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Published: Friday, 5/24/2013

The Miami/Detroit Connection

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

The man’s name was, and is, Larry Beinfest and he was the general manager of the Miami (nee Florida) Marlins who on Dec. 4, 2007, traded Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Detroit Tigers.

He and the Marlins received six players in return and they produced somewhere between diddly and squat in south Florida. Two pitchers, Perrysburg High product Burke Badenhop and Andrew Miller, were a combined 23-35 with the Marlins and are now relievers in Milwaukee and Boston, respectively. Young outfielder Cameron Maybin, perhaps the jewel in the deal from Miami’s perspective, has had his moments, but mostly for San Diego, where he was traded after the 2010 season.

To bring the deal to closure, we should mention Marlins acquisitions Dallas Trahern, who never pitched in the major leagues; Frankie De La Cruz, who pitched for four big-league teams and managed to neither win nor lose a single game, and catcher Mike Rabelo, who lasted 34 games with Florida and is now a minor league coach back in the Tigers’ organization.

Beinfest is currently the president of baseball operations for the Marlins. That reflects a promotion. He is generally well-regarded by insiders considering the roller-coaster payroll constraints under which he operates. He surely had his reasons for that December, 2007, trade; money is usually first and foremost among many of Miami’s moves, and nearly every GM in history has some skeletons in his closet of trades that went sour.

But this was a colossal stinker even considering Willis proved to be a bust for the Tigers, and an expensive one at that thanks to the three-year, $29 million contract extension he was awarded despite being diminished, perhaps damaged goods.

At the same time, Detroit received Cabrera, the best hitter in baseball, in exchange for a collection of six players that forced me to reference books to come up with half of the names.

The Tigers returned to Comerica Park Thursday night to open a series against Minnesota and Cabrera brought with him the hottest bat in baseball. He had five home runs and 10 RBI in the previous three games. Three of the five long balls, including one Wednesday night that got an assist from Cleveland outfielder Michael Bourn’s glove, were to dead center. Another was deep to the opposite (right) field.

Cabrera’s strength and body/bat control that enables the 6-4, 240-pounder to hit marginally un-hittable pitches extraordinary distances to all fields is astonishing.

“He’s the greatest I’ve seen in a Tiger uniform,” the legendary Al Kaline said before the 2012 playoffs.

Cabrera, of course, won the Triple Crown last season with 44 homes runs, 139 RBI and a .330 batting average. Through 44 games this season, he had 13 homers, 52 RBI, and was hitting an astonishing .387. In 19 games this month before Thursday night the line was 9/24/.418.

None of this should surprise the Marlins. Cabrera was a four-time All Star in five years in Miami, averaging 28 homers and 105 RBI while batting .313. But he was about to start making big money and there were off-field concerns involving alcohol. Indeed, Cabrera had an embarrassing DUI incident prior to Tigers’ spring training, 2011, but all anyone has noticed and talked about since is his hitting.

If the best baseball trades help both teams, this one is among the worst and most one-sided ever.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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