The Detroit Tigers are coming off of a heart-breaking finish to their 2009 season. After squandering away the division lead to the Minnesota Twins, they lost a one-game playoff to them and missed the playoffs entirely.
The Tigers now seem focused on shredding payroll heading into the 2010 season. Edwin Jackson and Curtis Granderson have both been mentioned as possibly being on the move to lower a payroll that already sits at well over $100 million between just 10 players.
Ken Rosenthal speculates in a recent column that if the Tigers are willing to dangle Jackson and Granderson, they should look at moving Miguel Cabrera as an alternative. Cabrera, the highest-paid Tiger, still has six years and $126 million remaining on his current deal.
Rosenthal suggests that if the Red Sox were willing to offer Mark Teixeira an eight-year, $170 million contract last year, they should be able to take on Cabrera's deal with ease. He even offers up a proposed trade between the two teams: Jonathan Papelbon, Mike Lowell, and a top prospect, possibly Lars Anderson for Cabrera.
The Tigers' offense would take a severe loss with Cabrera's trade, but they could still trade one of their young pitchers to bring offense back to the team.
Detroit could still choose to go with what has been reported and trade Jackson, Granderson, or both. The team will save almost $60 million off their payroll after the 2010 season when Magglio Ordonez, Brandon Inge, Jeremy Bonderman, Nate Robertson, and Dontrelle Willis all become free agents. Given that flexibility, they may choose to keep Cabrera as the focal point of the offense.
Cabrera became a distraction at the end of the season after showing up at his home drunk and getting into a fight with his wife. The incident happened on the final weekend and cuts were visible on his face for the final few games of the year.
Tigers' GM Dave Dombrowski commented about the incident after the season, giving no indication that the organization lost faith in Cabrera.
"I feel confident that he is going to address the issues he needs to address to take care of the problems he has."
Cabrera will just be entering his prime when the 2010 season starts. He won't turn 27 until the third week of April. Given that fact, Cabrera's contract is a relative bargain for teams with high payrolls.
How good is Cabrera at the plate? Over his first six full seasons, his career-low numbers are a .292 batting average, 26 home runs, and 103 RBI. His addition to any lineup, Boston especially, would be a gigantic boost in output.
If the Tigers would decide to trade Cabrera, a haul of Papelbon, Lowell, and a prospect wouldn't be enough. Lowell is a free agent after the 2010 season, while Papelbon has two years left of team control. While they would have a short-term impact, the long-term value of the trade isn't there, even with a top prospect included in the deal.
The smarter package for the Tigers to pursue would be a package of top prospects. The Red Sox have multiple high-level pitching prospects as well as Anderson at first base and Ryan Westmoreland in the outfield.
Rarely will a team that trades an established superstar receive enough quality talent in return to justify the trade. Just ask the Minnesota Twins if they received fair value for Johan Santana.
The Tigers could add to their rotation in free agency next winter to replace anyone they may trade off this year. Though the Tigers would find the most salary relief by trading Miguel Cabrera, the long-term plans for the franchise would be greatly altered. Cabrera needs to remain in the middle of the lineup, while surrounding him with a supporting cast.
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