Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
Minor Deals... and a Blockbuster
2007-12-04 16:14
by Mark T.R. Donohue

When I started writing this, it was going to be a brief post to note two Rockies-related transactions that really weren't worthy of all that much discussion: Kazuo Matsui signed with Houston, which was a little surpising in that I didn't really hear much connecting the Astros with Matsui before the deal was announced, but not particularly surprising on a larger scale since the Rockies have been behaving since the moment the World Series ended as if there was no chance of them getting back their second baseman. Kazuo got 3 years, $16.5 million from Houston, who are -- and I don't think there's a lot of debate about this at the moment -- one of the worst-run franchises in the National League. Matsui's VORP was 16.9 last year, just a hair ahead of Ryan Spilborghs for sixth among hitters on the team in the category. And Spilborghs had almost exactly two-thirds the number of at-bats that Matsui did. Kazuo was a contributor for the Rockies last season, but $5.5 million per season is too much for his skills. The Astros will find themselves with the same buyers' remorse the Mets did when they first brought Matsui over from Japan.

We've talked a lot about Dan O'Dowd's ability to generate bullpen talent by rubbing two sticks together; so let's not dismiss the Denny Bautista-for-Jose Capellan trade as mere roster-fiddling. Capellan was a guy that many prospect guides touted highly, at least around the time of the Dan Kolb trade between Atlanta and Milwaukee that made Capellan a Brewer. He's never gotten it done in a meaningful fashion at the major-league level, but he's young yet and Bautista was clearly not Coors Field material in his handful of inflammatory relief appearances last season. O'Dowd as quoted by Jayson Stark on the ESPN winter meetings blog: "Relievers are like the stock market. Hopefully, we'll hit on this one."

There are also some rumors flying around out there about a Brian Fuentes trade, and some are claiming Colorado tried to flip Clint Barmes for Houston's Chris Burke (a classic offense for defense trade, only Barmes' offense was awful last season too) only to be rebuffed. I can't get too excited about any of this manuevering, not when the real teams are talking about Johan Santana deals.

So I would be done now, except word just came down from the research department that Detroit has sent every significant prospect in its system to Florida for Dontrelle Willis, who has a famous name but hasn't been good in more than two years, and Miguel Cabrera, who is one (forthcoming) massive contract extension away from gaining another fifty pounds and getting the first of several knee injuries that will render him into this decade's version of Mo Vaughn. I openly loathe Detroit's team, their manager, and their stupid ownership, and I hope very much that my initial reaction to this trade (so much for the Tigers for another five to ten years) is the correct one. No matter how big the extensions they give Willis and Cabrera, the Bobby Higginson deal is safe as the dumbest in Detroit history... but we'll see if this dumb move cripples them for longer. Could be!

2007-12-04 16:56:55
1.   regfairfield
Let's say Miguel Cabrera turns into Mo Vaughn. Vaughn was productive until he was 32. Cabrera has eight years until he hits that. I think the Tigers can live with that.

Miguel Cabrera age 24: .320/.401/.565 in a pitchers park.

Mo Vaughn age 24: .234/.326/.400 in Fenway.

I think Miguel Cabrera is quite a bit better than Mo Vaughn.

2007-12-04 17:13:59
2.   underdog
Yah, I'd worry about all the great prospects they sent to Florida - and maybe this deal is good for both teams... But Cabrera is such an incredible hitter. As long as he doesn't eat Detroit that line-up's gonna be pretty scary.
2007-12-04 17:14:09
3.   Mark T.R. Donohue
1 Part of my skepticism about this deal is bias against the organization. So you've got a young superstar hitter with a proven conditioning/motivation problem... which team would you LEAST like to see him sign with, if you've got some interest in seeing him succeed? I would list the Orioles dead last, obviously. But the Tigers would be #2 with a bullet.
2007-12-05 04:13:44
4.   glenn
Yeah, you hate them, for whatever reason, but you are gonna hate the Rox even more once they slink back to .480 ball, which is something DET isn't going to do any time soon...So will the rest of Rockies Nation, and it will show by the empty CF seats in July, August and September...
2007-12-05 09:01:30
5.   Todd S
The stock market quote doesn't make sense to me. What is he saying about relievers?
2007-12-05 09:06:56
6.   Mark T.R. Donohue
5 Sometimes they go up, sometimes they go down.
2007-12-05 11:51:34
7.   regfairfield
3 Fair enough. I just get really, really tired of people comparing Miguel Cabrera to Mo Vaughn.
2007-12-05 12:58:23
8.   Mark T.R. Donohue
I'm mostly cranky about the tone of the articles responding to this trade because it seems as if no one has learned their lessons. After the Marlins' LAST fire sale, hundreds of columnists lined up to declare that they were guaranteed 100 losses, if not 120. That '06 Marlins team nearly went .500. Likewise, when the Tigers dealt for Gary Sheffield, plenty of writers were convinced that that guaranteed them the AL pennant. Didn't happen. As a student of history, it drives me absolutely batty when sportswriters completely ignore facts as recent as two or three years' vintage.
2007-12-05 22:39:15
9.   Cliff Corcoran
7 I've never heard the comp before, though I agree it's ridiculous. Cabrera = Manny Ramirez except he can play 3B (and he's not as bad as his rep there either) and was better younger, put into a pennant race, I bet he shapes up (literally).

That said, Miller will eventually be the better of the two pitchers involved in the deal, but Dontrelle with do better with the Detroit defense behind him. Most importantly, Dontrelle in the AL is a waste of a great hitting pitcher. In fact, if the rules allowed me to platoon Dontrelle and Pudge in the 9 hole when the former pitches, I'd do it. Rodriguez's numbers against righties last year and Dontrelle's against righties on his career are almost identical, with D-Train having the better OBP and Pudge the better slugging.

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