Here’s the key number in this deal: Four. That’s the number of relatively cheap arbitration-eligible seasons that the Tigers are picking up between Cabrera and Willis. Half of the league is willing to bend over backward–perhaps giving up a package analogous to what the Tigers just gave up–for one season of Johan Santana. Although Willis is not the pitcher than Santana is by a long shot, he’s an excellent buy-low guy who was mostly victimized by some poor defense and some poor luck in Miami last year, and an extremely viable #2/#3 starter. And Cabrera might well be the equal of Santana in terms of 2008 value. In terms of overall value, the Tigers are getting perhaps three times as much incoming value as the Red Sox might get for one year of Santana.
Four is also the number of high draft picks that the Tigers will get if Cabrera and Willis eventually depart for free agency. For a team that drafts as aggressively as the Tigers do–those picks could turn into four more Rick Porcellos–that’s an extremely non-trivial factor.
Finally, four is the number of American League teams that make the playoffs. This trade addresses clear areas of need for the Tigers, and could easily be worth as many as seven or eight games in the wins column. From my vantage point, the Tigers, Indians, Yankees, and Red Sox are now in a four-way tie for the Best Team in Baseball heading into 2008; it’s going to be fascinating to see which of the those teams is the odd man out.
I’m just about finishing up the hitter PECOTAs, so a quick note on Maybin: the system likes him, but does not love him, regarding him to be well behind the Jay Bruce/ Evan Longoria class of prospects. In particular, it has him getting up to an EqBA/EqOBP/EqSLG of .267/.357/.460 (.284 EqA) by the time he hits age 25, with roughly league-average defense in center field. It also has him at .248/.330/.428 for 2008 (.261 EqA), which means that he’s probably ready to step into a major league lineup right now for a second-division club like the Marlins. That’s potentially quite valuable, but not necessarily All-Star caliber, as PECOTA has quite a few concerns about Maybin’s strikeout rate.