Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Roar is Back in Motown

Most of the time when a transaction happens in the AL Central I try to remain neutral (as best that a Twins blogger can) and weigh the pros and cons. This recent nugget out of Nashville, however, makes it difficult to keep objective.

The Tigers are on a mission -- though it might be to completely surrender the farm system before the snow is gone. After acquiring Edgar Renteria for three top prospects, General Manager Dave Dombrowski has remained unsatisfied and active in Nashville: Peter Gammons is reporting that the Marlins have agreed to send Detroit Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis for stud prospects centerfielder Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller, backup catcher Mike Rebalo and three other minor leagues (one being the 24-year-old right-handed Eulogio de la Cruz, who had hit 100 mph on the radar gun).

I had previous opined at the curious nature of how Dombrowski was now functioning. At the helm of the Marlins, Dombrowski constructed a championship team through high-priced free agents (Kevin Brown, Gary Sheffield) and developed prospects within the farm system (Renteria), then traded them for various prospects which became the core of the 2003 World Series team. He now seems to be operating in the inverse manner: trading valuable prospects for short-term players in a win-now mentality. Dombrowski shows quite the contrast to the tandem of Billy Smith/Terry Ryan (or Shapiro or Moore for that matter). With Curtis Granderson manning centerfield and a farm system bursting with top-flight outfield prospects and coveted arms, Dombrowski cashed in his two top centerfield prospects surplus (Gorkys Hernandez and Cameron Maybin) and three of his top pitching prospects (Humberto Sanchez, Jairs Jurrijins and Andrew Miller) for immediate dividends (Sheffield, Renteria, Cabrera and Willis). Obviously both Cabrera and Willis have the capabilities of remaining in the Motor City both because of youth and a generous budget (Tigers owner Mike Illich has the money as evident by the Magglio Ordenez and Ivan Rodriguez contracts) but mortgaging the farm for the Renterias and Sheffields will surely hurt the franchise.

The 2008 Tigers line-up will be one of the best in the entire American League:



career line

1. Curtis Granderson

-- cf --

.280/.343/.493 (116 ops+)

2. Placido Polanco

-- 2b --

.305/.350/.416 (99 ops+)

3. Guillen

-- 1b --

.290/.358/.450 (113 ops+)

4. Gary Sheffield

-- dh --

.296/.397/.522 (143 ops+)

5. Cabrera

-- 3b --

.313/.388/.542 (143 ops+)

6. Magglio Ordonez

-- rf --

.312/.370/.522 (129 ops+)

7. Renteria

-- ss --

.291/.349/.407 (97 ops+)

8. Marcus Thames/Jacque Jones

-- lf --

.241/.306/.492 (105 ops+)/.280/.329/.455 (100 ops+)

8. Ivan Rodriguez

-- c --

.303/.340/.479 (111 ops+)

*A 117 ops+ average lineup

Clearly Detriot has gotten better. Many scouts have reported that Cabrera was the trade target more highly-coveted this offseason than Johan Santana. Dontrelle Willis is on a short list of good left-handed starters not named Santana or Sabathia. With Renteria displacing Carlos Guillen at short, shifting Guillen to first where Sean Casey has been ousted, Detriot has added an all-star at third moving Inge to a utility role or potential trade bait to solidify the bullpen and now has Willis to complement Bonderman, Verlander, Rogers and Robertson. Renteria's 18 win shares in 2007 at short in Atlanta will replace the 19 provided by Guillen. This small loss in production is greatly offset by retaining Guillen as a first baseman at the cost of Sean Casey's 9 win shares. Cabrera's 30 win shares trumps Inge's 13 win shares. Meanwhile Willis could provide the rotation with a 4-win share upgrade over Andrew Miller.

All things being equal, the 2008 Detriot Tigers will improve by 30 win shares. On paper and in principle, this division got that much better.