Cabrera, Willis heading to Detroit in major trade
Wanted: Baseball player for Rick Porcello to play catch with. No experience necessary.
OK, no I didn't. But after Tuesday afternoon's blockbuster, except for this year's first-rounder Porcello, the Tigers' farm system is emptier than the stands at a midweek Marlins-Reds game. Check out this haul: Florida got prized center fielder Cameron Maybin, should've-been-top-pick lefty starter Andrew Miller, middle-of-the-rotation prospect Dallas Trahern, possible future closer Eulogio De La Cruz, major league backup catcher Mike Rabelo and another starting prospect, Burke Badenhop.
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Not that it's not a fair deal. It is. It's just a patented Marlins-are-playing-for-2010 arrangement that swings the balance of power in the big leagues even further in the American League's direction. The first two guys Florida got are likely to be big-leaguers in 2008 (more on that in a moment), while Trahern (a sinker specialist) and De La Cruz (a flamethrower who touches 100) were the best pitchers left in the Tigers organization other than Porcello. Given how quickly Humberto Sanchez, Jair Jurrjens and Kevin Whelan have disappeared from the Detroit system in the past calendar year, here's hoping Porcello is renting, not buying.
Anyway, this blockbuster has numerous fantasy-relevant tendrils; let's try and tackle a few:
Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Tigers: Much has been made about Cabrera's offseason regimen and the effect it's had on his third-trimester belly, but at age 24 (he turns 25 in April), the kid has proven he can hit while fat anyway. Presumably getting away from South Beach will be good for the partying Cabrera, as will the focus brought by once-and-future teammate Ivan Rodriguez. Playing in Comerica might drop Cabrera's doubles a bit (compared with Dolphin Stadium), but should actually give his homer totals (already 33, 26 and 34 the past three seasons) a slight boost. More positive, of course, is that he'll be surrounded by hitters like Pudge, Magglio Ordonez, Curtis Granderson, Carlos Guillen, Edgar Renteria and Gary Sheffield. The Tigers' offense is even more formidable now, and you have to believe in that lineup, Cabrera is maybe even a stitch more valuable, despite the preponderance of pitching aces in the AL. We should also note that Brandon Inge, who's been a serviceable third baseman in Detroit for a couple years, will almost certainly be sent someplace else. Whether it's as a starter remains to be seen.
Dontrelle Willis, SP, Tigers: Willis was awful last year (10 wins, 5.17 ERA, 1.60 WHIP), and was included here because Florida wanted rid of his last two years of arbitration, which are likely to eclipse $7 million per. In terms of park factor, the swap from Florida to Detroit is roughly negligible for Willis' value, but if he had a plus-five ERA in the NL, imagine what the American League will do to him. Now, Willis is an emotional guy, and it's possible playing for a winner again will help him find the stuff that made him a 22-game winner in 2005. But he'll present an enormous risk on draft day, and I'd probably have to stay away. The Detroit rotation shapes up as Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman, Kenny Rogers, Willis and probably Nate Robertson.
Andrew Miller, SP, Marlins: Miller probably came to the bigs too fast, but the Tigers couldn't help it. He's a lefty with a high-90s fastball, the potential for a fantastic slider, and a nasty cutter, and he's a horse who's posted a 2.60 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP in his abbreviated minor league career since being taken in the '06 draft. Unfortunately, he scuffled over two seasons in Detroit: 4.56 ERA, 1.75 WHIP and 49 walks in 74 1/3 big-league innings. But he's still just 22, and unless he absolutely spits the bit in spring training, will make the Marlins' rotation. Scott Olsen figures to be in the mix, Sergio Mitre had a decent '07, Josh Johnson is out for the year with Tommy John surgery ... there's just very little reason to think Miller won't see his first full season in the bigs. The move to the NL, the slightly more pitcher-friendly park and all those innings he'll get to work out the kinks make Miller a fantasy name to know in NL-only and deeper mixed leagues for '08. His WHIP may hurt you, but high strikeouts are coming.
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Cameron Maybin, CF, Marlins: Maybin's Detroit cameo this fall (.143 AVG, .473 OPS in 49 at-bats) indicates he's probably not ready for prime time, but Florida's gaping hole in center gives this 20 year-old (he turns 21 in April) a legitimate shot to make the team with a good spring. In 192 minor league games, Maybin hit .309 with an .884 OPS, and he's 6-foot-4 and fast. The Marlins have all but raised the white flag before the new year, so why not let Maybin suffer his growing pains in the majors? My prediction is that it'll happen, and the kid will reward fantasy owners with steals (he had 25 at high Class A last season and five during his September callup), flashes of power and a whole lot of strikeouts. He might be a bit overvalued in redraft leagues because he's got that bonus-baby name, but in keeper leagues, with a Granderson-free path to the majors suddenly thrust upon him, he's got to be considered one of the highest-upside fantasy forces of the next few years.
Christopher Harris is a fantasy baseball, football and racing analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
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