Monday, December 12, 2011

The Remains of Willis and Cabrera

Shortly after news broke of the Marlins' most recent transaction - trading Burke Badenhop to the Tampa Bay Rays for minor league catcher Jake Jefferies, the estimable Keith Law tweeted:
Badenhop is tough on righties 
"And with the Badenhop trade, the Marlins no longer have any of the six players acquired for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis."
That's interesting, but a little besides the point is that some of the six players were traded for players the Marlins still have, including Jefferies. Law's keen observation stands to point out that the Marlins could still have Miguel Cabrera. Granted, some of the past few years in South Florida have been lean. Without a steady, money-spending fan base and a couple dozen more corporate sponsors, it would have been terribly hard to sustain a payroll with an extra $66 million parked on first base.

Quickly, I thought it would be interesting to take a closer look at the Cabrera/Willis for Maybin/Miller & Co swap four years ago.

Since the trade on December 7, 2004:

Dontrelle Willis
2008 avWAR*: -0.75
2009 avWAR: -0.4
Love rooting for Dontrelle!
2010 avWAR: -0.1
2011 avWAR: 0.35

Subtotal: -0.9 avWAR

*avWAR is the average Wins Above Replacement from baseball-reference and Fangraphs.

Miguel Cabrera
2008 avWAR*: 2.95
2009 avWAR: 4.7
2010 avWAR: 6.75
2011 avWAR: 7.2

Subtotal: 21.6 avWAR

Total from Marlins: 20.7 avWAR

The Marlins traded away more than 5 WAR per season, over the past four seasons, in addition to the future Wins of MiggyCab and the D-Train.. What did they receive in return?

Besides the six players (Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller, Burke Badenhop, Eulogio (Frankie) De La Cruz, Mike Rabelo, and Dallas Trahern), the Marlins traded Maybin for a couple of guys they still have, (Edward Mujica and Ryan Webb), and of course just received Jake Jefferies for Badenhop. Unfortunately, the Marlins gave up on former first-round pick Andrew Miller, trading him for a guy they would lose on waivers to the Braves before making it to the big club: Dustin Richardson.

Cameron Maybin, 2008-2010 avWAR: 2.45
Andrew Miller, 2008-2010 avWAR: -1.2
Burke Badenhop, 2008-2011 avWAR: 1.7
Eugelio De La Cruz, 2008 avWAR: -0.75
Mike Rabelo, 2008 avWAR: -0.55
Dallas Trahern, 2008-2011 avWAR: n/a
Edward Mujica, 2011 avWAR: 1.25
Ryan Webb, 2011 avWAR: 0.55

Total to Marlins: 3.45 avWAR

In return for 20.7 WAR over the past four years, the Marlins are getting less than 1 WAR per season in return. They still have the future value of Edward Mujica and Ryan Webb, and Jake Jefferies to bank on, but will it be enough to catch up to the Hall of Fame pace of 28-year old Miguel Cabrera?

Would you want to bet your
reputation on Edward Mujica?
There are estimates out there, like ZiPS, and aging WAR curves, but no-one knows for certain what the future holds. It's a good bet that Miguel Cabrera will continue to run away from the pack, but we still don't know for sure. After all, the Marlins could wind up trading Edward Mujica this July for a future prospect who becomes a Hall of Famer. Well, it could happen but it's highly doubtful.

Chances are, the Marlins will never come close to making up for punting Miguel Cabrera after his age 24 season, nor should they. As bad as our grammar can get, and as bad as bad trades can go, the legend of this trade will get worse and worse as time goes by.

The Marlins tried getting Albert Pujols last week, and with that cash,
they could have kept Miguel Cabrera in South Florida all along.

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