Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Who Would Want Miguel Cabrera?

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.


  1. I really think you are overlooking the offensive impact that a hitter like Cabrera could have on the Giants' lineup (and team as a whole). I also think you are overstating the defensive concerns that the Giants would have of having Sandoval and Cabrera at the corners. You said it yourself, according to the limited data, Cabrera has turned himself into a decent fielding 1B. And if you ask me, Sandoval is only going to get better. Sandoval admitted to not ever having worked out in his life. He is currently enduring a rigorous offseason training regimen that is sure to slim him down and improve his range at 3B. He is a very athletic player for his body type and I believe he could stick at the hot corner long-term. A full season at one position can only improve his chances.

    I'm curious who the giants would be willing to give up for an elite bat with a huge contract...

  2. Even if Sandoval does improve, as Cabrera ages his body looks like it will just get worse. At some point, he will be best fitted at DH and just being in shape doesn't necessarily make you a good 3B - Alex Rodriguez, for example, is in excellent shape I'm sure. But he is not a good 3B in terms of range.

    I think the best option for the Giants is to sign Adrian Beltre and move Sandoval to 1B with Posey as their starting catcher. Those moves alone will greatly improve their offense, IMO.

    I just don't think Cabrera can be moved though. His contract is huge, but Detroit probably shouldn't move him unless they can get some really, really good prospects and I don't think teams will give up those prospects and take on the contract.

    Detroit is in a bad financial state, yes, but maybe they shouldn't be looking to deal one of the few players who earns his paycheck? When all of those terrible contracts come off the books (Robertson, Ordonez, Bonderman, Willis) they won't be in nearly as bad a situation and they'll be able to afford one of their franchise players in Cabrera.

  3. Man, so few people out there that can realistaclly hold their own batting behind Pujols, and Cabrera is one of them.

    The problem being that he is not (Nobody is) better than Albert Pujols, and unless he can play third or even left field with decent defense, he has no spot on this team, and that's not even considering the cost, which the Cardinals really only have Rasmus or Ludwick to deal with.

    But man, I can still dream :)

  4. R y a n, I think you're right about Detroit...they will want to much in return for Cabrera, therefore rendering him virtually untradeable. I can't see the Giants starting a deal with, say, Bumgarner for the right to pay someone, albeit a great hitter, $21M/year.

    As for Sandoval, I think his defense is an unknown variable right now. He has gotten better at everything so quickly in his career that it makes me assume his defense will have a similarly steep learning curve. A full year to focus on one position and being in better shape could do wonders for him. Who knows, that could be just old-fashioned homer optimism, though...

    Also, the guy just has the best nickname in the business.

  5. Maybe I phrased that poorly - I don't think Sandoval, if he gets in shape, can't become a plus defender. I was simply saying that if he gets into shape, it certainly is not a guarantee that he becomes a good defender, because it relies on so many things, along with fitness.

  6. I think the White sox would be a very interesting team to look at. They could probably put together a package centered around Danks and Flowers, maybe throw in Konerko if the Tigers want him, but I agree that it would never happen.

    Besides, this is just a rumor gone wild, and will never happen.

  7. Yeah, I realistically expect Cabrera to end up back in Detroit next season. A deal would be too complex and devastating to Detroit in the short-term, even if the long-term benefits could potentially change the direction of the franchise.

    As for the Giants, I just don't see how they can realistically give up elite young talent and $126 million in payroll through 2015 in order to have Sandoval at third and Cabrera at first for the next five years. The offensive potential would be massive but the Giants' farm system would take a major hit and defensive issues would practically be a guarantee. Sandoval certainly could develop into a solid defender at third, but given his body type he's essentially a lock to end up at first base in a few years, and Cabrera similarly could end up needing to DH as he gets older. I just can't imagine that the Giants would be better off giving up those kinds of resources for a hitter that would almost immediately create a defensive liability in their infield.

    As for the White Sox, I just can't see it happening. The Sox would likely have to dump the best pieces in their system (Danks, Flowers, Hudson, etc) and they already have numerous potential 1B/DH options in their organization with Konerko, Flowers, Quentin and Viciedo. I think that Chicago is more likely to focus on adding another outfielder, and they'll probably figure out the bullpen (i.e. Bobby Jenks) situation before even talking to Detroit about Cabrera.

  8. Honestly, Detroit, considering how much their market has changed over the last year or so, are in a unique situation, and moving Cabrera (and EJax) would be the smartest move for them. And, I don't think it would take them out of the equation for that long.

    1- Unless the Mets are trying to raise payroll to Yankee-type levels, I don't see how the team could get Cabrera,gut its farm system, and still contend soon. If the team is adding another expensive superstar, it HAS to get some production out of certain spots at league minimum.

    2- I also can't see Cabrera going within the division. He's under contract for way too many years, and theoretically, if Dombrowski got decent return and played his hand well, he could very easily end up back in the playoffs before Cabrera was off the Sox.

    I could also see the Angels going after Cabrera. Arte Moreno spending on a young player. I'd think Morales would be moved to the outfield. I'd think a package starting with Wood, Conger, and Reckling would have to appeal, with more pieces added if necessary.

    But then, I think any team who trades for MCab will ultimately be fleeced, due to what Dombrowski HAS to get to avoid the PR shitstorm