In December, 2007 at baseball’s Winter Meetings, the Tigers and Marlins pulled off one of the biggest trades in recent memory. The Tigers unloaded a collection of prospects for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. At the time, we Tiger fans were excited that were not only getting a big bat but a quality starter as well. One out of two ain’t bad, huh?
Dontrelle Willis has been a disappointment on every level and is still owed millions by the Tigers over the next two seasons. However, as loyal reader Jackson has pointed out, Miguel Cabrera has been an absolute beast this season. Jackson believes that the Tigers made a good deal even if Dontrelle Willis never makes a quality start ever again. The fact that the Tigers have Cabrera in the middle of the line up made the trade a success. Is Jackson right?
First, let’s look at the two guys the Tigers got in the infamous deal:
- Dontrelle Willis: Got through a pathetic 18.2 innings in seven appearances (six starts) in his first season with the Tigers. He walked 32 batters and has an ERA of 10.61. As a matter of fact, since 1931, Willis is one of two pitchers in baseball history to walk more than 30 batters in fewer than 20 innings (Red Bulluck, 1936). Just awful. To make matters worse, Willis is going to be paid $22 million over the next two seasons. Things do not appear to be on the up and up.
- Miguel Cabrera: After coming to the Tigers, Cabrera signed a contract that should keep him in Detroit through the 2015 season. With one week left in his first season with the Tigers, Cabrera is tied for the league lead in homers (36) and is second in RBI (125). Over his past 81 games (half of a season) he’s hitting .308 with 26 HR and 83 RBI. Those numbers are totally unreal. While Ais no longer able to play third base, you’ll take that production from a first baseman if you can get it.
No player traded to the Marlins has made a significant impact this season in the big leagues. While the Marlins have been a surprise team in the NL this year due to their strong pitching, Andrew Miller is probably not included in that group. Miller is 6-9 this season with an ERA of 5.74 and has pitched out of the bullpen exclusively in the month of September.
Cameron Maybin spent almost the entire season in the Minor Leagues and hit .277. Maybin showed his usual power, 14 homers and stole 21 bases. He struck out over 120 times but did draw 60 walks which has to be encouraging for the Marlins. One of the knocks on Maybin has been that he’s a bit of a free swinger. He was recently called up by the Marlins and is hitting .476 in his first give games up. Sure it’s a small sample but it’s encouraging.
Mike Rabelo hit around .200 with the Marlins until he got hurt. Eulogio De La Cruz has been disappointing and has an ERA over 17 with the Marlins and had an ERA over 4.00 in the minors. Burke Badenhop has appeared in 13 games with the Marlins and has an ERA over 6.00. Finally, Dallas Trahern has also really struggled and posted an ERA of 6.16 at AAA.
It’s no given, but it’s probably a safe guess that the only players from this group that have star potential are Miller and Maybin. Projecting stardom is no walk in the park when you consider intangiables and injuries and all of that good stuff.
If this deal boils down to Maybin and Miller for Miguel Cabrera, you have to absolutely love that deal don’t you? I love it. I was hard on Cabrera when he struggled early, but the guy really battled through his struggles to put together career highs in HR and RBI. Not only that, he played hurt for a good chunk of the season and has been the brightest spot in a very disappointing season.
The fact is, Cabrera is the sort of player you build a franchise around. He is to the Tigers what Albert Pujols is to the Cardinals and what Grady Sizemore is to the Indians, he is the guy. While Maybin and Miller may turn out to be excellent pro players, I don’t see how you can look back on this deal (no matter what Willis does or doesn’t do) and shake your head. The Tigers have one of the best hitters in the game and we get to watch the guy play for a long time. You cannot beat that.