For Pirates 3rd base coach Mike Rabelo, magnitude of Juan Soto trade hits home

One of the biggest blockbuster trades in MLB history transpired before the league’s annual trade deadline Tuesday when the Washington Nationals shipped star 23-year-old outfielder Juan Soto to San Diego in exchange for a plethora of prospects and major-leaguers.

Soto, who despite his youth has already taken tangible steps towards asserting himself as a generational talent, finished as NL MVP runner-up last year, as he batted .313 with 29 home runs and 95 RBI.

After finishing second in NL Rookie of the Year voting at age 19 in 2018, Soto has gone on to collect MVP votes in every season since.

At the time of his trade to the Padres, Soto was hitting .246 with 21 homers and 46 RBIs through 101 games played.

The Soto trade is certainly not the first to send shockwaves throughout the MLB. Alex Rodriguez being shipped from Texas to the New York Yankees in 2004 had a similar effect, for example.

Another trade falling into that category took place in 2007 when the Detroit Tigers traded for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis, sending minor league pitchers Eulogio De La Cruz, Dallas Trahern and Burke Badenhop, in addition to outfielder Cameron Maybin and pitcher Andrew Miller, in return .

The final piece of that trade puzzle was catcher Mike Rabelo, who now serves as the Pirates’ third base coach.

Rabelo, a fourth round pick by Detroit in the 2001 MLB Draft, was in his second year with the Tigers at the time.

Naturally, being part of such a monumental trade has allowed Rabelo to reflect on the experience and offer insight from afar into the Soto deal.

In particular, Rabelo noted how much things have changed from 2007 to 2022 in terms of how news spreads. While it was only 15 years ago, Twitter was still in its infancy and nowhere near the news-breaking tool that it is today.

How the world found out about the Cabrera trade vs. Soto’s may well be likened to a Pony Express delivery compared to the snap of a finger.

“I was traded in the winter of 2007,” Rabelo said. “(It was a) much different scenario in the offseason in December and I actually found out watching TV. I had no idea any of these talks are going on. Miggy and Dontrelle were in the National League with the Marlins and I wasn’t really paying attention to their contract status. I saw on TV and then the phone rang with a bunch of reporters.”

Cabrera joined the Tigers ahead of the 2008 season as a four-time All-Star already with firm credentials as a clutch power hitter.

His first three seasons in Detroit saw him finish in the top five for AL MVP before he captured the award in back-to-back seasons in 2012 and 2013.

Rabelo admitted that in real time, he didn’t have the most acute understanding of just how major the trade he’d been a part of was.

Seeing the career Cabrera has gone onto have in Detroit, one that’ll undoubtedly land him in Cooperstown, NY, one day, as well as juxtaposing how much the digital age has changed how news breaks, changed that.

“Not until people started sending me stuff online was I like, ‘Wow, that (trade) was a really big deal,'” he said. “Miggy is one of the best right-handed hitters ever. I didn’t really realize it until the Soto deal. With social media, it’s so out there. That’s when I realized, ‘Wow, that was a pretty big trade I was in.'”

Rabelo played one year with the Marlins in 2008 and eventually returned to the Tigers in 2010, where he was released that summer.

He later got his coaching start within the Tigers farm system, rising to manager of Detroit’s High-A affiliate West Michigan Whitecaps in 2016 and, in 2018, manager of the Double-A Erie SeaWolves.

Rabelo wasn’t the centerpiece of the Cabrera trade, but it came to play a major role in his later coaching career, opening various doors and setting the stage for his arrival in Pittsburgh.

“I always tell everybody that Detroit got the best part of the trade; not only did they get (Cabrera), but then I came back and started coaching in their system,” Rabelo said with a laugh. “… It was fun to be a part of and it was a good time, it really was.”

Justin Guerriero is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Justin by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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