While it's been made clear that the Tigers are trying to shed payroll this offseason in some way, there had been little discussion about the possibility of the Tigers dealing superstar first baseman Miguel Cabrera until this morning, when Lynn Henning of The Detroit News discussed the topic after comments made by Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski.
Moving Cabrera, 27 next April, could make sense for the Tigers if they don't believe that they're World Series contenders next season, given that Cabrera is due $126M through 2015 and is relatively limited by the fact that he's relegated to first base or designated hitter and there are some small character issues. But on the flip side, few hitters have accomplished more before turning 27 than Cabrera.
Cabrera has a career .311/.383/.542 line and a .389 wOBA in seven seasons with the Tigers and Florida Marlins, getting time at third base and left field before settling in at first base in 2008. He's had at least 65 extra-base hits in each season, four seasons with a BA above .320 and an OBP above .385, and four seasons with a wOBA over .399, with an ISO above .219 in every season. He's an elite hitter showing no signs of slowing down, he's played in 157+ games in every season since becoming an everyday player at the age of 21, and he even posted a solid, above-average 3.1 UZR as Detroit's everyday first baseman in 2009, although the sample size was small. To put it simply, Cabrera is one of the very best hitters, and players, in the game.
But still, you can essentially limit trade partners to big-market teams with a hole at first base or designated hitter, and that cuts out a major part of the market.
The Yankees likely can't fit Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez AND Miguel Cabrera on their payroll, given that A-Rod could very well end up at DH within a few years, and you're not putting Teixeira or Cabrera in a different spot on the field. The Cubs have Derrek Lee for 2010 and very limited payroll flexibility, they're more likely to pursue Curtis Granderson in trade talks with Detroit. The Angels could be a landing spot, but they also are already set at first base long-term with Kendry Morales. The Phillies have Ryan Howard, the Astros have Lance Berkman, and the Rangers have Justin Smoak, which pretty much knocks them all out of the running.
That leaves you with the Dodgers, White Sox, Red Sox, Giants, Mariners, Braves and Mets as the only realistic trade partners for Detroit.
The Braves, Dodgers, Giants and White Sox aren't particularly likely to pursue Cabrera, either. Atlanta probably doesn't have the money, for the White Sox, neither team probably don't want to trade that kind of talent within the division, the Giants probably don't want to have Cabrera and Sandoval around long-term due the defensive issues it would create, and the Dodgers are more likely to pursue help for the starting rotation than focus on Cabrera.
So realistically, it would be between the Mariners, Red Sox and Mets.
The Mariners could presumably start a package with Carlos Triunfel, Phillippe Aumont, J.P. Ramirez and one of the outfielders (Halman, Saunders, Raben). Basically, anyone but Dustin Ackley. But one major concern with the Mariners adding Cabrera is the impact that it could have on their efforts to retain Felix Hernandez, presumably the player that they would much rather have.
The Mets would likely have to start a package with Ike Davis, Fernando Martinez and Brad Holt, I'm not sure if the Tigers could ask for both Wilmer Flores and Jennry Meija if they expect the Mets to take on the entire contract. I think that the Mets could be a fit if they can afford the money.
The Red Sox are the other good fit, they have the hole at DH long-term and the need for an impact bat, can easily afford Cabrera's contract, and have talent that would definitely interest Detroit. A package could presumably start with Clay Buchholz, but even if Boston didn't want to surrender him in an effort to win-now, they could likely get Detroit's attention with a package based around Casey Kelly and/or Ryan Westmoreland, with other prospects like Michael Bowden, Josh Reddick, Ryan Kalish, Michael Almanzar, Yamaico Navarro, Oscar Tejeda, Anthony Rizzo, Lars Anderson, and Derrik Gibson.
Realistically, I think that Cabrera either lands in New York or Boston (shocker), and trading him probably wouldn't be the worst idea for Detroit if they can get an impressive package. While he's a great player, he's expensive, and the Tigers could build a dominant team around Justin Verlander (who needs to be paid after 2011, when he's due to hit free agency) when all of the bad contracts finish after 2010 and 2011.