The Miguel Cabrera/Dontrelle Willis Trade Revisited

On December 5th, 2007, the Florida Marlins traded
star 3B Miguel Cabrera, and star LHP Dontrelle Willis to the Detroit Tigers, in
return they received six minor leaguers, LHP Andrew Miller, RHP Dallas Trahern,
RHP Eulogio de la Cruz, RHP Burke Badenhop, CF Camron Maybin, and C Mike
Rabelo.

 

The Tigers were immediately christened as the WS favorites
heading into 2008.  They were
receiving a top slugger, who was just 25, and had averaged 31 HR, 40 2B, 102 R,
115 RBI, and a .947 OPS over the previous four seasons.  His defense left something to be
desired, but they solved that by moving him to first base.  In 2008, despite a dissapointing season
for the Tigers, Cabrera set career highs in homeruns (37), and RBI’s
(127).  The only dark spot was his
career low .349 OBP, it’s back up to .407 in 2009.  Cabrera is in the midst of another stellar season for
Detroit.

 

Dontrelle Willis, was seemingly already losing it when he
was traded.  In his five seasons
with the Marlins, he had had a good rookie season, and one ace type year.   His low strikeout rate, coupled with an average walk
rate had never been encouraging, and his ERA was a bit on the high side for an
ace.  He was a workhorse, but he
had been lucky on his BABIP’s. 
Still, I don’t think anyone could have predicted how great a meltdown he
had.  In 2008, Willis made 7 starts
for Detroit, pitching just 24 innings, he also had a 9.38 ERA, due to his walk
rate going off the charts, from 3.8 to 13.1.  Willis was eventuallly demoted to Class A Lakeland, and
placed on the DL with  an anxiety
disorder.  In 2009, Willis halved
his 2008 BB rate, but it’s clear, he can no longer pitch.  Unfortunatley for Detroit, they’re
stuck with a contract that will pay him $10 million this year, and $12 million
in 2010.

 

First off for the Marlins, its important to remember that
this was another salary dump, that said, one to the prospects.  Andrew Miller has struggled in the
majors as a starter, when he was acquired, he was a 22-year-old phenom, who had
recorded a sub-3.00 ERA combined at Classes A+, AA, and AAA.  He performed well at AA for the Fish in
’08, but fared poorly in ’09, falling all the way to Rookie ball, then settling
in as a  24-year-old at Double-A,
not good.  Dallas Trahern was in
the same boat as Miller, just a year younger, but because of his low strikeout
rate, and a rising walk rate, he hasn’t played in the majors, and seems to be
walking backwards.  Eulogio de la
Cruz is currently playing for the San Diego Padres, he had a solid fourth
starter year at Triple-A for the Marlins, and was traded to San Diego for a
PTBNL.  Burke Badenhop has been
used as the Marlins long relief man this year, he’s been good enough, but it
seems to be his ceiling.  Cameron
Maybin, the main prospect in the trade is putting up another good season in
Triple-AAA, however, his homerun power, and speed on the basepaths seem to have
dissapeared, and to compound matters, hasn’t hit in the majors.  Mike Rabelo, is a catcher. He can field
well, but can’t hit a lick.

 

It’s hard to determine a winner for this trade, despite
their shortcomings, the prospects he Marlins received could still figure it
out.  Florida wouldn’t have been
able to extend Cabrera or Willis, or re-sign them when they hit free agency.  Detroit has received great production
from Miggy, but are stuck with the D-Train and his contract.

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