DETROIT – Baseball’s winter meetings are returning to the scene of what many Marlins fans believe was a crime.
Beginning Monday, the game’s general managers, agents, managers and reporters will converge on the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville, where on Dec. 5, 2007, Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski pulled off an eight-player trade that really came down to one player: Miguel Cabrera, the 2012 AL MVP.
That deal triggered three consecutive years of significant dealing at the winter meetings for Dombrowski. Six players who became future starters in either the rotation or the field — Austin Jackson, Max Scherzer, Gerald Laird, Edwin Jackson, Dontrelle Willis and Cabrera — came during those meetings.
Five years ago, Dombrowski acquired the franchise cornerstone at Opryland in a blockbuster deal with the Marlins. Cabrera and Willis came to Detroit for two highly rated prospects — left-handed pitcher Andrew Miller and center fielder Cameron Maybin — pitchers Burke Badenhop, Eulogio De La Cruz and Dallas Trahern and catcher Mike Rabelo.
Miller struggled as a starter but might have finally found his niche in the bullpen last season with Boston, going 3-2 with a 3.35 ERA and striking out 51 in 40 1/3 innings.
Maybin just signed a five-year, 25 million deal, despite hitting only .243 with 26 steals, 67 runs, eight homers and 45 RBIs in 2012 for the Padres.
Mike Rabelo is the hitting coach for the Connecticut Tigers after batting .234 in a brief MLB career, and Badenhop has been a serviceable reliever for the Marlins and Rays. De La Cruz had a cup of coffee and Trahern has yet to reach the majors.
Willis was a disaster, going 2-8 with a 6.86 ERA with Detroit and winning four major league games after the deal. Still, the Tigers got Cabrera.
Four years ago, Dombrowski opened the meetings in Las Vegas by acquiring Laird from the Rangers. He would be the regular catcher for two seasons until a lack of offense determined that he was an ideal backup with strong defensive attributes.
Texas got minor-league pitchers Carlos Melo and Guillermo Moscoso. Moscoso, now with the Rockies, is 11-12 with a 4.16 ERA in 57 games in the majors. Melo, 21, has struggled and has yet to rise above Single-A ball.
Then, before parting Vegas, Dombrowski traded corner outfield prospect Matt Joyce to the Rays for pitcher Edwin Jackson. Joyce made the All-Star team in 2011, batting .277 with 19 homers and 75 RBIs. He hit .241 with 17 homers and 59 RBIs last year, and has become a solid starter.
Jackson had a great first half in 2009, making the All-Star team for the Tigers and finishing at 13-9 with a 3.62 ERA. But that winter, he would become part of one of the biggest trades in recent years.
On Dec. 9, 2009, on a chilly afternoon in Indianapolis, Dombrowski connected with Yankees GM Brian Cashman and Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes to complete a stunning, seven-player swap. Seldom has one deal worked out as well for all three clubs.
Detroit received pitchers Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth from Arizona, and center fielder Austin Jackson and reliever Phil Coke from New York.
Scherzer has blossomed into a dynamite No. 2 pitcher behind Justin Verlander. Jackson nearly won the Rookie of the Year Award and is on the verge of an All-Star selection. Coke went from dependable to despicable to 2012 postseason hero.
Only Schlereth, injured most of last year, has not been productive.
Arizona got starters Ian Kennedy from New York and Edwin Jackson from Detroit. Kennedy has gone 45-26 with a 3.55 ERA, and went 21-4 while finishing fourth in 2011 NL Cy Young Award voting.
Jackson didn’t stay long in Phoenix, but remains a productive pitcher and just signed for 2012 with Washington for $12 million.
Granderson has made two All-Star teams and hit 84 homers with 225 RBIs in 2011 and 2012. All was rosy until he struggled late last year and ended up batting .232 with 195 strikeouts before getting benched in the postseason.
It will take a few more years to be able to discern the full impact of that deal. But after three seasons, nobody has received a bigger impact from it than the Tigers. They received two players currently performing at very high standards and the added bonus of Coke.
Dombrowski has traded top prospects for All-Stars and made out like a bandit. He’s acquired top prospects for Tigers All-Stars and come out on top. And he’s swapped a future All-Star for another future All-Star.
Winter meetings deals enabled Detroit to win the 2012 American League pennant, and you can be sure Dombrowski will be working on a trade next week in Nashville with hopes of returning to the World Series and this time coming out on top.