Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera Leave the East


Dontrelle Willis AND Miguel Cabrera have been traded to the Detroit Tigers.


In what is the biggest blockbuster in years, the Marlins have dealt both of their most coveted players to the Tigers in return for outfielder Cameron Maybin, lefty starter Andrew Miller, catcher Mike Rabelo, and pitchers Dallas Trahern, Eulogio De La Cruz and Burke Badenhop.

I don’t even know where to start with this one. On the one hand, I’m ecstatic that a.) Cabrera and Willis have left the division, and the National League; and b.) that the Yankees obtained neither of them.

However, this trade is a real head-scratcher. I thought for certain that Cabrera was worth at least that type of package — and possibly more — all by himself. I may not be a good judge of talent, but I believe that Miguel Cabrera is hands-down the best hitter in baseball not named Albert Pujols — and possibly as good or better than Sir Albert. And in return the Fish get not one player with a full Major League season under his belt.

Would I rather have Andrew Miller or D-Train? Tough one, I’m not really sure. Yes, Willis had a tough 2007, but he’s already succeeded at the MLB level while the jury is still out on Miller. So call it a wash, I suppose, since Miller has tremendous upside. But, Willis was once a Cy Young candidate, is still only 25, and Miller’s ERA in 2007 was nearly 6. I mean, jeez, Mike Pelfrey‘s numbers were startlingly similar to Miller’s last year, and they’re about the same age (and height). Does that mean the Mets could have traded Pelfrey for Dontrelle? Would we have been happy with that deal?

As far as Miggy goes, I doubt the Mets could have made a play for him. But it makes you wonder. We know Cameron Maybin has a world of potential, but is he definitely ahead of where Lastings Milledge is now?

Mike Rabelo is the 28-year-old version of Mike DiFelice, so don’t even give him a second thought; he’s filler in this deal (actually, since all the other kids in this deal were pitchers, the Fish needed another receiver to help catch them all). Dallas Trahern is a 22-year-old righthanded starter who has moved quickly through the Tigers’ system, pitching a game in AAA last year. Baseball America said he had the “Best Slider” in the Detroit organization back in 2005, and was #8 in their “Top Ten Prospects” list. From the scouting reports I’ve read, Trahern actually sounds a lot like Pelfrey — he depends on a low-90s sinker, has at best an average slider, and doesn’t strike out enough batters.

Eulogio De La Cruz was #6 and had the “Best Fastball” as well as the “Best Curveball” in 2006. The 23-year-old De La Cruz got into six games with the big club last year, and projects to be a closer with his 100-MPH fastball and knee-buckling curveball. However, he tends to get erratic (can you say Jorge Julio?) so he may be a few years from MLB duty.

Burke Badenhop sounds like a sorry excuse for a poorly groomed infield, but in fact he is a 24-year-old righthanded pitcher who has had success at every level. However I don’t know a thing about him other than the stats. Where the heck did Detroit find all these young pitchers?

So the two most notable stars on the Marlins have exited, with Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla remaining. Suddenly, though, the Fish have a remarkably talented and young corps of pitchers who have lots of potential. I’m not worried — at least, not about 2008. These young arms will take a few years to mature.

Discuss …

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. isuzudude December 5, 2007 at 8:42 am
    I think the Tigers blew the Marlins out of the water in this trade and will once again be a force to reckon with in the AL. Maybin projects to be a Cabrera-type player with better speed and ability to play CF, but he’s only 20 so he’s at least a couple years away from Cabrera-like production at the major league level. I don’t doubt, though, that the Marlins will plug Maybin right into CF to start 2008 and hope he develops as fast as Hanley did (who also skipped AAA to succeed right away in the majors). And while I view Willis as past his prime (yes, at the age of 25, I’ll explain in a second…), he now goes from being an ace to #4 or #5 starter behind Verlander, Bonderman, Rogers, and Robertson. A very solid rotation to say the least. I view Willis as past his prime because I compare him to what happened to the Doctor with the Mets. Way too many innings pitched at too early of an age. Before the age of 26, Gooden threw 1,360 innings (including minor leagues). Willis = 1,338 innings. And we all know what happened to Gooden over the course of the remainder of his career post 1989. Could the same be in store for Dontrelle? Still, he’s a wise addition for the Tigers, because he’s only under contract for 2 more seasons, in which they could still squeeze some good starts out of him before he really starts to break down. The main addition is Cabrera, who although may not be on par with Pujols (sorry, Joe), he’s certainly one of the top-5 pure hitters in the game. Add him to a lineup with Ordonez, Sheffield, Renteria, Pudge, Granderson, and Guillen, and that becomes most likely the most potent lineup in the bigs (move over Yankees). Aside from Maybin and Miller, who is no lock himself to copy Willis’ early-career success, the rest of the players Florida got are atrocious. None of the pitchers have good strikeout numbers, and none have had any prolonged success at the high minor league levels. I don’t doubt that all 3 turn out to be complete bums. And like you said, Joe, Rabelo is nothing. He’s just going to take Olivo’s roster spot when he’s non-tendered and be a poor platoon partner with Matt Treanor.

    Florida’s everlasting youth movement continues. But if they were deadset on not increasing payroll as both Cabrera and Willis were arbitration eligible this offseason, then they had to take the best package they could get. And Detroit seems to have no shortage of prospects to surrender, so it made sense for Florida to give both players away in the same deal instead of trying to work out two seperate deals. The good news for the Mets is that they play the Marlins to open the 2008 season, so we should be able to climb into a quick first place lead by sweeping the series.

    The Mets were probably never players in this deal because the only guy in their system that compares to Maybin is F-Mart, and we’re holding on to this guy at all costs. I also don’t necesarily think Mets management is convinced that Willis is a better pitcher than what Pelfrey can develop into.

  2. Micalpalyn December 5, 2007 at 12:08 pm
    1 Isuzu: The ‘buzz’ is that the Marlins would not deal with Omar. It makes sense in looking at the LoDuca and Delgado deals. Gabby though still highly regarded has not cracked the bigs. Yusi could have been in that rotation now but they dealt him away. BUT AJ (Leiter for AJ Burnett in 1998)was a key member of the 2003 WS team. The Marlins have nothing to be complaining about.

    2. I agree with Peter Gammons who says they could have gotten more. Maybin is on par with Hanley. Miller I agree may/may not be better than Pelfrey.

    3. Now, i wonder if some bad blood from the last series (courtesy of LoDuca and Milledge) could be part of this new “no deal with Omar’ policy.

    4. Again: I will use this deal again to highlight the fact the Mets CAN get a frontline pitcher. But teams are asking for 3-5 players. I think if the Mets part with F-mart they could get their guy.

    5. I see AJ being mentioned now too. But Toronto has young pitching and excess in the OF too.

  3. murph December 5, 2007 at 3:10 pm
    If I were a Tigers fan, I would be very excited right now.

    As a Mets fan, I am glad to see Willis and Cabrera going to an American league team instead of a Mets rival.

    Regarding the theory on Gooden & innings pitched at an early age, Isusudad makes a good point, but post 1989, Gooden was 94-73, still very good. Doc’s drug abuse has to be factored in as contributing to his early burn-out.

    I think Willis still has plenty of good years left in him.
    I have a feeling that Willis still will end up on the Mets some day.
    Maybe in 2 years as a free agent, or perhaps now it will be down the road when he is past his prime.

  4. joe December 5, 2007 at 3:41 pm
    I have to agree — Doc’s issues were worse because of the drugs. He did however — and like D-Train — have some mechanical flaws in his delivery that put more strain on his shoulder. Innings by themselves don’t hurt a pitcher (see: Ryan, Nolan; Seaver, Tom; Koosman, Jerry; Palmer, Jim; Gibson, Bob).

    Willis will likely have a breakdown soon, but that guy is an ultra-competitor, a warrior. He will come back, eventually, and return a horse — at least, I think so.

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