I’ve been holding off on this one because it isn’t finalized, but everyone and their mother is reporting the deal, so I suppose it’s safe to comment. The Florida Marlins reportedly are sending Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Detroit Tigers for Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller, Mike Rabelo, Eulogio De La Cruz, Dallas Trahern, and Burke Badenhop.
This is going to take a while, so you may want to pull up a chair. Heck, go ahead and order a pizza.
Headed to Detroit
Cabrera is a stud. There’s no other way to put it. In any given year, he’s a legitimate MVP candidate. Better players in baseball? You can count the number on one hand, possibly two. Yeah, Cabrera’s a little heavy but he’s also a hitting machine who turns 25 in April. He’s a guy around which a team can build. Even that’s an understatement.
The Tigers now feature a sick, sick offense. Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez, Curtis Granderson, Gary Sheffield, Carlos Guillen? Sure, Ordonez will come back to earth somewhat, but who cares. This team will score 900 runs in 2008.
On the pitching front, Willis is coming off a poor season (5.17 ERA). He turns 26 in January, so this may have been a fluke. Then again, he’s been ridden pretty hard at a young age, like a certain Steve Avery I know, so maybe not.
Anyway, with a rotation headed by Justin Verlander and Jeremy Bonderman, and with that offense, it’s not like the Tigers need an ace. They just need a guy who can soak up innings, and Willis fits the bill. He could win 15 games without even getting out of bed next year.
Headed to Florida
Maybin and Miller are the prizes in this deal. Maybin is a stud in the making. Only by the grace of Granderson was he deemed expendable. As a 20-year-old in the pitching-friendly Florida State League, Maybin hit .304/.393/.486 before making late cameos in Double-A and the big leagues. Baseball America rated Maybin as the Tigers top prospect coming into 2007, comparing him to Mike Cameron and Torii Hunter.
Miller is a flamethrowing (love that phrase; how wicked would it be if a guy could actually do it?) left-hander who saw action at four levels (including 13 starts with the big club) in 2007. His command is spotty, but that should improve with experience. There is also some concern that his delivery could lead to injury down the line, but that’s always a risk with pitchers. If Miller stays healthy and develops as expected, he should be a front-line starter.
Rabelo is a 27-year-old catcher with a career .263/.327/.346 minor-league line. BA cited his defensive skills in ranking Rabelo as the Tigers’ 18th best prospect before last season.
De La Cruz is a right-hander who turns 24 in March. He made 11 starts in Double-A last season with decent results and then moved to the bullpen at Triple-A, where he was less successful. BA ranked De La Cruz #6 among Tigers prospects prior to the ’07 season.
Trahern is a 22-year-old right-hander who spent most of 2007 at Double-A Erie. His career 3.38 ERA looks nice, but the 4.86 K/9 makes it unlikely he’ll have much of a career. Apparently he serves up a lot of groundballs. BA ranked Trahern at #8 last year, although he looks more like the second coming of Nate Cornejo to me.
Badenhop is, would you believe, another right-hander. BA had him at #22 in the Detroit system headed into 2007. He posted decent numbers (3.13 ERA) in the FSL but was old (24) for the league and struck out just 5.19 batters per 9 innings. I don’t see a lot of upside here.
The Marlins get two tremendous prospects, plus a bunch of marginal guys. The Tigers get one of the best players in all of baseball, plus a solid option for the back end of their rotation. Theoretically this could help both clubs a la the Josh Beckett for Hanley Ramirez deal, but all of the risk is on Florida’s side.
The Tigers have upgraded an already potent offense and added starting pitching depth without losing anything that they’re likely to miss. This is a tremendous deal for them, and one that makes the Tigers, if not favorites to win the AL pennant in 2008, a truly elite team in baseball.