Picture this, except in pinstripes. (USATSI)
Picture this, except in pinstripes. (USATSI)

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Here are the first two paragraphs of this story by Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News dated Nov. 7, 2007:

If the Yankees want Miguel Cabrera to succeed Alex Rodriguez as their third baseman, it's going to cost them.

Brian Cashman met with the Marlins at about 6 p.m. last night at the GM meetings. No offers were made, but a source with knowledge of the situation said the Marlins made it clear that the Yankees would have to include either Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain or Ian Kennedy in any trade for Cabrera, something the Yankees are not willing to do.

Needless to say, those are two paragraphs positively sodden with the makings of an alternative history.

This story was written one month after A-Rod, the reigning AL MVP at the time, exercised his right to become a free agent one month before the Yankees inked him to a 10-year, $275-million whopper. While A-Rod would go on to be a core member of the Yanks' 2009 title team, it's safe to say that the team would like a mulligan on that contract, given both recent events and future outlook (the deal runs through 2017). 

The other hindsight-fueled element here is that the Yankees, according to Feinsand, balked at parting with one of Chamberlain, Hughes or Kennedy. To be fair, those were highly coveted arms back in those days, but it looks ridiculous in 2013 to think of passing on someone who turned out to be one of the greatest right-handed hitters ever (that would be Cabrera) because of attachments to those three hurlers. 

As things would turn out, in December of that same year the Marlins dealt Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers in exchange for Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller, Burke Badenhop, Mike Rabelo, Frankie De La Cruz and Dallas Trahern. To state the obvious, that trade turned out swimmingly in the extreme for Detroit (Cabrera, as a Tiger, has two AL MVPs and a triple crown to his credit).

But what if Brian Cashman and company had pulled the trigger on this potential deal with the Marlins? Hmm ...

The fallout

New York Yankees

First and most obviously, they'd have Cabrera headed into his age-25 season. Given that Detroit that same year moved Cabrera from third to first base, would the Yankees have considered doing the same? The $275-million commitment to A-Rod suggests, quite obviously, that they coveted the three-time MVP quite greatly. The bet here is that they would've shifted Cabrera to first and still signed A-Rod to the 10-year contract that haunts them presently. They'd surely have signed Cabrera to an extension, as the Tigers did in March of '08. All of that, in turn, means the Yankees don't sign Mark Teixeira prior to the 2009 season.

Miami Marlins

In reality, they didn't get much in return for Cabrera (Maybin, the best player of the haul, is now a Padre, and the Marlins flipped him to San Diego for Edward Mujica and Ryan Webb). In this alternate reality, they'd have perhaps been best off dealing him for ... Kennedy? In neither scenario do they get anything close to fair value for an elite performer like Cabrera. So maybe not trade a 24-year-old superstar in the first place and instead invest in keeping him? What a novel concept. 

Detroit Tigers

Obviously, the Tigers are very glad things didn't unfold as laid out above. So to fill that hole at first base, what do they do? There wasn't much on the free agent market that winter, but maybe the Tigers wait until the following winter to get in on Adam Dunn or Teixeira? Brandon Inge was still entrenched at third base in those days, so an addition at the hot corner seems out of the question (besides, Casey Blake was probably the top third baseman on the market during that period, and that wasn't until after the 2008 season). Regardless of how GM Dave Dombrowski played it, the Tigers would have been measurably worse off without Miggy. 

Baltimore Orioles

So if the Yanks never ink Teixeira to that eight-year, $180-million deal, then perhaps Tex's hometown Orioles nab him. They were hotly in the mix for Teixeira, and if we assume the Yankees go the Cabrera-Rodriguez route at the corners, then it seems like that Teixeira falls to the O's. And if that's the case, then that brings us to ...

Texas Rangers

If we assume that Teixeira's an Oriole, then Baltimore at the 2011 non-waiver deadline likely doesn't acquire Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter from the Rangers in exchange for Koji Uehara. In that case, does Davis experience a similar rise to stardom if he's not in Baltimore? Does he even get that chance in Texas? And if Uehara's career path is different, does he still sign with the Red Sox as a free agent prior to their championship 2013 season? The mind reels. 

Understatement: There are a bounty of hypotheticals to ponder when the subject is Miguel Cabrera as a Yankee.  

(Wink of CBS eye: Hardball Talk)