Going into the Winter Meetings in 2007, the Detroit Tigers were looking to upgrade their team after finishing 88-74 in the regular season and missing the playoffs a year after playing in the World Series.
It was December 4 of that year would be the day that the Tigers acquired a franchise player who would change the face of the organization for years to come.
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Miguel Cabrera was coming off of the best season of his young career, posting a .320 batting average to go with 34 home runs and 119 RBI. He had made the All-Star team in the National League for the fourth consecutive season, and was well on his way to stardom.
Seeing all of this, then general manager Dave Dombrowski decided to pull the trigger on a blockbuster trade that would land the All-Star slugger as well as an ace at the time in Dontrelle Willis. In return for the two stars, the Tigers would send OF Cameron Maybin, P Andrew Miller, C Mike Rabelo, and minor league pitchers Eulogio De La Cruz, Dallas Trahern, and Burke Badenhop to the Florida Marlins.
Since the trade to the Tigers, Cabrera has evolved from All-Star to superstar. In his ten seasons with Detroit, he has compiled a .319 batting average while hitting 2324 home runs, and driving in over 1,000 runs. His career in Detroit is highlighted by his Triple Crown winning season in 2012 where he hit .330, 44 HR, and 139 RBI. Considered among the best hitters of this generation, the 10-time All-Star Cabrera has won the American League batting title in four times (2011-13, ’15) with the Tigers. He also was able to win back-to-back MVP awards in 2012 and ’13.
Unfortunately, Cabrera endured arguably his worst season as a professional in 2017, mustering career-lows in batting average and OPS, among other major offensive categories. Much of his struggles were directly correlated to various injuries going back to the World Baseball Classic in March, as he tried to fight through them all. His down year was a microcosm for a Tigers team that finished with the worst record in all of baseball this past season.
Cabrera currently sits with 2,636 career hits going into the 2018 season. With perhaps his most productive seasons behind him, it would still be a reasonably safe bet that Miggy will eclipse 3,000 hits before calling it a career IF he can stay healthy. His 462 home runs currently puts him in a tie for second with his good buddy Adrian Beltre for most among active players; tied for 35th all-time.
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Unfortunately, Dontrelle Willis never worked out in Detroit. Just three years after winning 22 games and being the runner-up for the National League Cy Young Award, Willis pitched in only eight games for the Tigers in 2008, his first season after the trade. Riddled by injuries, he finished with an ERA over 9.00 in his first season with the Tigers.
Willis appeared in a total of 24 games (22 starts) with Detroit before being dealt away to Arizona in June of 2010. He last played in 2011 when he made 13 starts with the Cincinnati Reds.
What happened to the rest of the players in this blockbuster deal?
- Andrew Miller never panned out as a highly-touted starter. After three seasons with the Marlins, Miller ended up with the Red Sox via trade, where he transitioned into the bullpen and is now one of the premier relievers in all of baseball.
- Cameron Maybin has had a number of stops as well in his major league career, like Miller, and has dealt with his fair share of injuries as well. Among those stops was returning to Detroit in 2016, when he put together one of his finer seasons offensively. Maybin is currently a free agent after spending 2017 with the Angels and Astros.
- Mike Rabelo played in just 86 games between the Tigers and Marlins from 2006-08. He is currently, as of November 2017, the newest manager of the Tigers’ Class-A affiliate in Lakeland. Rabelo earned a promotion after a successful managerial stint with the Low Class-A West Michigan Whitecaps.
- Of the three minor league pitchers that accompanied Miller, Maybin and Rabelo to Florida in the trade, only Burke Badenhop garnered any real success in the majors. Badenhop made his major league debut with the Fish in 2008 and, for his career, compiled a very respectable 3.74 ERA in over 100 appearances with five different organizations from 2008-15. He last played with the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate in 2016 and spent the 2017 season with the Diamondbacks’ baseball operations department.
While the Tigers were not able to get the stud pitcher they thought they were in Willis, it is clear that the Tigers came out on top in this deal. To acquire one of the greatest players the game has ever seen for the prospects they gave up, there is no doubt this was the best deal of the Dave Dombrowski era in Detroit.
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