How Andrew Miller, Burke Badenhop view their shared history with Tigers star Miguel Cabrera
|05.18.14 at 1:04 pm ET|
Andrew Miller and Burke Badenhop will forever be able to note the intersection of their careers with that of the greatest hitter of the current baseball generation.
Back on December 4, 2007, the Tigers and Marlins completed one of the biggest blockbuster trades of the last decade. The Tigers acquired Miguel Cabrera, who at that point was already a four-time All-Star coming off a season in which he hit 34 home runs and drove in 119 runs, as well as pitcher Dontrelle Willis, who was already in the midst of his decline. In exchange, they dealt away several highly-touted prospects, a group that consisted of outfielder Cameron Maybin, catcher Mike Rabelo, pitcher Dallas Trahern and Frankie De La Cruz and current Red Sox relievers Miller and Badenhop.
Cabrera, of course, has been peerless as a hitter in his time with the Tigers. He leads the majors in OPS (.990), average (.326), slugging (.585) and homers (234) while ranking third in OBP (.405). All of that helps to explain why the Tigers inked him to a 10-year, $248 million extension this spring.
As for the Marlins’ return, other than Maybin, Miller and Badenhop are the only players that were sent to Florida in the deal that are still contributing members of major league clubs.
At the time, Miller was a top prospect with tons of potential. After three stellar years at the University of North Carolina, the Tigers nabbed the hard-throwing lefty with the sixth overall pick in the 2006 draft. He was pitching in major league games for Detroit later that year. Some rough outings in 2007 landed him back in the minors, but he was still considered a valuable young arm and was a major piece in the deal. But Miller was unable to live up to the hype in Florida, and being a part of a trade of that magnitude had its drawbacks.
“I think my first year or two in Florida, I mean, you just couldn’t get away from [the trade],” Miller explained this spring. “I tried to do everything I could to say it was irrelevant and act as though it was irrelevant, but I think I tried to do too much for a while to maybe — not to live up to him, just to prove that I was worth being a part of the blockbuster trade.
“I can’t speak for Burke or Cameron or any of the other guys that well but I think we were out of our comfort zone first of all, leaving the only organization that we knew, going to a new place is never easy, and I feel like I was given a great opportunity in Florida but, you know, I certainly didn’t take as full advantage as I would’ve liked to. But you learn from it, and I think I’m a better player and a better person after all that I’ve been through. It’s tough, it’s inevitable, but I’m beyond that, it never enters my mind anymore.”
Badenhop, on the other hand, didn’t have the kind of top prospect status that Miller did. The right-hander had just 18 2/3 innings of Double-A ball under his belt at the time of the deal, but he’d moved through the lower levels of the minors quickly and had had success at every stop along the way. Badenhop was still a starting pitcher at the time of the deal, a couple years after being drafted in the 19th round in 2005 by Detroit out of Bowling Green State University. While Miller says the trade “honestly never crosses [his] mind” at this point in his career, Badenhop feels differently.
When asked if he follows Cabrera’s career in a different fashion than he might of had he not been involved in the deal, Badenhop acknowledged, “Absolutely. I mean, that’s the thing I’m linked to the most. … When you’ve been traded for arguably the best player in the last decade, it’s tough not to give it a little bit more attention.
“I had just gotten back from [playing in] the Fall League, and two weeks after, I get traded. And it was a pretty mega trade,” Badenhop recalled. “It was kind of interesting too because it took a little while to develop, like I knew that evening and I didn’t get any calls until later the next afternoon, which felt like an eternity. There’s not too many trades like that, and then to be traded with five other of my teammates, with the Tigers to go to the Marlins — yeah, my head was definitely spinning.”
Badenhop and Miller are two of the major reasons why Cabrera was able to sign the extension over this offseason — after all, they played a role in him joining the Tigers in the first place. So what do they think of the slugger’s enormous contract?
Neither was particularly surprised by the size of the deal.
‘”It’s an incredible amount of money but the game is prospering,” Miller said. “I think there’s an argument on his side that he’s worth even more, I don’t know how they break it down or what they say a win is worth these days, like seven or eight million dollars? So, how many wins is he producing every year? It’s probably more than five or six on average. Health is a big part. Like I said, it’s a mind-blowing number but I think in the age we play in, Clayton Kershaw is making a million dollars a start.”
“I was traded straight up for Dontrelle [Willis], it was the other five guys who were traded for Miguel,” Badenhop joked. “I mean, he’s a good player, the numbers, you see what [Mike] Trout is getting and stuff like that — you know, it’s interesting because people are saying, ‘This will be a bad deal,’ and this and that — but nobody’s making these owners pony up.”
But with roots and connections in Tiger territory, Badenhop acknowledged that the deal was about more than Cabrera’s numbers.
“I’m from Toledo, my wife’s from Detroit. There’s a ton of Detroit fans in my hometown. There’s not a ton of stuff going on in southeast Michigan and northeast Ohio, and they love the Tigers,” Badenhop said. “To keep Miguel Cabrera and to keep that fan base happy, and to keep people interested — and they’ve been one of the better teams since 2006 when they went to the World Series – that’s huge. Whether his WAR [wins above replacement] outproduces the value of his contract, he keeps fans happy. He probably keeps [Tigers owner] Mike Ilitch and [Tigers general manager] Dave Dombroski happy, and it keeps people coming to games. When it boils down to you go to a Tigers game, people are going to see Miguel Cabrera.”
Alex Speier contributed to this report.
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