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Cabrera and Willis?!

I was confident that Miguel Cabrera would be dealt at the winter meetings (to the Angels, if you happened to read my last post), and it would not have surprised me if the Marlins moved Dontrelle Willis either. However, both in the same deal...to the Tigers? Did the two sides seriously come to an deal in a matter of hours, after rumors had circled around both Cabrera and Willis for the better part of the past two years? This deal is stunning, both in its magnitude and rapid consummation. Trades just don't fall into place this quickly in baseball these days, especially ones as monstrous as this.

The Marlins were certainly interested in trading Cabrera and Willis, but they were being slow and methodical with trade talks, making sure to get the best offer they could for both. This was definitely the right approach, especially given how important it is for the Marlins to continue to reload with uber-prospects if they have any hope of competing with their limited funds. So, since they accepted this deal so quickly, they obviously were blown away by the package. Here is a brief look at all the players they acquired:
  • OF Cameron Maybin (46/84) - To say the least, Maybin is an impressive prospect. He clearly wasn't ready for the major leagues last year, but he was only 20 years old. Maybin is the kind of gifted athlete that scouts drool over, but make no mistake, his stats show that he is a darn good baseball player too. It's hard to not imagine Maybin becoming a star, though he's not going to be a star next year. Ideally he would be in AA or AAA to start the season, but I'm not sure the Marlins have the luxury to do that.
  • SP Andrew Miller (67) - Miller, like Maybin, is seen as a star in the making. A year in AAA would not hurt him, but he can hold his own in the majors now, and he will certainly be in the Marlins' 2008 rotation. I'm not quite as sold on Andrew Miller as most though. I see the potential, but he got hit a bit harder and gave up a few more walks than I expected to see out of him, even in the minors at some lower levels where he was playing guys the same age as him. He's going to be a good starter, but I'm hesitant to guarantee that he is going to be great.
  • RP Eulogio de la Cruz (58/78) - Eulogio lights up the radar gun to the tune of triple digits, which almost by default makes him an intriguing prospect. However, even with an overpowering fastball, he hasn't been real overpowering in the minor leagues. He has starting experience, but he looks to me like a serviceable reliever at best, with the added bonus that the crowd will check the radar gun after every pitch when he's in the game.
  • C Mike Rabelo (62) - Rabelo isn't even a prospect anymore at 27 years old. I know the Marlins were looking for a catcher, but Rabelo is a marginal backup at best.
  • SP Dallas Trahern (55/79) - Trahern's numbers are pedestrian, but he did post them at only 21 years old in AA. He could develop into a dependable starter a couple years down the road.
  • SP Burke Badenhop (46/84) - Like Rabelo, I don't see Badenhop as a piece that added much to this deal. Though he has shown good control and an uncanny ability to keep the ball in the ballpark, his low strikeout rate at a low level where he is a bit older than most his competition is quite worrisome.
Here is an even briefer look at who the Tigers acquired:
  • 3B Miguel Cabrera (88) - His defense and burgeoning waistline may be common areas of criticism, but his accomplishments at the plate at 24 years old compare favorably to A-Rod's. As good as Cabrera has been, he may still be four years away from entering his prime. Now he will continue to develop in a lineup loaded with offensive talent, and the things he could potentially do are flat-out scary.
  • SP Dontrelle Willis (70) - The D-Train clearly had a down year, but he is still young, and he was still a workhorse. I've though Willis is overrated for a couple years now, but with that said I think he will bounce back some this year, he is better than Andrew Miller right now, and the city of Detroit should have no problems falling in love with him.
I'm up well past my bedtime, but I am still trying to fathom this deal, and just how good the Tigers are now. Incredibly they have added Edgar Rentaria, Miguel Cabrera, and Dontrelle Willis while only losing Andrew Miller off of their 25-man roster. They were good to start with, but now they have to be considered a bona fide championship contender. As for the Marlins, they just gutted a roster already picked fairly clean. At the least they are really young, really cheap, and really talented. Though it is hard to argue with a deal that nets Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller, I'm surprised the Marlins accepted the trade so quickly. Personally, I feel that Miguel Cabrera alone might have been worth Maybin and Miller, though I probably would have settled for Maybin and a couple other good-looking prospects.

Despite all the players involved, this trade really boils down to Cabrera, Willis, Maybin, and Miller. It is up to Cameron Maybin to develop into the next Miguel Cabrera, and Andrew Miller to be the next Dontrelle Willis for this trade to be fair. Miller has a good chance to fulfill his expectations, but I think Maybin is doomed, even though I think very highly of him. The problem is that Miguel Cabrera is just that special. At Maybin's age, Cabrera hit .268 in the majors with a .793 OPS (for comparison, Maybin batted .143 with a .473 OPS), and proceeded to explode into a premium offensive player over the next two seasons. Even with as high as Maybin and Miller's ceilings are, they are both going to have to reach their full potential rather quickly to make this a fair trade. Even with prospects as great as those two, the odds are against that happening. The Marlins must see things differently, but they are really playing with fire with this trade. I don't think they understand how special Miguel Cabrera is.