Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Motown Becomes Miggytown

As the huge news that Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis are heading to the AL Central to join the Detroit Tigers, let me just say that the joke a few days ago that Dave Dombrowski and Jim Leyland were attempting to rebuild the Marlins was only that – a joke.

With all of the talk of Cabrera going to Anaheim, the Tigers pounced on an opportunity out of nowhere, adding a ridiculously productive hitter by parting with their two top prospects in OF Cameron Maybin and SP Andrew Miller, to go with 4 other prospects. The move makes a clear announcement that the Tigers are making their move right now in the AL Central, with the future perhaps an afterthought. It’s an acknowledgement that their team is getting old and they need to make a push for a World Series trophy before age and injuries catch up to the likes of Gary Sheffield and Kenny Rogers.

The inclusion of Willis is ancillary, regardless of how the casual fan will see the name and think that the Tigers rotation just added an important top-of-the-rotation starter, because Willis is simply has not been one for a solid two years now. Since bursting on the scene in 2005 (22-10, 2.63 ERA), he has regressed to the point that his WHIP in 2007 (1.60) was third worst among qualified MLB starters, behind the likes of Baltimore’s Daniel Cabrera and Chicago’s Jose Contreras. At this point, Willis projects as a 4th or maybe even 5th starter with the hope in Detroit that he can recapture the success of his superb 2005 season, something that becomes less likely when you consider that he’s making the jump from the NL to the AL, which boast better, deeper lineups and won’t give him the luxury of facing 8 hitters in a lineup as he has throughout his career.

If Willis makes the career recovery, this trade is great for the Tigers as Willis is still only 25 years old and (best case scenario for Detroit) makes the loss of stud prospect Miller a little easier to take; but Willis’ mechanics and his confidence need a major makeover for him to find consistent success in the American League.

But, as I said, Willis is ancillary to this deal – the “Big Fish” is Cabrera, a ridiculously talented hitter who has posted OPS of .946 in 2005, .998 in 2006, and .965 in 2007 while averaging 31 HR, 44 2B, and 116 RBI in those three years – all without much protection from the rest of the Florida lineup. The addition of Cabrera to any MLB team immediately bolsters a lineup, but consider what the Tigers are looking to trot out to the dish every night, with their OPS and rankings for their position (how they stack up against other players playing their postions) against the rest of MLB for 2007:
Pudge - .714 OPS (8th in MLB)
Guillen - .859 OPS (would be 9th among 1B)
Polanco - .846 OPS (3rd in MLB)
Renteria - .860 OPS (3rd in MLB)
Cabrera - .965 OPS (3rd in MLB)
Granderson - .913 OPS (1st in MLB)
Ordonez – 1.029 OPS (1st in MLB)
Sheffield - .839 (5th in MLB)

Though one could argue that Pudge may be on the downslope of his career or that some of these players may be getting older, Left Field (not included above as it figure to be manned by Marcus Thames and Jacque Jones) is the only obvious position that could even be considered a weakness for the Tigers. The addition of Cabrera just made this offense (3rd in MLB in runs scored in 2007) incredibly potent. Consider that Renteria and Jones will augment the offense as well – replacing Sean Casey, Craig Monroe, and Cabrera taking the spot of Brandon Inge – and the Tigers’ offense has become downright scary in a short time, regardless of some expected regressions in 2008 from a few of the main cogs of the lineup.

While Detroit may have given up quite a bit in terms of young talent, it’s important to remember that Cabrera is not Jim Thome v.2005 or Gary Sheffield v.2006, an aging slugger looking to help out a lineup. He is the real deal, the anchor of a lineup, and a player who now resides in the AL Central. Sure, the Tigers still have question marks in their bullpen to sort out (Denny Bautista considered) and Willis is far from a sure thing in the Detroit rotation, but the addition of Cabrera gives them some heavy lumber to swing around in the AL Central.

From the Indians’ perspective, the reactionary response would be that the Tribe needs to counter this move with something to bolster their lineup to “keep up with the Joneses”; but it’s important not to get too tied up in matching moves with a rival (ask the Yankees how their Japanese import to match Dice-K, Kei Igawa, worked out in their AAA rotation) simply to make a move to match a divisional rival. The Indians need to remember that quality pitching still beats quality hitting and the idea that the Tigers just secured the AL Central title is entirely premature, but the team closest to the Indians in their division just improved their team in the short-term, closing an eye to the long-term for sure, but have made a huge improvement nonetheless.

21 comments:

t-bone said...

Scattered thoughts after going to a Lebron-less Cavs debacle and coming home to this...

My immediate reaction is Detroit obviously just got a LOT better.

Don't think we need any knee-jerk reaction, nor do I think as a "small market" team can we deal away the future.

However, I am worried we're depending on a lot of "ifs" this year (Hafner's bat returning, Dellucci doing something, Marte coming around, pitching being as good as last year, I'll stop here...), and that lineup in MoTown is sick.

I dont like what happened tonight down in Nashville, but I'm going to sleep on it and see if I feel any better about it in the morning.

woodsmeister said...
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woodsmeister said...
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rodells said...

Great trade both ways, imo.

Here are some things I'll add:

#1 - Don't be so sure Cabrera will be full time at 3B. There is strong speculation that he could see time in LF while Inge goes into super util mode.

#2 - The mention of Pudge getting older is obvious. There is also word from Tigerland that Inge could take over in '09 behind the plate, hence the super util note above. He'll spell Pudge this year then take over next year. Most think he'd be more than capable to move back behind the plate, he has the arm.

I also agree that the Willis name just being in the trade is generating alot of the applause for the Tigers nationally. Smart money knows this is not a sure thing. I still lean towards him "righting" some of the things that were wrong and helping out the Tigers.

We've moved back into the underdog role again within the Central, and that is fine by me, although most say Indians/Tigers/Red Sox/Yankees are far above anyone else in baseball. At least one of those teams will not see the postseason. This might end up being the year we need to break the Yankees streak and win the wild card.

rodells said...
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rodells said...

Also, regarding the Tigers long term future...

If Cabrera and Willis go thru arbitration years and then sign elsehwere...the Tigers will get 4 first round draft picks as compensation. Is this not true?

So essentially they traded 2 #1's to Fla, for players to win now, and potentially 4 #1's in a few years.

And they stole Porcello last year.

dave said...

I sure hope shapiro has something brewing it seems we could have become involved with either trade and not mortgaged the farm

Pat Tabler said...

To say that the Tigers didn't mortgage the farm in the deal is false.

To put the trade in perspective using Tribe prospects, they gave up what would be the equivalent of:
Andrew Miller = Adam Miller (#1 pitching prospect)

Cameron Maybin = Franklin Gutierrez (if he was 21 and not 24 and had a MUCH BIGGER upside - Eric Davis the player Maybin has been compared to)

Eulogio de La Cruz = a high-cieling reliever that could contribute in 2008 like Reid Santos (or even a Jensen Lewis)

Dallas Trahern = an upper-level starter like Scott Lewis (or even Aaron Laffey if you think that highly of Trahern, who pitched very well in AA last year

Burke Badenhop = a good mid-to-low-level starter like David Huff (realizing that Huff was a 1st Round Pick, Badenhop was Detroit's 2006 Minor League Pitcher of the Year)

Obviously the RHP/LHP difference comes into play, but the price that Detroit payed was awfully high to make a push in 2008 and 2009, while both players are merely arbitration-eligible. Even if the Miggy and The Train sign long-term deals, the top-level cupboard is essentially bare for the Tigers when you consider that they also dealt Jair Juerrjens to the Braves for Renteria. In the Florida deal, 4 of the 6 players they gave up were in their Top 10 Prospects list after the year.

When you consider that the Indians relied very heavily on their prospects maturing and contributing in 2007 and the Tigers better hope for a healthy, productive team in 2008 - because their depth is gone.

There's NO question that the Tigers, if healthy, are a major player in the AL in 2008. But giving up Miller, Maybin, de la Cruz, Trahern, and Badenhop is a high price to pay for immediate gratification.

It's true that their ownership has shown a willingness to spend to fill some holes, but the league is littered with teams that mortgaged their future for "one run", then tried to play catch-up on the FA market.

Cy Slapnicka said...

and honestly, from a fan's perspective....i'd hate to be a tiger's fan in a few years when they are old and the cupboards are bare. i've had so much fun watching our current group of youngsters come along, even though we've only got one playoff drive to show for it. honestly, this past season was more fun to follow than any of the 90's teams. and its not b/c i forgot how fun those teams were.

in other news, the dodgers have officially lost touch with what i like to call "reality" and made andruw jones the 5th highest paid MLB player at $18mil per for 2 years.

Tyler said...

If I'm a Tigers fan, I'm STILL teed off over Jurrgens. That guy had Indian-killer written all over him.

We've pretty much seen how the division's gonna play out for the next two seasons. Steady improvement from the Royals, atrocities against the sport from the White Sox, rebuilding for an open-air stadium from the Twins . . .

And then the Tigers trying to out-leverage the Indians' all-over talent on the upswing with star power. The Indians' lineup is good, but I'd like for it to be scarier. We all know what (read: who) could change that.

Tyler said...

Cy, it's funny you mention the Grover clubs. Don't the Tigers seem very 1999 Indians to you?

Pat Tabler said...

Tyler,
Who is in your crosshairs?

I'm trying to think (best-case scenario) if the Indians could add one piece who it would be.

I keep coming back with Matt Kemp.

Cy Slapnicka said...

i heard something today that willis cannot pitch in cold weather, anyone know of any data to back that up? i'm too lazy to use google.

i'm just glad i'm not a white sox fan. i have co-workers that are beside themself.

Cy Slapnicka said...

PC, i keep coming back to Pronk v2006. If people do what we know they can....pronk returns to form, victor continues his tear, garko-my-god-did-you-see-how-far-he-hit-that gets more playing time, a-cab, jhonny, grady, the tank.....thats not too bad of a lineup either.

Pat Tabler said...

Cy Cy...agreed.
I don't think we're looking for one main piece, I think we're looking for another complimentary piece to augment the excellent lineup that we already have.

Doesn't have to be a great one, just better than Dellichaels.

peter said...

The Tigers are better than the 99 Indians, they have stronger pitching. Verlander, Bonderman, Rodgers, Willis--this is a very solid rotation. Pen a bit more suspect, but still decent.

I think the point on depth from prospects is very good and very important. All teams have some adversity, some injury, someone who has a down year. The question is can the team overcome it through trade, another player stepping up, or a prospect coming up to produce. Last year, Shapiro leveraged his prospect depth to plug holes and ramp up the team for a run. Trade that depth, and you trade the interal ability to deal with the adversity that comes this year.

Still, I'd love to see them pick up a bat for LF.

Just to toss it out there--Washington now has 4 or 5 OF's plus a utility IF. How about Kearns and Lopez for some random young, cheap arms? Would Kearns be any better than what they have now?

rodells said...

I think the Tigers, assuming Cabrera remains equal or better to what he is today, will make a big push to resign him. Willis was probably more of a throw in to the deal, maybe getting the Marlins an extra prospect. No way I see the Tigers signing him long term, they'd rather take the 2 1st rounders to restock.

Of course the Tigers gave up alot, that's why it's a great deal for the Marlins also.

But let's look at what's left in the Tigers system:

Pitchers:
Porcello
Crosby
Furbush
Vasquez
Tata

Postion players:
SS Worth
SS Iorg
2B Sizemore
SS Hollimon
1B Larish

They have MI depth when Renteria/Polanco run their course. Larish has probably been in the eyes of many teams looking to deal with the Tigers. I could see Guillen 1b/3b, Cabrera 3b/lf, and Larish getting some time at 1b in the future.

Pitching wise the Tigers were very deep and Porcello is at top 10 pitching prospect no question, maybe overall. Crosby and Furbush, from all accounts I see, have just as much upside as some of the guys traded.

Tigers gave up alot, but still have some guns in the system, and potentially extra picks on the way.

Cy Slapnicka said...

i just want to remind everyone that the main cogs of this team led the 2006 indians to the 2nd best offense in all of baseball. and that was with benuardo at 1b, aaron f-ing boone at 3B, and jelly-belly at 2b for much of the season. and as we saw, we finished under .500 with a poor bullpen. so by no means am i crowning detroit due to a good lineup.

and since we know good pitching beats good hitting, i like our chances. one of detroit's projected starters is 43 and spent a good portion of last year on the DL. Another hasn't pitched well for 2 years.

Pat Tabler said...

Peter,
I've long thought that the Nats and Tribe matched up well trade-wise with Kearns and Rauch and too many IF. Allegedly, Jim Bowden asks for quite a bit for his players. Sometimes he gets them (Lastings Milledge), most of the time he doesn't. To answer your question though - no, I don't think that Kearns is TOO big of an upgrade and probably not worth what Bowden is looking for.

Rodells,
Aren't most of those guys further down the pipe for Detroit? I know that Porcello is a GREAT prospect, but wasn't he just drafted?

I guess that I see that 5 of their top 10 prospects have been moved and equate that to the guys that are basically contributing now in Cleveland (Cabrera, Laffey, Lewis, hopefully Marte). Like Tyler, I think the Juerrjens one will come back to haunt them.

Tyler said...

I didn't mean to be so cryptic, Paul. I'm talkin' Hafner (Indians' Hafner) / I'm talkin' Pronk. If Haf even sniffs his 2006 SLG, I think the Miguera situation gets easier to take.

I dig Kemp, but not what we'd have to pay for him. Thing is, I'm high on Gutierrez. Frankly (rimshot), I think Guti staying healthy and realizing his potential is as likely as somebody else's prospect panning out for us, and he's as good as anybody defensively.

The people who could change things for the Indians this year are Adam Miller, Aaron Laffey, and Jeremy Sowers. If at least two of that trio's firing on all cylinders, not only do we have probably the deepest rotation in the game, but also we get into a position where flipping some arms, both ML and MiL, becomes feasible. But I can't see Shapiro risking his rotation until that security falls into place.

Side note: In retrospect, I'm glad we didn't trade Fausto for Manny.

t-bone said...

barf.

http://colorado.rockies.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20071207&content_id=2320861&vkey=news_col&fext=.jsp&c_id=col

12/07/2007 8:28 PM ET
Rockies agree to trade Carroll to Tribe
Rox get player to be named, free up money for free agent
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com


DENVER -- The Rockies agreed Friday to a trade that sends infielder Jamey Carroll to the Indians for a player to be named later. The deal is expected to be announced Saturday.