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Willis, Cabrera gone: Blockbuster trade will save Marlins $20 million

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By JOE CAPOZZI

 

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

 

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

 

NASHVILLE ? Marlins pitcher Dontrelle Willis was vacationing in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, on the southern tip of Baja peninsula, when his cellphone started ringing nonstop Tuesday.

 

Friends in Oakland, Calif., were calling to ask if what they were seeing on the TV sports ticker was true - that Willis and Miguel Cabrera would be teammates again in 2008. Not with the Marlins, but with the Detroit Tigers.

 

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It was just a matter of time

 

Willis, Cabrera gone: Blockbuster trade will save Marlins $20 million

 

Tigers acquire Cabrera and Willis

 

Willis didn't return the calls but he placed one of his own - to Cabrera. "We just laughed about it, to be totally honest,'' Willis said Tuesday night. "We just laughed about us getting traded. We're both excited.''

 

The trade isn't official yet. Willis said he hadn't been contacted by the Tigers or Marlins. But multiple sources said the Marlins and Tigers have worked out a blockbuster trade that would send Willis and Cabrera - the two remaining links from Florida's 2003 championship team - to Detroit for six players in yet another cost-cutting move.

 

Florida would get left-hander Andrew Miller, outfielder Cameron Maybin, catcher Mike Rabelo and three minor-leaguers, according to multiple sources. Four players, including two first-round draft picks, could make the Marlins' opening-day roster.

 

The Marlins and Tigers were expected to announce the deal today after they finish reviewing the players' medical records.

 

"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."

 

Marlins baseball operations President Admin Beinfest met with Marlins reporters Tuesday evening but would not acknowledge the framework of a deal was in place.

 

"I would say things are active," Beinfest said. "We have not consummated any deals. I think it's possible at this point something might get done before we leave (Nashville on Thursday)."

 

Cabrera's departure from Florida would be no surprise; the Marlins had been telling teams since November that he was available. Florida wasn't prepared to pay the $12 million the four-time All Star is expected to get through arbitration. And the team has had concerns about his weight and attitude.

 

But the inclusion of Willis came as a bit of a shock. Willis has been mentioned in trade rumors for the past two years. But the Marlins finished last in the league in pitching in 2007 and Willis was durable, logging 2051/3 innings while providing a positive clubhouse presence.

The Marlins, however, changed tactics since the general managers meetings in November. At some point after arriving in Nashville on Monday, they told teams that Willis had to be included, too. Still, the left-hander said he wasn't surprised to hear about the Detroit deal.

 

"I mean, my God, I've been on the trading block for kind of a world record for the last three years,'' he said. "They found a deal suitable for both sides so I'm happy to go over there and try to do my thing.''

 

The White Sox early Tuesday thought they had a shot at getting Cabrera, with manager Ozzie Guillen lobbying owner Jerry Reinsdorf to make the trade. But the Sox bowed out when Florida demanded that Willis be included in the deal, too, sources said. Chicago already has a surplus of left-handed pitchers.

 

The Tigers, who have asked about Willis since last year, had an edge in the Cabrera sweepstakes because of their front office: Assistant General Manager Al Avila signed Cabrera out of Venezuela during his tenure as an executive with the Marlins.

 

The trade potentially wipes nearly $20 million off Florida's payroll for 2008, assuming Cabrera gets $12 million and Willis, also arbitration eligible, makes something close to the $6.4 million he got in 2007.

 

If the season started today, reliever Kevin Gregg, who could make $2.5 million in arbitration this winter, stands to become the Marlins' highest-paid player.

 

Four of the players headed to Florida have shots at making the big-league roster - even though they have a combined 163 games of major-league experience.

 

Maybin and Miller are considered two of baseball's top prospects.

 

Maybin, 20, Detroit's first-round draft choice in 2005, can fill Florida's center field hole. At 6-4 and 205 pounds, he's a speedy outfielder who can hit for power. He made his debut in August and appeared in 24 games, hitting .143 with one home run in 49 at-bats. He rose quickly through the Tigers' system, batting .304 with 10 homers in 83 games for Class A Lakeland before making a brief stop at Class AA Erie.

 

Miller, 22, was Detroit's 2006 first-round pick and made his big-league debut that year. The Gainesville native went 5-6 with a 5.69 ERA 13 starts for Detroit last season.

 

Rabelo, a 27-year-old switch-hitter, is considered a backup catcher. He could make the team as the backup if the Marlins give Matt Treanor, the team's reserve catcher for the past three years, a shot at the starting job.

 

The Marlins also would get three right-handed pitching prospects: Dallas Trahern, Eulogio De La Cruz and Burke Badenhop. Cruz appeared in six games last season. He is a hard thrower who has been clocked at 100 mph.

 

Willis and Cabrera both were promoted from the Marlins minor-league system a month apart in 2003. Willis, who came up in May, went on to win the NL Rookie of the Year Award. Cabrera, brought up in June, wound up hitting a home run off Roger Clemens in the World Series, won by the Marlins in six games over the Yankees.

 

Since then, Willis has had an up down career. He was runner-up in the Cy Young Award voting in 2005 after leading the National League with 22 wins. But he struggled the last years, going 10-15 in 2007.

 

In Detroit, he and Cabrera would be reunited with former Marlins teammates catcher Pudge Rodriguez, reliever Todd Jones.

 

"They've got a lot of alumni,'' he said. "They got some good guys over there. Some good arms with (Justin) Verlander and guys like that. Hopefully I can learn from them and try to get better.''

 

Cabrera's star has been on a faster rise. He has a .313 career batting average, with 138 home runs and 523 RBI. And he's the third-fastest player in MLB history to reach the 500-RBI mark.

 

Beckett/Lowell all over again, only I don't see Willis stock ever rising anywhere close to what it use to be.

 

Solid deal overall. Would have been a much bigger fan if Jeff Larish would have been included in place of either Rebelo/Badenhop.

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Wow, I just got done posting this, and I mentioned it to Ramp after the deal went down, but the most surprising thing to me in this thing is how low Dontrelle's value must have been. It's almost as if he was a salary dump, very similar to the Mike Lowell/Beckett deal and teams had to take him.

 

Yep pretty sad.

 

How ironic is it that supposedly it was rumored that at Willis peak value the Tigers once offered us Granderson and Verlander for Willis and we said no.

 

The trade today basically was:

 

Cabrera for Maybin, Miller, and De la Cruz/Treharm

Willis for De la Cruz/Treharm, Rebelo, Badenhop

 

De la Cruz/Treharm - B level prospects

Badenhop- C-, probably Tigers version of our Taylor Graham

Rebelo- likely backup to Treanor (enough said)

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no where near the salary dump lowell was 6 players for 2? beckett was 4 players for 3. willis's value may be low but he could still be traded off by himself for a salary dump move. he increased the return in this deal

 

Doubtful. Unless by the extra return you mean Treharm/De la Cruz. If he would have increased it I think we would have received Larrish and a pitcher such as Jordan Tata instead of Rebelo and Badenhop

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no where near the salary dump lowell was 6 players for 2? beckett was 4 players for 3. willis's value may be low but he could still be traded off by himself for a salary dump move. he increased the return in this deal

 

Doubtful. Unless by the extra return you mean Treharm/De la Cruz. If he would have increased it I think we would have received Larrish and a pitcher such as Jordan Tata instead of Rebelo and Badenhop

 

He means inasmuch as it's doubtful we get Maybin and Miller for Cabrera, and we sure as hell don't get either for Willis.

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