head with Toronto's dynamic offense. For what it's worth, Price held the Jays to one run over seven innings last July 4, not long before his trade to Toronto, and posted a 2.53 ERA in three matchups the year before.
4. Daniel Murphy, 2B, Nationals vs. Mets
Murphy ended his seven-season run with the Mets in style, enjoying a postseason for the ages to help New York advance to the World Series. But rather than re-sign Murphy, the Mets traded for Neil Walker and signed Asdrubal Cabrera, leaving Murphy to head to D.C. on a three-year deal. With a high probability of the Mets and Nats battling it out for NL East supremacy, Murphy should get plenty of chances to show the Mets they made a mistake. Meanwhile, his left-handed bat and contact ability could provide a boost for Washington, even if his October power display proves to be an anomaly.
5. John Lackey, SP, Cubs vs. Cardinals
Heyward wasn't the only Cardinals player to defect to Chicago, as the Cubs lured Lackey to Wrigley with a two-year, $32 million contract. They must be glad to have him on their side after the right-hander held them to three runs over three starts last season, then shut them down in Game 1 of the NL Division Series before a rough Game 4 outing. Lackey slides into Chicago's rotation behind reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta and former Red Sox teammate Jon Lester, and the 37-year-old will look to keep his late-career revival going for another club with championship aspirations.
6. Leonys Martin, CF, Mariners vs. Rangers
There were few intra-division trades this offseason, but Martin was involved in one of them, heading to the M's along with reliever Anthony Bass for reliever Tom Wilhelmsen, outfielder James Jones and a prospect. Seattle definitely was buying low, as Martin hit .219/.264/.313 over 95 games last season and spent some time at Triple-A. Texas has moved on with Delino DeShields in center field, but it's certainly possible that dumping Martin could come back to bite the club if the speedy defender returns to his 2013-14 form (8.1 WAR, via Baseball Reference). The Mariners will hope for many more performances like the one Martin posted against the Rangers in Sunday's Cactus League tilt, when he picked up a hit, a walk, two stolen bases and a run scored.
7. Chris Iannetta, C, Mariners vs. Angels
Ex-Halos general manager Jerry Dipoto was extremely busy this winter after taking the helm in Seattle, and one of his moves was to sign his former catcher with the Angels. Considering Seattle backstops posted a .464 OPS in 2015, Iannetta should provide a massive upgrade, though he also is looking to bounce back from a down year (.628 OPS). The Angels, meanwhile, signed free agent Geovany Soto to replace Iannetta as a partner for 25-year-old Carlos Perez.
8. Jed Lowrie, 2B, A's vs. Astros
The other trade acquisition on this list was dealt from Houston to Oakland in November for the second time in a two-year span, this time for a pitching prospect. Lowrie gave the A's a 108 OPS+ from 2013-14 and was off to a hot start at the plate for the Astros in '15 before suffering a torn ligament in his right thumb in late April, causing him to miss three months. A switch-hitter who can move around the infield, Lowrie no longer had a spot in Houston but should see plenty of time at second for Oakland.
9. Rajai Davis, OF, Indians vs. Tigers
The veteran signed a one-year deal with Cleveland, where he should get no shortage of opportunities, with Michael Brantley rehabbing a shoulder injury and Abraham Almonte suspended for 80 games. Davis gave Detroit a 103 OPS+, 54 steals and 2.9 WAR over two seasons, and he owns a .296/.351/.448 career line against left-handed pitchers.
10. Alex Avila, C, White Sox vs. Tigers
This "player faces former team" story will be more interesting than most, given that Avila's father, Al, is the Tigers' general manager. Despite that relationship, Detroit elected to let the younger Avila leave as a free agent, bringing in Jarrod Saltalamacchia to back up James McCann. Avila, who hit .191 during an injury-plagued 2015, signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal with Chicago. He should share time there with fellow veteran free-agent acquisition Dioner Navarro, a switch-hitter who is more effective against lefties.
Others: Steve Pearce, IF/OF, Rays vs. Orioles; Chris Young, OF, Red Sox vs. Yankees; Mike Pelfrey, SP, Tigers vs. Twins; Wilhelmsen, RP, Rangers vs. Mariners; Brayan Pena, C, Cardinals vs. Reds.
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Andrew Simon is a Sports on Earth contributor and a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.