The Tigers may have gotten a great combination of players but they certainly didn’t get them for cheap. Back in June, I put together a list of the 40 best prospects in the Tigers minor league system. In this trade alone, the Tigers gave up the #1, #2, #3, and #5 prospects along with Burke Badenhop (#24 and rising fast) and Mike Rabelo who would’ve made the list but started the season in Detroit because of Vance Wilson’s injury. Combine that with the Edgar Renteria trade and the Tigers have traded their top five prospects and six of the top seven prospects in the last month alone. It’s extraordinary to think that Dave Dombrowski spent four years re-tooling the Tigers moribund farm system and--in just one month--all of that hard work and patience got cashed in in two moves. This is exactly how the Yankees and Red Sox have been doing business for years. It’s great to be on the ecstatic side of one of these deals for once. To look at things incredibly bluntly and simplistically, the minors are for cheapskates and losers. The Tigers are neither anymore.
There are a number of fascinating elements to this trade. For starters, the arrival of Cabrera mercifully spells the end of Brandon Inge’s bat from the third base position. Third base is generally a position that is expected to contribute respectable offensive numbers and Inge wasn’t doing that. However, with Pudge possibly on his way out after this season, Inge could again become a factor at catcher. This is just speculation on my part but the Tigers could do a lot worse than having Inge’s bat coming from the catcher-position. In the intermediate, Inge could be a valuable utility guy in the infield. Look for him to not only spell Cabrera at third base but possibly get in at shortstop and second base as well if he stays which gets more and more unlikely by the day. Seeing Inge at 2B would certainly take some time to get used to from a visual perspective.
Something else to think about is the impressive bat of Dontrelle Willis. In 2007, he hit .286 with an impressive OPS+ of 121. Just to compare, that was better than Pudge, Sean Casey, Brandon Inge, Craig Monroe, and Marcus Thames; none had an OPS+ greater than 100. Before I get too carried away, it’s important to note that ’07 was by far Willis’ best season with the bat. The rest of his career has been decent for a pitcher but certainly less than spectacular for an everyday hitter. However, if Willis’ performance in ’07 is a sign that his hitting skills are on the rise, his arrival to the American League adds some versatility to the Tigers lineup. All the more interesting is the fact that Willis bats left-handed which is something the Tigers are short on. It’ll be interesting to see if the Tigers plan on using him at all as a pinch-hitter or in any hitting capacity.
Incredibly, the Tigers now have six players in the lineup who were All-Stars in 2007. Throw in Gary Sheffield and Curtis Granderson—who were two of the biggest snubs in All-Star history—and the Tigers trot out eight All-Star caliber hitters on any given night. As if that isn’t impressive enough, the addition of Jacque Jones now allows the Tigers to platoon him with Marcus Thames in the ninth spot to create a virtual All-Star-caliber hitter. Marcus Thames hit .310 against lefties with a 128 OPS+--or a .927 OPS—in 2007 and Jacque Jones’ career OPS+ is 110—or an .825 OPS—against righties. This offense—if it can stay healthy—should be as good as any offense in our lifetime. Much of the expected offensive fireworks hinges on Gary Sheffield’s health. However, the addition of Cabrera will give the Tigers a powerful lineup regardless. Bill from the Detroit Tigers Weblog ran a simulation and discovered that this offense should generate around 5.8 runs per game. If everyone stays healthy--and most importantly if Sheff's shoulder is fully recovered--I think there's a pretty good chance it could be even more than that.
This is literally a once-in-a-lifetime deal. The Tigers may have issues with the bullpen but no team in MLB has a better lineup and few can touch the depth of the rotation. Dave Dombrowski is the best GM in baseball just ahead of
The addition of Cabrera and Willis brings the total number of Latinos in the starting lineup to six. So, —just as a bit of advice—the next time you visit South America you may want to wear an Old English D cap. It may just be a “get out of kidnapping free” card.