Last night the Tigers made the biggest splash of the Winter Meetings, acquiring all-star third baseman Miguel Cabrera and starter Dontrelle Willis from the Florida Marlins for six-players.
It definitely makes the Tigers if not the best, one of the teams in all of baseball.
Cabrera is one of the best players in baseball. The biggest knock on him was his ever gaining waistline, but reports are he’s losing weight (15 lbs. since season’s end). His numbers at this stage of his career, rival hall of famers. At 25 years old he could be a fixture in Detroit for years to come.
Although Willis is only two years removed from a twenty-two win season, he was nothing better then average in 2006 and was terrible last season. Reports were a lot of Willis’ problems were he was trying to locate the ball, which took his velocity off and made him very hittable. Chuck Hernandez is one of the better pitching coaches in the league, and he should be able to work with Willis and help him return to his old form. Another benefit of Willis pitching in Detroit is less pressure. In Florida he was the staff “Ace”, and mentally he had to live up to it. In Detroit he’ll probably be the 4th starter with Justin Verlander, Kenny Rogers, and Jeremy Bonderman in front of him. If Willis can just go out and pitch his game, there’s a chance he’ll be able to return to his Cy Young-caliber status.
As good as Tiger fans have to feel about the players they picked up from Florida the Marlins received a TON in return.
Andrew Miller was the Tigers #2 prospect last season (via Baseball America). His career stats are 5-6 with a 5.69 ERA, but don’t let that fool you. Miller was drafted in 2006 and has more experience in the major league then in the minors, so some say he was rushed to Detroit. He has the ability to be a true #1 starter. Mid-90’s fastball and a mid-80’s slider with great movement.
Cameron Maybin was the Tigers #1 prospect and is the #3 prospect in all of baseball. He’s still probably a year away from starting in Florida, but he has five-tools. Barring any injury he’s an all-star caliber player.
Eulogio De La Cruz is a wicked fastball that tops out at 100mph. He’s still probably a year away from the major leagues, but he could be a set up man and eventually be the Marlins closer.
Dallas Trahern is a strong starter. Some reports were he would challenge for the Tigers fifth starter spot, but worst would be with the Tigers by midseason. He projects as a #3 starter.
Mike Rubelo was the Tigers backup catcher last season, and most thought was the heir apparent to Rodriguez. He has strong defensive skills and a decent bat. He should start behind the plate.
I don’t know much about Burke Badenhop. Statistically he was strong last year going a combine 12-6 with a 2.92 ERA last year between A & AA. He went 14-3 at Single A ball in 2006. A few years away from making his major league debut.
In saying all this I’m not sure how I feel about this deal. The Tigers are showing they want to win now, but I think they overpaid for Cabrera and Willis. The Tigers depleted their farm system in getting both of these two guys. Pudge Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez, and Gary Sheffield aren’t getting any younger. The only real prospects left are Brent Cleven and Rick Portcello.
Another concern I have is what this does for baseball. As of now the Marlins have a payroll UNDER $10 million. Their highest paid player is now Kevin Gregg who makes roughly 600K. Even though they won’t, the Marlins need to spend some money and at least acquire players who can fill in until guys like Maybin and De La Cruz are ready to contribute.
The Hot Stove is heating up, and the rumors are flying. The latest rumor is a blockbuster deal. No, not Johan Santana. This one is between the Marlins and the Tigers.
Word is the Tigers are willing to ship a group of prospects That would include Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis.
While Cabrera joining a Tigers lineup that already includes Magglio Ordonez, Curtis Granderson, Carlos Guillen, and Gary Sheffield, would give them one of the leagues best lineups, I’m not sure what help Willis really gives.
Dontrelle Willis is only two years removed from a Cy Young-type season, but he was one of the worst pitchers in baseball last season. His 5.17 ERA was near the bottom of the National League, and that’s pitching half your games in a pitchers park. Letting him loose in the American League where he has to face a DH could be disasterous. On the other hand, maybe a change of scenery is what Willis needs.