‘Justin Verlander and Curtis Granderson for Dontrelle Willis’

What could have been, for sure. Right before the Detroit Tigers acquired Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera from the Florida Marlins, they almost made a separate deal that could have altered both team’s history.

In 2005 the Detroit Tigers were in dire need of an All-Star pitcher, and an ace at that. Dontrelle Willis of the Florida Marlins who was coming off a career year going 22-10 with a 2.63 ERA and finishing second to Chris Carpenter for the NL Cy Young Award. The Marlins reportedly received a trade offer from the Detroit Tigers that included a pair of youngsters in Justin Verlander and Curtis Granderson, but opted to hold onto Willis believing that he was only going to get better. However, that did not work out very well for the Marlins.

In 2006, Willis would go 12-12 with an ERA of 3.87 giving up ten more home runs than 2005 as well as beaning nineteen (19!) hitters. His 2007 season continued his downfall of potential superstardom. He would go 10-15 with an ERA of 5.17. There were zero injury concerns in these past two seasons as Willis made 34 starts in 2006, and 35 starts in 2007, as well as logging over 200 innings for those two seasons as well.

In 2005 Dontrelle Willis put up an amazing WAR of 7.4, and in 2006 he still managed to put up a 4.1 WAR which was higher than his Rookie of the Year’s season of 3.9, so it was easy to see why the Detroit Tigers, as well as many other teams, were interested in Dontrelle Willis, and the Marlins were even more interested in keeping him. However, within two years, the Marlins were reeling trying to find a trade partner for Dontrelle Willis, and the Tigers were there yet again to pick up Willis along with Miguel Cabrera. The Tigers were able to acquire Willis without giving up a future three-time All-Star in Granderson and a future Cy Young and MVP Award winner in Verlander.

The point of view of the Marlins in this trade had to be heart-wrenching looking back. Justin Verlander made his first full-season debut in 2006. He would win the Rookie of the Year by going 17-9 with an ERA of 3.63, and a WAR of 4.1 which would have been pretty similar in terms of WAR of Dontrelle Willis’ 2006 season. Curtis Granderson would also make his full-time debut for Detroit by hitting a triple slash of .260/.335/.438 while slugging out nineteen home runs while also producing a WAR of 3.3 (mainly due to his stellar defense in center field). However, the next season in 2007 is when things would have turned out to be a full one-sided deal. Dontrelle Willis from up above would have an ERA north of 5 in Detroit, while Justin Verlander would go on to go 18-6 with an ERA of 3.66 with a WAR of 4.2. Curtis Granderson would have a true breakout season with a triple slash of .302/.361/.552 hitting 23 triples, hitting out 23 home runs, and stealing 26 bases as well as playing Gold Glove caliber defense.

This could have been one of the most lopsided deals of all-time if it were to go down in 2005. However, the Marlins thought Dontrelle Willis would only improve, and they held onto Willis for two more seasons until trading him off with Miguel Cabrera to Detroit for a package that turned out a lot less enticing than Justin Verlander and Curtis Granderson. What could have been…

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