What the Detroit Tigers would have to trade to land Juan Soto

In case you haven’t heard, it seems rather likely that the Washington Nationals are going to move slugger Juan Soto. When a player of Soto’s caliber hits the trade block, every single team in the league should at least check in on the price tag. This should include the Detroit Tigers.

Of course, the Tigers are in a delicate situation. They added pieces to their roster since the conclusion of the 2021 season, including Javier Baez, yet, they are still significantly underperforming. Is this the right time for them to unload a bunch of prospects for a superstar? Probably not, but let’s explore anyways.

When thinking of comparable players that have been traded in the past, the first thought that comes to mind for me is when the Tigers acquired Miguel Cabrera in 2007. The stats for both Juan Soto and Miggy (at that point of his career) are quite comparable, as well. Through 555 career games, Soto’s batting average sits at .293 with 118 home runs and 355 RBIs. Perhaps most impressive though is his on-base percentage, which sits at a robust .427!

From 2003-2006, Miggy played in 563 games for the Florida Marlins (as they were known back then). He had amassed a batting average of .310, with 104 home runs and 404 RBIs.

Comparing the Miguel Cabrera Trade to a Possible Juan Soto Trade

Before considering a hypothetical trade including the Tigers and Juan Soto, there are at least a couple of things to remember:

  • The 2007 Detroit Tigers were in a much different spot than the 2022 Detroit Tigers. In 2006, the team finished 95-67 and made an appearance in the World Series. Following that season, they decided to make a splash and they added Cabrera to the team. This was a team that was already contending and wasn’t in need of seasoning numerous prospects.
  • Dave Dombrowski and Al Avila are very different general managers, each with their own respective styles.

Dontrelle Willis came to Detroit with Cabrera in the 2007 trade. In return, The Tigers sent outfielder Cameron Maybin, then-starting pitcher Andrew Miller, pitcher Eulogio de la Cruz, pitcher Dallas Trahern, pitcher Burke Badenhop, and catcher Mike Rabelo. The first five listed were all still considered “ranked” prospects at that time.

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What the Detroit Tigers would have to trade to land Soto

While prospect rankings weren’t all the rage as they seem to be today, I was able to find some consensus as to where the prospects ranked in the Tigers’ minor league system around the time of the trade. The information provided below on prospects is all courtesy of minorleaguebaseball.com.

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Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller, and Eulogio de la Cruz were the team’s top three prospects at the time. Dallas Trahern ranked as the #10 prospect, and Burke Badenhop sat just outside the top 20. Mike Rabelo was not ranked at the time. Whether or not prospect rankings in 2006-2007 were as in-depth and accurate as they are today is probably a debate for another time. If the Tigers were going to match that trade return by sending each of their top three prospects, their #10 prospect, and one just outside of the top 20, here’s what it would look like (according to prospect rankings at mlb.com): Riley Greene, P Jackson Jobe, C Dillon Dingler, SS/3B Gage Workman, P Tanner Kohlhepp.

Of course, it is impossible to predict if Soto is going to be traded in a package like Cabrera was. Any other players being included with Juan Soto would also impact the return that Washington will get. But, as far as a trade for just Soto is concerned, this price is far too high for my liking. Consider the fact that Detroit is still rebuilding, whether we like it or not. In 2007, there was not a massive need for highly rated prospects at the highest level. The 2022 version of this team desperately needs these prospects both now and over the next few years.

Although there is comfort (if that’s what you want to call it) in knowing that the trade with the Marlins worked out heavily in Detroit’s favor over the years, today’s age of ranking and profiling prospects makes it much easier to predict how young players will do in the higher levels of professional baseball. I can’t imagine a world where at least Greene, Jobe, and Dingler aren’t at least halfway decent everyday players at the highest level.

Is all this to say that Juan Soto is not actually worth all these prospects? I wouldn’t go that far. But I will go so far as to say that this would be way too much for the Tigers to pay for him at this time. Whatever team ends up trading for him is going to get an outstanding baseball player, possibly even one of the best in the game. They are also going to end up paying a premium price tag though, one which the Detroit Tigers should stay away from paying at this time.

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