Buster Olney of ESPN made this comment on Mike and Mike in the Morning, an ESPN morning radio program: "If the Detroit Tigers are out of the playoff race early this season, look for them to trade Miguel Cabrera to the Red Sox, since the Red Sox are one of the few teams that could take on a large salary."
Cabrera is in the second year of an eight-year, $153 million deal. His annual salary ranges from $15 million to $22 million a year.
Olney gave that possible trade a 10 percent chance of happening at the moment. Would a Cabrera trade help or hurt the Tigers?
The Tigers have a large payroll, and they underperformed in 2008. If they do not recover from their disappointing season, a Cabrera trade would help rebuild the team quickly.
Why would both teams want to make a possible deal happen?
The Red Sox would gain the big bat in their lineup that they covet after missing out on Mark Teixeira this offseason. Detroit would get rid of a large contract and gain a few highly touted prospects if their season goes south again like in 2008.
The Tigers may not be able to afford another losing season with a high payroll, especially with the economy in Detroit.
Detroit could fill the potential hole at 1B with Jeff Larish or a prospect involved in the trade.
Current Tigers pitchers Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman, Nate Robertson, and Dontrelle Willis have been living off their past performances or their dwindling upside. A potential ace would be enticing for the Tigers to pair with Rick Porcello.
This is just speculation, but two players the Tigers may target could be 1B Lars Anderson, the Red Sox's top prospect, ranked at No. 17 in Baseball America’s Top 100, and Michael Bowden, a right-handed starting pitcher, ranked No. 83 in the Top 100.
Anderson is 20 years old and currently at Double-A Portland, while Bowden is 21 years old and currently at Triple-A Pawtucket.
When the Red Sox acquired Josh Beckett a few years ago, they dealt Hanley Ramirez, one of the game’s best young hitters, so the Red Sox are willing trade their top prospects for the right players. The Red Sox minor league system is ranked No. 13 by Baseball America, compared to the Tigers' 28th-ranked system.
Regardless if Anderson or Bowden were included, trading Cabrera would bring valuable prospects to the Tigers. Detroit has several building blocks already in place: Curtis Granderson, Rick Porcello, and Ryan Perry.
Since Cabrera is only 26 years old, it seems more likely the Tigers would plan to see his long-term contract out.
Cabrera is the cornerstone of the franchise and is an automatic 30-HR, 100-RBI season or better.
Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski has already shown the Tigers do not need to cut salaries after balking at the Texas Rangers' request to acquire Gary Sheffield in a salary dump move. The Tigers later released Sheffield, still paying him $14 million to play for the New York Mets.
Cabrera is young enough to be a part of a rebuilding mode and didn’t seem to complain all those years in Florida, a team constantly rebuilding.
If the Tigers need to cut their payroll, it would make more sense to trade Magglio Ordonez or Carlos Guillen, both below-average defenders with declining careers. Both Ordonez and Guillen could help teams in the playoff hunt with their experience and lively bats while allowing the Tigers to move on without their large contracts.
Ordonez is due $18 million in 2010 with a $3 million buyout, with $15 million due in 2011.
Guillen is owned $13 million in 2010 and 2011, with a partial no-trade clause.
The Tigers also have three pitchers, Bonderman, Willis, and Robertson, making between $10-$12.5 million a year for the next two seasons.
Tigers owner Mike Ilitch also owns the Detroit Red Wings, who are always one of the top NHL teams in terms of payroll. Ilitch can afford to hold on to Cabrera and stick out the economy for a year or two.
There will be ways for the Tigers to dump a contract or two if needed during the season. Holding on to Cabrera would be the best move for the Tigers, especially since he was the centerpiece of the blockbuster deal that included outfielder Cameron Maybin and pitcher Andrew Miller, both highly regarded prospects.
Maybin and Miller were both considered top prospects and unobtainable at the time of the trade.
If the Tigers decided to trade Cabrera, the return would be a nice package of prospects, even though a deal does not seem likely.