Although cats generally are wary of the water, the Tigers managed to reel in the Big Fish (ridiculous pun, sorry but I couldn’t resist).
The Winter Meetings just threw us our first blockbuster of the season, with the Detroit Tigers stepping in after the Marlins’ discussions with the Angels faltered about 24-year-old superstar, Miguel Cabrera, and snagged the Manny clone and his only other high-priced teammate, Dontrelle Willis. Here’s a little more background for you before I throw in my own analysis.
First of all, let’s look at the Tigers’ side of things.
Miguel Cabrera is a stud. He compares favorably to some guys you might know: Albert Pujols and Manny Ramirez. So, he’s going to be a Hall-of-Famer barring injury or eating Vince Wilfork. According to published reports, Cabrera has decided to get into shape this off-season, and he’s starting to get closer to svelt than swollen. He’s the best player available in a long time and is so young that no matter what the guys dealt away do the Tigers won’t regret this trade.
Dontrelle Willis doesn’t quite fall under the same status. He’s a former ace who has fallen to a #3/4 starter in the American League. Last season his walk rate and homeruns allowed jumped, which led to a career-high 5.17 ERA. It’s a safe bet to say that his struggles have something to do with his opponents, as well as with himself. Due to having a wacky leg kick and only better than average stuff, it comes as no surprise that opposing batters have begun to lay off the junk and wait until they can get a pitch in the zone to pound. Switching to the AL will help in the sense that most guys won’t know him as well, but then again, the AL has good players in it, so those two effects should mostly even out. I do expect Dontrelle to rebound slightly from a career worst season, so an ERA of about 4.50 should be expected in about 200 innings if the guy’s healthy. The thing that’s a real bummer about this trade is it takes the bat out of Dontrelle’s hands, which is a shame because the dude can rake. He hit .286/.348/.508/.856 last year.
Although his quirkyness on the mound is intriguing, Dontrelle might actually be better in the batter’s box.
So, where is Miggy going to play? You may have heard that his defense at third isn’t quite at the same level as the guy he replaced in Florida, Mike Lowell. He led thirdbasemen in errors last season and the tire around his waist limited his range quite severely.
Fortunately, as I’ve already written, Miguel has decided to get into shape, so the range shouldn’t be as bad next year. But, does that mean they should leave him at third or perhaps move him to left or first? That’s a tough one, and either way he’ll be getting some time at DH, where he’ll be purely a positive. Best case scenario for los Tigres has Cabrera staying at third, allowing others to stay at more natural positions and giving the team a bargaining chip in Brandon Inge to grab some relief help.
Take a look at this potential line-up:
- Curtis Granderson-CF
- Placido Polanco-2B
- Magglio Ordonez-RF
- Miguel Cabrera-3B
- Gary Sheffield-DH
- Carlos Guillen-1B
- Edgar Renteria-SS
- Ivan Rodriguez-C
- Jacque Jones/Marcus Thames-LF
Good Lord. They’re going to score a lot of runs. Think 900. Don’t count on that actually being their order though, since Leyland can be a bit eccentric, and the middle of the line-up would be extremely right-handed.
They’re pitching is pretty solid too, with a rotation including Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman, Dontrelle, Kenny Rogers, Nate Robertson, and a few other young arms who will compete for a spot. The bullpen is lacking at this point, due mostly to Joel Zumaya’s unfortunate injury during the San Diego fires, but there’s still time for their front office to sort that out.
As far as the Marlins are concerned, they’re continuing their constant rebuilding process. They acquired some really good young players, but under no circumstance is trading Miguel Cabrera ever going to make your team better in the long- or short-term. Dontrelle is a different story and I would probably rather have Andrew Miller right now based on their economic and rebuilding needs, but that doesn’t negate the fact that they gave up by far the best player in the trade. Cameron Maybin is a perfect fit for the Marlins in CF, a position they’ve been looking to fill for a few years. Only 20 years of age, Maybin could be a superstar alongside Hanley Ramirez at some point.
The rest of the package isn’t quite as impressive, but to quickly summarize, they got a back-up catcher in Mike Rabelo, Dallas Trahern looks to be a long man based on his numbers in the minors, Eulogio De La Cruz has the arm to be a stopper in the pen if he learns to pitch, and Burke Badenhop is another potential end of the rotation guy/long man. Overall, the Marlins got two A prospects and four less promising guys. The other thing they got in the deal was millions of dollars off of their payroll, which remains more important in Miami than in any other Major League city.
In conclusion, Detroit wins this trade because they’re trying to, well, win, and got two young veterans back, one of which is a potential Hall-of-Famer. Florida is shedding payroll once again, which is a shame, but they did get quality value back, although I’m not sure they couldn’t have done better if they had waited a little longer.