Megatrade: Tigers Nab Willis, Cabrera

None of the four guys heading for Florida who are not named Maybin or Miller is going to be a star. In fact, the most upbeat adjective we heard about any of them from scouts we surveyed was "solid." But here's the good news:

If Maybin and Miller don't turn into stars, something is wrong.

"I've seen Miller since he was in high school," said one baseball executive who has scouted both players extensively. "And I think he'll be a dominant left-handed pitcher. And I love Maybin. He's the kind of athlete you just don't see very often in our game. So I think Florida got two outstanding players."

But they're also two outstanding players who are a long ways from making a monstrous impact. So who knows what names they'll find playing around them once they make their first All-Star team?

In Detroit, on the other hand, they'll pretty much be fielding an entire All-Star team next season. Think about this lineup.

The Tigers will have some combination of Curtis Granderson, Placido Polanco and Edgar Renteria to rev up the engines.

They'll have Cabrera, Gary Sheffield, Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen to take charge of the run-production assembly line.

And their No. 8 (or possibly 9) hitter, Pudge Rodriguez, will be making $13 million.

"What's the difference between them and the Yankees?" mused White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. "You've got to worry about how you pitch every one of them, 1 to 9. And they just added a Hall of Famer."

That would be Cabrera, a fellow who has already made four All-Star teams and driven in 523 runs, even though he's still younger (24) than a lot of teams' prospects. As a matter of fact, he's younger than one of the prospects he was traded for: pitcher Burke Badenhop.

So this will be one tough, relentless lineup, packed with smart, experienced hitters who don't do much swinging and missing. The Tigers nearly scored 900 runs this season, with Sheffield hurting, with Rodriguez walking only nine times all year and with very little production out of left field.

Now they've added Cabrera and a shortstop who almost won the NL batting title (Renteria). So this might very well be the best lineup in baseball next season, bar none.

What's a little more uncertain is what to make of the effervescent Willis, who is coming off a semi-disastrous season (10-15, 5.17 ERA) that happened while pitching in the offensively challenged National League, in one of the best pitchers' parks in baseball.

"I think he was hurt, but now I think he's better," Guillen said. "When we played them, I thought there was something wrong with him. He was throwing like 85-84 [mph]. He got it back later, and he was fine. But when we faced him, he was frigging Jamie Moyer without the changeup."

An executive of one team that pursued Willis before the trading deadline said his club checked his medical reports and found nothing worrisome. So he predicted a bounce-back season.

"I know a lot of people are down on him, but I actually liked him," he said. "I think he's a guy who could turn his career around on a team like that. He wasn't the same guy. It wasn't the same stuff. But he still competed like crazy. I look at him as a guy who still has it in him.

"The big thing is, he had to be a different guy with the Marlins than he'll have to be with the Tigers. With some of that pressure off, I think he'll be better for it. And I think he's a guy who can really connect in that community."

That, however, is probably a claim no one can make about the Marlins. Any of them. On Tuesday, they found themselves merging into the same lane as the Tigers on the winter meetings highway.

But one memorable winter meetings blockbuster later, one team is roaring off north and the other is heading south -- in more ways than one.

Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His new book, "The Stark Truth: The Most Overrated and Underrated Players in Baseball History," has been published by Triumph Books and now is available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...