COMMENTARY | Miguel Cabrera has simply been the best thing to ever happen to the Detroit Tigers since being acquired in the 2007 offseason. The 30-year-old is the game's best hitter and on a fast track to a second consecutive Triple Crown.
But what if the Tigers were never able to acquire Cabrera?
It's a legitimate question, and a scary thought for many.
The Los Angeles Angels were in hot pursuit of Cabrera during the 2007 offseason. It looked like the Angels had found their new star, but then the Tigers pulled the trigger almost out of nowhere to bring him to Detroit in a blockbuster trade with the Florida Marlins.
If the Angels somehow managed to land Cabrera in Los Angeles, the baseball world as we know it would've been drastically different.
It's highly unlikely that the Angels would have Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols, and Mike Trout on the same roster if they had acquired Cabrera. Hamilton and Pujols would've been too pricey, and the Angels might've missed out on Trout with a lower draft selection in 2009.
While the impact of this would've affected the Angels in several ways, it barely scratches the surface of the what would've happened to the Tigers. Let's take a look at what could've been of the Tigers if they weren't able to acquire Cabrera in the 2007 offseason.
The Tigers would've likely stuck with Brandon Inge at third base. Inge's name now sends a united Tiger fan base into arguments, but that could be different if he wasn't forced out of town, which started after Cabrera's arrival in 2008. Inge wasn't a bad third baseman, he just couldn't meet the raised expectations. Without Cabrera, it's easy to picture Inge being able to finish his career with the team that drafted him and in front of the fans that absolutely adored him at one point.
Cabrera did move across the diamond to play first base for the Tigers after his first month with the team to fill their gap at the position. Without Cabrera, the team would've probably had to rely on Sean Casey or Mike Hessman to play first base. Casey, a solid major-leaguer, and Hessman, a career minor league journeyman, were two different, aging players that couldn't nearly have the impact that Cabrera has been capable of in 2008. It's likely that the Tigers would still be searching for that game-changer at first base.
If the Tigers never traded for Cabrera, their top prospects that were included in the deal, Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller, would have probably become centerpieces for the franchise moving forward. Both players haven't lived up to the hype that surrounded them after being acquired by the Marlins, but that might've been different with the Tigers. Imagine Curtis Granderson and Justin Verlander mentoring Maybin and Miller, it could've been a reality.
Cabrera's impact on the Tigers even has an impact in the trade market. Without him, the team most likely wouldn't have been able to complete any of the large trades that helped them form their current juggernaut. Say goodbye to Max Scherzer or Austin Jackson, because in a world without Cabrera, it's easy to envision the Tigers building around Granderson, the centerpiece in the 2009 trade that landed the team those current game changers.
Just like in the trade market, it's also unlikely that the Tigers would be able to land any of their free agent acquisitions without a player like Cabrera to lure them in. That means Victor Martinez and Prince Fielder would likely be elsewhere, while the Tigers would be left without a heap of star power on the roster.
As you can see, Cabrera's impact on the Tigers franchise is huge and acts like a domino effect. His presence caused top prospect Nick Castellanos to move to the outfield so he could make the majors with Detroit. Cabrera also reels in top free agents who want to be able to play with the man that could end up as the greatest of all time. With that being said, it's hard to imagine the team experiencing any of their recent success without Cabrera. He's a once-in-a-generation talent that changes the whole demeanor of a franchise.
Cabrera has become such a large fixture in Detroit over the past six years. It'd be hard for any Michigander or Tiger fan to ever imagine the third baseman wearing anything other than the Old English D, but it almost never happened to begin with.
Ricky Lindsay has followed the Detroit Tigers and Major League Baseball with a close eye from Metro Detroit for several years. He's a sportswriter for his college newspaper, The Michigan Journal, and broadcasts games for the Michigan Lightning, a semi-professional football team.
You can find him on Twitter @RLindz35.
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