Why it doesn’t make sense to trade Cabrera or Verlander

A few days ago Alex Rodriguez said something controversial. That’s not unusual. The former slugger has been clouded in controversy and intrigue almost since he first set foot on a major league field at the age of 20. Throughout his career, ARod was a lightning rod for controversy. Mostly due to his choice of vitamins.

ARod is now a baseball analyst for Fox Sports, and his comments over the weekend fanned the flames of MLB trade rumors. Rodriguez speculated that the Red Sox might acquire Miguel Cabrera from the Detroit Tigers in what he called a potential “blockbuster.” He proceeded to outline his reasoning: the Sox have the cash to take Cabrera’s huge contract; Boston needs his righthanded bat in the middle of the lineup; and Miggy does not have a no-trade clause. Lastly, Rodriguez pointed out that Boston general manager and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has had a long relationship with Cabrera. He had him as a young player when he was in Florida, and he orchestrated the huge trade that brought Miggy to Motown nearly a decade ago.

After ARod’s announcement, several news organizations jumped on the “news” and reported that Dombrowski and the Red Sox were in discussions with Detroit about Cabrera. But the horses should have been held, because ARod admitted that the Cabrera-to-Boston trade was his own concoction. There’s no hard reporting on this story. As far as we know, the Red Sox have not shown any interest in Miggy at all. If they haven’t, it would make sense.

But facts are the first casualty on our current media battleground.

In addition to Cabrera, the Tigers have another superstar on their roster: starting pitcher Justin Verlander. While he’s not having a good season, Verlander is only one year removed from a runnerup Cy Young season. Twice in his career he’s finished second in CY Young voting, and he’s won the award once, in addition to an MVP honor. The tall Virginian also has two no-hitters to his credit and more than 2,000 strikeouts. At least in the early rounds, Verlander has been dominant in the postseason. His fastball still stings the strike zone at 95+ miles per hour. Presumably, a contending team would be interested in having the 34-year old veteran on their staff for a shot at a World Series title.

But speculation is like having a crush on a hot celebrity redhead: it might be fun, but it doesn’t count for much, and at the end of the evening you’re still alone.

Will the Tigers trade their superstars? Should they? The answer to the first question requires powers to see the future, which sadly I do not possess. If I did, I wouldn’t be writing this article, I’d be sitting in a casino in Monaco. But the answer to the second question is easier to answer, and the answer is no. Hell no, in fact.

Cabrera and Verlander are worth more as Tigers

Combined, the Tigers owe Cabrera and Verlander $58 million each of the next two seasons. After that, Detroit owns an option year at $22 million for Verlander. Miggy’s contract is guaranteed for four more seasons, through 2023. In total, the team owes Cabrera $184 million. For Verlander it’s $56 million.

That’s a lot of money. Big time money. But in sports contract terms, neither is outrageous or unusual. Verlander’s deal is actually reasonable considering his return on the contract. A #1 starter with his credentials demands that much or more. But the primary reason the dollar figures are not alarming is that the two players are valuable assets.

During a typical game at Comerica Park you’ll see dozens of Cabrera jerseys and Verlander jerseys. A generation of Tiger fans have grown up idolizing the two superstars. They both put butts in the seats. A collective memory has been established with them both: the Triple Crown, the MVP seasons, the no-hitters and walkoff homers.

In the near future, Cabrera can and should get his 3,000th career hit. Verlander will break the all-time Tiger record for victories and could add another no-hitter and reach 3,000 strikeouts, something no Tiger pitcher has ever done. Do those accomplishments mean as much if they happen in a different uniform? Is

It’s important to remember that the Tigers are not a small-market team. They’ve been carrying one of baseball’s biggest salaries for several years. They have one of the most lucrative television deals in baseball. They’ve drawn at least 2.4 million fans every season for the last 11 years. Attendance is down a tick this season, but they’re still on pace for 2.3 million tickets sold. Downtown Detroit is a popular attraction and a Tiger game is still a fun event.

The dollars the Tigers would “save” by trading Cabrera, Verlander, or both, are small potatoes compared to what the two bring to the franchise. The team has plenty of resources and the dollars the two stars make are not stopping the Tigers from doing other things. They are still capable of pursuing free agents, of signing young players.

There are still great days ahead

Last season both JV and Miggy were All-Star caliber. But there’s no reason to believe that the half-season of struggles they’ve both experienced is anything more than a blip. A four-month aberration. Cabrera and Verlander are Hall of Fame worthy players. Miggy is a lock and JV is building a fine résumé. The chances they will be of value again are very high.

In his first 16 starts in 2016, Verlander had a 4.30 ERA and looked lost on the mound. Over his final 18 starts he had a 1.98 ERA and struck out 147 batters in 123 innings. He was a legit #1 starter.

Miggy needs far less defending. The man has been a monster at the plate for the Tigers over his career with the team. He’s won four batting titles, the last one as recently as two seasons ago. He’s used his incredible bat speed and eye at the plate to become one of the greatest righthanded hitters in the history of baseball. He belongs in the upper echelon, along with Albert Pujols, Frank Thomas, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Willie Mays, Jimmie Foxx, Rogers Hornsby, and Honus Wagner. He’s that good.

You know what? All-time greats usually don’t stink when they’re 35-35 years old. They usually stay great into their late 30s. That’s why they’re great. Miggy will bounce back, probably this season. He’s capable of a hot month where he carries the team on his back.

To jettison Cabrera and/or Verlander now is to give up the potential for future All-Star years from them both. Two players who are established big league stars, not “what ifs,” which is what the team would get in a trade in return. Which brings me to…

Prospects are iffy at best

The word “prospect” comes from the Latin word “prospectus” which means “view or outlook on the future.” The text book definition is “the possibility that something fabulous will happen.”

It’s fun to hope something fabulous will occur. Hope is a good thing. But hope alone doesn’t pay the butcher. (Especially my butcher, have you met him? He’s an ass). If we’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that young baseball players are not guaranteed to become great mature baseball players. Or even good ones. Or even ballplayers at all.

Gabe Kapler. Matt Anderson. Cameron Maybin. Humberto Sanchez. Bruce Rondon. There are five players who, when they were young Tabbies, were acclaimed as hot prospects. The Tigers dealt them all, some of them were dealt by Dave Dombrowski. And you know how many of them became stars? Zero. Some of them, like Anderson, fizzled out like a sparkler on the 4th of July. Others, like Kapler and Maybin, had solid careers as journeyman ballplayers, but never amounted to much. Sanchez was the big prospect the Yankees wanted in return for Gary Sheffield. He could throw a baseball through a wall, but he only pitched two innings in the major leagues. Rondon has been a “fabulous possibility” for about a decade. We’re still waiting for that prospect to bring home the bacon. Hell Bruce, we’d even settle for a pork chop.

Several times during his stay in Detroit, Dombrowski dealt prospects for established major leaguers. That’s how he got Miggy. That’s how he got Max Scherzer and Austin Jackson. That’s how he got Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez. He didn’t win those trades, he fleeced the opposing teams.

I don’t know why any general manager would ever make a trade with Dave Dombrowski. I honestly don’t. Here’s how I’d handle a phone call from Dombrowski if I was the general manager of the Tigers:

OPERATOR: Mr. Holmes, Dave Dombrowski from the Red Sox is on the phone.

GM HOLMES: Ummm…ok, thanks. Put him through.

DOMBROWSKI: Hi Dan, it’s Dave Dombrowski. How are things in the Motor City?

GM HOLMES: Not bad, Dave.

DOMBROWSKI: I have so many great memories of Detroit. My kids grew up there, my family loves the city. I spent a lot of time with Miggy, I got to know his family. They’re like family to me. What a great family they are. Have I mentioned family?

GM HOLMES: Dave…you’re breaking up…the phone is cutting out. Must be this damn Michigan weather. You know what they say…CREEEAAKKKKK…SQUAWAAAKKKKK…BEEEEEP…I can’t…hear…you…

DOMBROWSKI: HEY DAN! I got this kid Soupy Smith in Rookie Ball, he’s a stud. Can run like a deer, like a MICHIGAN DEER. This kid is can’t miss. You remember Junior Griffey? Well, this kid is like that but with more power. I don’t want to lose him…but…

GM HOLMES: Daaavvvvve… I think I just went under a bridge…I had the call forwarded to my cell phone…I’m heading in to Windsor…CREEEAAAAAKKKKKK!!!!!

DOMBROWSKI: I got three great young prospects for you, Danny, three good-looking youngsters. Future stars. Plus I’ll take half the Cabrera and Verlander salaries. I’ll do that for you…


DOMBROWSKI: Dan, these aren’t the droids you’re looking for…