Tigers trade Oliver to Pirates for Ramon Cabrera
For the second straight Winter Meetings in Nashville, the Tigers have traded for a Cabrera. This time, it’s a minor-league catcher named Ramon Cabrera in a 1-for-1 swap with the Pirates that sends former Detroit starter Andy Oliver to Pittsburgh.
The deal, the Tigers’ first of these Winter Meetings, ends Oliver’s roller-coaster Tiger tenure. It began with a promising first season that saw him spend a month in Detroit’s rotation in his first year as a pro, and ended with Oliver relegated to the bullpen at Triple-A Toledo at the close of last season.
In between, Oliver showed a power arm for a left-hander, but struggled to harness it into consistent command.
“We couldn’t get him to throw strikes on a consistent basis,” team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said. “And if he does, with his arm, he has a chance to be a very fine pitcher.”
Oliver went 0-5 with a 7.11 ERA in seven starts for the Tigers in 2010 and 2011. He had solid numbers at Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo in 2010, but went 13-22 with a 4.79 ERA over the next two years as a Mud Hen, walking 168 batters over 265 innings with 255 strikeouts.
And yet, with his talent, he put himself in a solid position to compete for the Tigers’ open rotation spot last spring with an impressive opening stretch of camp. That bid fell apart in the second half of camp as his walk total rose, landing him back at Toledo for a third season.
“We thought that perhaps a change of scenery would not be a bad thing,” Dombrowski said.
Oliver would have come to camp to compete for a bullpen spot had he stuck with the club. He’ll go to Spring Training with the Pirates to compete for a starting job.
“He seems capable of doing a lot of roles for us,” Pirates general manager Neil Huntington said. “We like the arm, like the fastball, the breaking ball, like how he does things. And as tough as is to give up young switch-hitting catcher that we like, a lot, we felt Andrew was a good addition to our club.”
The 23-year-old Cabrera was a Florida State League batting champion at Class A Bradenton in 2011 before batting .276 with three home runs and 50 RBIs between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis this past season. The 5-foot-8, 195-pounder owns a .292 batting average in his five-year minor league career, but just a .400 slugging percentage.