The Great What If: Miggy the Yankee

CoJo's slump continues in the AzFL
What Went Right: David Robertson

Four years ago this month, Alex Rodriguez opted out of the final three years of his contract, and at the time Brian Cashman was adamant the Yankees would not re-sign him. “How can we?” said the GM. “We lose all our money from Texas.” A-Rod was owed $72M during the remaining three years of the deal, but the Rangers were responsible for $21.3M of that. As soon as he opted out, Texas was off the hook.

A few weeks later, Hank Steinbrenner went over Cashman’s head and inked the reigning AL MVP to another ten-year contract. In between the opt-out and the re-signing, there were plenty of rumors about who the Yankees were targeting as their next third baseman. I remember talking about Wilson Betemit playing full-time, Miguel Tejada, Scott Rolen, Ryan Zimmerman (the next big thing at the time), you name it. One player that was both on the market and a trade target of the Yankees was Miguel Cabrera, who just helped the Tigers past the Yankees in the ALDS. This four-year-old Mark Feinsand column has the details…

Brian Cashman met with the Marlins at about 6 p.m. last night at the GM meetings. No offers were made, but a source with knowledge of the situation said the Marlins made it clear that the Yankees would have to include either Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain or Ian Kennedy in any trade for Cabrera, something the Yankees are not willing to do.

The Yankees would likely offer a deal involving their next tier of prospects, which includes Alan Horne, Humberto Sanchez, Ross Ohlendorf and Jose Tabata.

“The Marlins have evidently let it be known that he’s available, so we’re looking into it,” Hank Steinbrenner said. “But everything is really very preliminary.”


“I’m sure I’ll be challenged like I have been in the past on those guys,” Cashman said. “No one is untouchable, but some guys are less touchable than others, and those guys fall into that category. I will be tested a lot and this organization will be tested a lot on that.”

Joe Girardi had just been hired as Joe Torre’s successor, and he had managed Cabrera during his lone season at Florida’s helm. “I didn’t have any problems with him,” said the skipper. “I had him and I know what he did for me. He’s a great player and a smart player. He really understands the game of baseball. I loved having him.” Cabrera was just 24 at the time, and was coming off a .402 wOBA season, his third straight over .399. He was getting super expensive through arbitration, and the tight-walleted Marlins just couldn’t afford him.

We were in the middle of our “Save The Big Three” campaign back then, but that had nothing to do Miggy Cabrera. It was all about Johan Santana. We didn’t want to Yankees to trade any of Hughes, Joba, or IPK for Johan simply because there was just one year left on his contract and he’d shown signs of decline the previous year. For Cabrera, an elite hitter still yet to reach his prime, I’m sure we would have felt differently. I know I would have.

Cabrera (and Dontrelle Willis) eventually went to Detroit for a six-player package highlighted by Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin, an offer the Yankees likely could have matched. Baseball America ranked Maybin and Miller as the sixth and tenth prospects before the season, respectively, while Hughes and Tabata were fourth and 27th, respectively. The rest is just filling in the blanks. The question is: what would happened next?

For one, A-Rod’s time in pinstripes would have been over. Maybe he goes to the Dodgers, maybe he goes to the Red Sox, maybe he goes to the Mets. Who knows. All I know is that albatross contract would be gone, at least to a certain extent. Miggy signed an eight-year deal worth north of $150M before he ever played a game for the Tigers, so you have to figure the Yankees would have locked him up to something similar. Still, I feel a lot better about Miggy for the next six years than I do Alex.

Of course, Cabrera was a third baseman in name only. He lasted just a year-and-a-half at the hot corner for the Tigers, so chances are Mark Teixeira would not be a Yankee either. Is Adrian Beltre playing third base? Casey Blake? Derek Jeter? Jose Bautista? If Hughes and Tabata get traded, that means the Xavier NadyDamaso Marte deal looks very different, perhaps involving Austin Jackson instead. Jackson to the Pirates means no Curtis Granderson, since a condition of the Tigers dealing their center fielder was that they got a young center fielder in return. Would a Cabrera trade have meant that Ian Kennedy would still be a Yankee with Brett Gardner in center?

We could spend all day dreaming up scenarios, but it’s worth mentioning that as great a hitter as Miggy is, he’s not without his demons. He’s had three separate alcohol-related run-ins with the law; one involving an argument with his wife, one involving some strangers at a restaurant, and another when he got busted for DUI. I’m not sure how that would have gone over with the media hounds we have here in New York, but who knows how things play out in the first place. A trade changes everything, it changes career paths and it changes lives.

It’s easy to sit here and say the Yankees should have traded Hughes and whoever else for Cabrera given what we know now, but it’s never that simple. Miggy in pinstripes could have meant no 2009 World Series, or it could have meant multiple championships.  The only thing I’m pretty sure of is that he would have raked, raked and raked and raked in a much friendlier ballpark than the one he’s playing now. It’s the great what if, the question we can’t answer but can enjoy debating.

CoJo's slump continues in the AzFL
What Went Right: David Robertson
  • Will

    Proof that prospect hugging is stupid and dangerous, especially if you’re prospect hugging pitchers who the most volatile and unpredictable kind of prospect. I drool at the thought of Miggy in pinstripes but we’re stuck with a .240 pull-all-or-nothing piece of trash hitter at 1B for the next half decade. Argh Cashman! Worst trade you didn’t make.

    • FachoinaNYY

      We won the WS in 09, are set up to make a run for the foreseeable future.

      Phil should bounce back this year.

      I’d still leave everything as is. Miggy is great, but there are issues with him, ala Manny.

      • Bean Tooth

        And I happily would’ve traded all of the Big Three for Manny in his prime.

    • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher (formerly Jorge)

      Holy mother of god. I wish you a lifetime of Andy Phillips at first. Really.

  • Bartolo’s Colon

    this is a non issue, everyone knows that montero is the next miggy

    • The Big City of Dreams


  • Grover

    I seem to recall the Red Sox as being one of the teams potentially interested in Alex which may have been nothing more than smoke or a legitimate factor in Cashman being ordered to sign the deal. At least his money is now descending and I do not think we have heard the last from his bat while his glove work is actually good sans the popups. Great memory post. Puts an interesting perspective on the three B’s.

  • Supernova

    That’s just what we need is a drunkard in the clubhouse tearing down the team just like in Boston. With the leaders in our clubhouse we don’t have players screwing around on their off days, we don’t hand out $300 headphones as a bribe, and we don’t coast to the end of the season as if we don’t care.

  • Not Francesa

    Marlins made it clear that the Yankees would have to include either Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain or Ian Kennedy in any trade for Cabrera, something the Yankees are not willing to do.

    Wow, how times have changed. The Yanks could of gave the Marlins all 3 and this trade is heavily lopsided towards the Yanks winning this exchange today.

    • jon

      dont forget about next teir Alan Horne, Humberto Sanchez, Ross Ohlendorf and Jose Tabata.

      all those guys turned out great

      • The Big City of Dreams

        lol funny how things change

  • Drew

    Forget Miggy Cabrera, the best part of this post was seeing Stephon Marbery in a Knicks uniform at top of the newspaper. Made me laugh and then depressed at the same time. But Miggy would be nice in pinstripes but if it would have meant no Tex, Granderson, and Hughes I’ll pass.

  • JohnC

    But it also meant we still would have had Austin Jackson

    • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher (formerly Jorge)

      …..who just struck out again as you wrote that.

  • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher (formerly Jorge)

    Knowing then what I know now, would I have made that trade? Probably, but who really cares? Since then, the Yankees have won a World Series and both the team that traded Miggy and the team that received him haven’t.

    I’m sure this post will inspire many pleasant posts from positive-thinking fans like Will above.

  • blee

    Cabrera’s not having a great post season either.. we’d be on him like we’re on Arod about not performing in the big moments..

    • David N

      Drove in the go-ahead run last night (okay, it ended up not being the go-ahead run, but Texas’ second run was a garbage time affair). Also had a home run.

      He’s not having an A-Rod ’09 type postseason, but he’s doing pretty well.

    • CP

      Cabrera’s not having a great post season either.


      He’s hitting .259/.412/.556/.967 in the post season this year, with 2 HR and 2 2B in 8 games.

  • Rich in NJ

    All the more reason to keep Montero. You don’t part with young, elite hitters. To the contrary, you try to stockpile them.

  • Monteroisdinero

    If only Joe would bat Cano 3rd, Montero 4th (or the other way around) every game next year….

    He’s not that progressive a manager.

    • Supernova

      He’s not progressive at all. The lineup against righties will be the same next year as it was in this postseason. Girardi didn’t even consider changing the lineup in the LDS even though it was clear ARod, Teixera, and Swish were struggling. Montero will bat 9th and Girardi will call him Monty.

      • The Big City of Dreams

        Yea Montero is going to have to wait for his chance which is not a bad thing since he’s still 21. But uf he progresses like we all hope he does he should be batting in the middle of the order in 2-4 yrs

      • Cris Pengiucci

        I suspect Joe will lean more towards the lineup he had during the regular season this year against righties, with Gardner batting leadoff, Jeter second, then Cano and probably A-Rod, Grandy, Teix, Motero, Swish, Martin past there. Guess we’ll find out in April and beyond.

  • Grit for Brains

    Maybe the Yanks still resign A-Rod who knows…but NOT for TEN years!!1!!!!! They would have had a lot more leverage. Unrelated note I think Miggy hits 50 hr’s a year playing at YSIII as a huge fan and long time fantasy owner of the man I watch him play a lot and he hits doubles in Comerica that would go out of most parks over and over again.

    Also as for the alcohol incidents you can’t say if his career and life would play out the same way if he was on the Yankees. At the least he may have hired a chauffeur but who knows maybe more drastic life changes would have been on the horizon.

    • Monteroisdinero

      if you think Miggy hits 50, Montero should hit 40. 2 long HR’s to right in the same game were amazing. The Cabrera line drive HR to short right at YS will be often seen if Montero gets his chance.

  • LarryM.,Fl.

    We all agree Arod’s contract is too long in duration. But a healthy Arod plays a near gold glove third base and hits for average and power. This was an off year for him. I look for a total redemption of himself with good health as the key. Lets take one year at a time. It may work out better than expected with good health. We all pray and hope for good health.

    • Monteroisdinero

      We have no choice with ARod-for years to come.

  • Jose M. Vazquez..

    In retrospect that trade may look good now but at the time AROD was a better overall player than Miggy. Also Cabrera was defensively impaired at third.

    • Rich in NJ

      The issue, however, then (and now) is that A-Rod’s contract negates his value.

      • FachoinaNYY

        I don’t know how it really negates his value.

        He certainly has value, is he overpaid? Of course, but that doesn’t negate what value he brings as a baseball player.

        Bottomline is that Arod contract hasnt, and presumably wont, prevent other moves by the organization. In all honesty, so long as the Yankees are free to make any and all moves to benefit the team, Arod contract really doesnt matter at all.

        Now this is all in the context of the teams finances. The bigger issue is down the road where he is solely a DH. Really the only problem with Arod contract is on roster construction in 4-5 years. He should contribute and largely be worth his contract then next 3-4 years.

        • Rich in NJ

          $30m a year doesn’t prevent other moves? That’s about 15% of the payroll, which is big bucks even to the Yankees, especially when you acknowledge that they have a self-imposed spending limit in order to prevent a push for a more onerous luxury tax provision in the next CBA.

  • Jamey

    I was all about that deal at the time, but at this point I think Miggy & New York would have been a bad mix.

  • Jesse

    Great piece. But I’m wondering, I brought this up during last night’s open thread, did me bringing it up create the idea of you writing this, or did you come up with this idea yourself all along? Just curious.

    Also I was writing a piece like this for the blog I write for, it’d be kinda awkward if I sent it in to be posted since you have this piece out already. I guess I’ll just have to save it for the winter then.

  • who you doo doo

    it’s clear now that a trade for Cabrera makes more sense than signing Arod…because none of the prospects the Yanks kept reached their full potential…and had they sent Phil hughes or Joba Chamberlin with Alan Horne and Jose Tabata…and if they had later gone out and got Adrian Beltre in 2009 and gave him 5 years right off the bat…he probably signs for 15 mill a year…because he’s comming off an injury year with the Mariners…i like Cabrera/Beltre over Arod/Tex over the the last 2 years…i think things somehow work out so the Yankees still win in 2009…even without Arod or Damaso Marte…

    • Jesse

      And of course hindsight is 20/20.

  • Pasqua

    Just envisioned Bautista and Cabrera at the corners, in YSIII. I know hindsight is 20/20 and all, but holy crap…