photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein
As of right now I don’t think the deal has been finalized, but the word on the digital street is that Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera are headed to Detroit for 6 players.
The Freep says that, so far as they know at the moment, the package of Tigers going to Florida consists of Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller, Mike Rabelo, Dallas Trahern, Eulogio De La Cruz, and Burke Badenhop.
Let me be the first to say: Dude. WOAH.
This is… unexpected, to say the least. I (and many of you, I assume) had got the impression that Cameron Maybin was Untradeable, and that Miller was in a similar boat. As early as YESTERDAY I had heard this. Now we find out that (probably) both have been traded. I’m wondering what caused the turn-around. Was the hardline stance Dombrowski had with regards to these guys just a front to drive up their value as potential trading chips, or was the hardline stance mitigated because Dombrowski honestly believes that a combination of Willis and Cabrera thoroughly trumped even the stars of the Tigers minor league system?
I tend to think it’s the latter. Maybin and Miller are both very very young and have the POTENTIAL to be excellent. Yes. Very true. But Dontrelle Willis is a 25 year old two-time All Star and Miguel Cabrera is a 24 year old murderer of the baseball. These are guys who are very young and have REALIZED their potential to be excellent. This is probably what Dombrowski was thinking.
Maybe he was also thinking about the age-related issues facing the Tigers for next season and beyond. We do have a lot of rapidly aging bats under contract for the coming season; we’re talking about guys who are good ballplayers, even great ballplayers, but who are starting to fall prey to the ravenous jaws of Time. The Tigers have been pawing at the edges of World Series success the past 2 seasons. So close. Sooooo close! (argh. also, sigh.) Maybe NOW is the time for them to take that final step.
By signing Cabrera the Tigers got the power bat (sadly a righty) that they declined to jump for in ARod, with 8 fewer years on his body. Maybe 7 or 6.5 if you say that the extra weight Cabrera’s put on in recent times is wearing him down. He’s still one hell of a hitter. He hasn’t batted under .300 in 3 seasons, his OBP has been over .400 the past 2 seasons, and his SLG percentage hasn’t dropped below .560 in 3 seasons. Please recall that HE IS 24 YEARS OLD.
Now, Cabrera has primarily played third base the past couple of seasons. Before that he spent most of his time in the outfield. Where do we play him? Obviously I am deeply concerned about the fate of Brandon Inge here. But maybe a more far-ranging outfield position would help whip him back into shape, or would at least give him further motivation on that front? This will be a trying time for Brandon Inge fans, and I encourage my brethren to keep their spirits up, as our scrap-tastic patron midget would want.
If our elderly players manage to spend most of the 2008 season in one piece each, just IMAGINE what our lineup will look like. Just look at the NAMES. Granderson. Polanco. Cabrera? Magglio. Sheffield. Guillen. Pudge. Who-the-heck-ever else. Drool. DROOOOOOOL.
And then we have Dontrelle Willis. Dontrelle Willis, a great pitcher who had a bad year, numbers-wise. Every AL fan is aware of our obvious superiority, and we generally believe that the NL is easier on pitchers’ ERAs. Willis had a 5.17 ERA for the Marlins last season, which is worse than Jeremy Bonderman, who spent every first inning last year curled up in a tiny ball on the mound being eaten by fire ants. Willis’ WHIP was 1.597 which is… pretty bad. This does not inspire confidence, but it is of course possible that he just had a down year.
One of my main concerns with Willis is his delivery. Oh, I know he’s been fairly durable thus far in his career, but that is one seriously whacked-out leg kick. Even more than the Injury Bug, I fear the Complexity Bug. The Complexity Bug attacks players who have batting routines or pitching deliveries that are unusually complex. The more complex a motion is, the more separate parts there are that have to go consistently right to make the entire motion successful. The more parts you have, the greater the likelihood that one will go wrong. You see what I mean here? It’s possible that, last season, there was some weeny thing in Willis’ delivery that was juuuust far enough off, and he just needs to get his ‘feel’ back to retain his glorious former skill.
At the least the Tigers have picked up a guy who can definitely start, and cat knows, after the rotating 5th starter bull dung this past season, we needed that.
Now, we did give up an AWFUL lot to get this deal done, but we just got 2 blockbuster players who are both relatively young. I would be a LOT more annoyed if we had given up all this young talent to get one or two older players, no matter how good. That said…
I know everyone is going to be talking about Maybin and Miller and the other young pitchers. But if it turns out to be true that this trade included Mike Rabelo, I am seriously kind of concerned about that. I know. I KNOW! Mike Rabelo! But think about it. What on earth is our catching situation right now? We have Pudge, whose bones have been slowly liquefying month by month for a couple years now. We have Vance Wilson, if he doesn’t show up for Spring Training with both his arms amputated at the elbow or something, and even if he’s fully recovered from his surgery come April, he’s not exactly a spring kitten himself. We have… uh….. Brandon Inge? (egads, no)
Pudge needs a backup. Period. Pudge needs a GOOD backup, because whoever backs him up is going to end up playing on a fairly regular basis even if Pudge somehow (magic? fairies???) makes it through the entire year without injury. Mike Rabelo was a shockingly good backup. I was always worried about our catching situation, but now I am near frantic over it.
Don’t tell me James Skelton is the answer. The kid is TINY and inexperienced (‘though both, of course, may and probably will change: he is also very young). Nobody above him in the system has much of anything that impresses me. We’ve already discussed the issues with catchers on the market this offseason.
I hope that Mr. Dombrowski has something in the works to address this problem as well. Right, Dave? Right?
Anyways. Wow. The Tigers are looking to contend next season, that much is clear. There is no looking to 2009 or beyond in the Tigers front office. They believe we can win now, and, lucky for us Tigers fans, they are apparently willing to do whatever they possibly can to make that happen.
UPDATE: Matt has the minor league angle covered for this move. Check it out to see what we really gave up to get this kitten done.