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Trade Miguel Cabrera? Whatchoo Talkin' 'Bout, Ken Rosenthal?

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Up until this weekend, I thought the most absurd rumor surrounding the Detroit Tigers was that Brandon Inge was available for trade.

I'm not saying the idea of trading Inge is absurd. And Jon Heyman was presumably just passing along what he heard at last week's GM meetings. But what is another team going to give up for a near-$7 million player who hit under .190 in the second half of the season, largely due to two bad knees that just required surgery?

However, Ken Rosenthal's suggestion that the Tigers trade Miguel Cabrera to the Boston Red Sox for Jonathan Papelbon, Mike Lowell, and a minor leaguer might be even more senseless.

Rosenthal admits he was just "thinking out loud," doing what all baseball writers and fans tend to do at this time of year. And the idea of trading Cabrera in itself isn't crazy. If you believe the Tigers are considering trading Curtis Granderson or Edwin Jackson to help trim payroll, it stands to reason that their most expensive player might get shopped around too.

(That is, if you believe Dave Dombrowski is really trying to cut Detroit's payroll down. I think there's been a misunderstanding about his offseason intentions, because this doesn't really add up. Yet it fits the popular meme that much of the baseball media has been trying to promote about the Tigers since the economy collapsed last year, so it keeps getting pushed out there.

Yes, Detroit is more than likely limited by its payroll, which is why Dombrowski is exploring these options. If the team doesn't have the money to improve itself through free agency, trades are the only recourse he has. And the only players he can trade are those other teams want.)

But how exactly would the Tigers' payroll benefit from taking on the salaries of Papelbon and Lowell? Long-term, yes, their obligation to pay Cabrera's contract would be gone. But in the short term, they'd actually be paying more money, and for two players they arguably don't even need.

Yes, the Tigers would prefer a veteran closer, and will have to pay for one. And Papelbon is a very good closer. But for the salary they'd have to give him ($8-10 million), they could afford a lower-cost option and still address other needs on the roster. Re-signing Brandon Lyon or Fernando Rodney would fit in that category.

Where exactly would Lowell play? In Rosenthal's scenario, presumably at first base, replacing Cabrera. But Lowell has played less than 120 games for the past two seasons, hitting 17 home runs each o those years. They couldn't get that kind of production out of Jeff Larish - or maybe even Ryan Strieby - at a fraction of the cost? Taking on Lowell would just be doing the Red Sox a favor. How would that make the Tigers better?

If Dombrowski traded an elite hitter like Cabrera, he'd spend the rest of his life trying to get him back. It's why he gave up so much to get him (along with taking on Dontrelle Willis) in the first place. It's why he was willing to stand by Cabrera after picking him up from the police station on the morning of October 3. Players like Cabrera don't come around very often, and the Tigers are a far better team with him than without him (or with whatever they could get for him in a trade).

Both Mack Avenue Tigers and Tigers Tracks look at the folly of this thinking in further detail.

What bugs me more about this whole scenario is that if a blogger threw a trade suggestion like this out there, he or she would almost surely be ridiculed by their peers and readers.

Rosenthal himself might go on TV and shake his head with disgust at the irresponsibility of the writer, like he did back in June. Because the unlikelihood of this suggestion - along with the fact it's based on guessing, and not actual reporting - makes it extremely difficult to take seriously. And Rosenthal is supposed to be someone baseball fans (and Rosenthal's colleagues in the media) hold to such a standard.