Tigers Work Deal To Land Cabrera, Willis

Wednesday, December 5th 2007, 7:05 am
By: News On 6

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ One swift move, two new stars. The Detroit Tigers are loading up for another run at the World Series, this time with Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis.

Detroit reached a preliminary agreement Tuesday to acquire Cabrera and Willis from the Florida Marlins for a package of six players, an unexpected blockbuster trade that developed quickly at the winter meetings.

``I'm glad we're in the other division,'' Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. ``That lineup just got scary.''

In a huge deal that took the spotlight away from Boston's pursuit of Johan Santana, Florida gets lefty Andrew Miller, outfielder Cameron Maybin and four other prospects from the Tigers, a baseball official with knowledge of the talks said on condition of anonymity because the trade had not yet been finalized.

The Marlins also receive catcher Mike Rabelo and right-handers Burke Badenhop, Eulogio De La Cruz and Dallas Trahern. The players involved must pass physicals for the deal to be completed.

``It's very serious, but nothing is finalized yet because some issues need to get worked out,'' Tigers manager Jim Leyland told The Associated Press.

Cabrera, an All-Star in each of the past four seasons, would join an imposing lineup that already includes Magglio Ordonez, Gary Sheffield, Ivan Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and Placido Polanco. The Tigers also acquired shortstop Edgar Renteria, a five-time All-Star, in a trade with Atlanta this offseason.

Willis, the 2003 NL Rookie of the Year and a two-time All-Star, is coming off a down year in which he went 10-15 with a 5.17 ERA. He would be part of a solid rotation with Justin Verlander, Kenny Rogers and Jeremy Bonderman as Detroit tries to reach the World Series again after losing to St. Louis in 2006.

Florida didn't even approach the Tigers until Tuesday morning. The Marlins told the Tigers they could have both stars for those six players, then Detroit called back about two hours later and agreed, the baseball official said.

``If it does happen, obviously they're getting two very good players,'' said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who managed the Marlins in 2006. ``Miguel Cabrera is one of the finest hitters in the game. He can do so many things with a bat, whether you want him to hit a home run for you, you want to hit and run, work the count, get on base. And Dontrelle Willis has been one of the premier lefties in the National League.''

Willis was on vacation when he heard the news.

``I'm in Mexico right now with my family. I'm kind of busy,'' he told the AP.

Detroit had not been considered a contender for Cabrera or Willis. Both can become free agents after the 2009 season.

Cabrera and Willis were the last players left from Florida's 2003 championship team. Unable to secure a new ballpark, the Marlins keep shedding players when they are due to earn huge salaries. Cabrera made $7.4 million this year and Willis $6.45 million. Both were eligible for arbitration and likely to receive raises.

``I halfway expected one of them to get traded, but not both in the same deal. So it's a little bit of a shock,'' Marlins left fielder Josh Willingham said. ``It's deflating.''

In return, the Marlins get a pair of highly rated prospects: Maybin was the 10th pick in the 2005 amateur draft and Miller was selected sixth overall the following year.

The 24-year-old Cabrera made 23 errors this season at third base. To make room for him, it appears Detroit could trade third baseman Brandon Inge or left fielder Marcus Thames. Cabrera played the outfield in 2004 and 2005.

The Los Angeles Angels had pursued Cabrera for weeks. The Marlins didn't give the Angels a last chance.

``The deal they appear to have reached, they felt was a better fit for them,'' Angels general manager Tony Reagins told a pool reporter.

Boston, meanwhile, was focused on Santana, Minnesota's two-time Cy Young Award winner. Finding the price too high, the Yankees ended their efforts to acquire the 28-year-old left-hander.

Yankees senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner had set a Monday deadline for an agreement with the Twins.

``A deadline is a deadline. It was pretty much done as of this morning,'' he said Tuesday. ``He's a fine pitcher, but there's a lot of things that go into this. This isn't fantasy baseball.''

Boston had offered the Twins packages built either around pitcher Jon Lester or outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, but not both.

``I know there's a lot of speculation that we're close to something big,'' Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said. ``Until we reach an agreement, then we're not that close.''

New York had proposed pitcher Phil Hughes and center fielder Melky Cabrera. The Twins dropped their demand that pitcher Ian Kennedy be included, but the sides couldn't agree on a third player.

``To tell you the truth, toward the end, Minnesota negotiated in good faith. They really did,'' Steinbrenner said. ``I have no problem with them.''

Twins general manager Bill Smith wouldn't discuss the talks specifically.

In other news:

_ Power-hitting outfielder Jose Guillen and the Kansas City Royals reached a preliminary agreement on a $36 million, three-year contract, a deal subject to him passing a physical.

_ NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy and the San Diego Padres reached a preliminary agreement on a $52 million, three-year extension through 2012, a deal subject to a physical.

_ The Dodgers are interested in a trade for St. Louis third baseman Scott Rolen.

_ Reliever Will Ohman and infielder Omar Infante were dealt to the Atlanta Braves from the Chicago Cubs for pitcher Jose Ascanio.

_ Denny Bautista was acquired by the Tigers from the Colorado Rockies for Jose Capellan in a swap of right-handed pitchers.

_ The Yankees reached a tentative agreement to trade Tyler Clippard to the Washington Nationals for Jonathan Albaladejo in an exchange of young pitchers.