MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins made a rare move at the trade deadline, upgrading their middle infield by acquiring shortstop Orlando Cabrera from the Oakland Athletics for the stretch run in the crowded AL Central race.
On a busy day in baseball, the Detroit Tigers struck a deal for starting pitcher Jarrod Washburn and the Chicago White Sox landed former Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy, though he's currently injured.
Twins general manager Bill Smith traded Class A infielder Tyler Ladendorf for Cabrera and cash.
"Seems like they were working hard upstairs," said closer Joe Nathan, one of the three All-Stars who recently pined for action from the front office. "We'll see in October if it works out for us."
Catcher Joe Mauer's contract runs through 2010, and he's hinted that the quality of the roster will play a part in his decision to re-sign or not with his hometown team. First baseman Justin Morneau has been even more blunt about needing to placate Mauer.
"All we can do is worry about us playing well," Morneau said. "If our pitchers are healthy and we go out and take care of ourselves, we should be in it right at the end."
Smith denied feeling pressure from the players to make a trade.
"I don't look at it that way," he said. "This year wasn't any different. We're glad that we're able to get a deal done that helps the ballclub."
The Twins thought they had their infield set when third baseman Joe Crede came the first week of spring training, but shortstop Nick Punto and second baseman Alexi Casilla have struggled badly at the plate. Brendan Harris is a better hitter than them, but not as slick in the field.
Cabrera, a two-time Gold Glove winner, has an .318 on-base percentage that's hardly ideal for the big hole in the second spot in the lineup. He is, however, hitting .373 with eight doubles, two homers and 16 RBIs in 110 at-bats this month.
Manager Ron Gardenhire was noncommittal about playing time and the batting order, but he was pleased by Cabrera's addition. The 34-year-old is a .326 career hitter at the Metrodome.
"We've played against him long enough to know that he can hit, he can steal bases, he can hit behind the runner, he can bunt, he can be a hit-and-run guy, he can do a lot of things," Gardenhire said.
Cabrera has brought his season average up to .280. He has four homers, 41 RBIs and 11 steals.
"I think he can help us," Mauer said.
In 2004, Cabrera was sent from Montreal to Boston at the trade deadline to take over at shortstop for Nomar Garciaparra and helped the Red Sox win the World Series. That year, he had to fly to Minnesota, too, to meet his new team.
Cabrera was unable to make it to the airport in time to get to Friday's game against the Los Angeles Angels. The Twins entered in second place with a two-game deficit in the standings, and the White Sox were 2½ games behind the Tigers.
Speaking on a conference call from Northern California, Cabrera was in an affable mood.
"Who doesn't like M&Ms?" he said, laughing as he referred to Mauer and Morneau.
A's general manager Billy Beane has been trying to rebuild the franchise from the bottom up. Oakland wanted to draft Ladendorf last year, but Minnesota took him in the second round. The Twins were reluctant to let him go, but the interest in Cabrera won out.
"The Twins showed the most desire to acquire him and seemed to have the greatest need," Beane said. "It was an absolute pleasure to have him. If you look at his last month, he was playing great baseball for us with a lot of energy."
Cabrera is playing on a one-year, $4 million contract.
"My motivation is at the highest possible level," he said, adding: "Hopefully I can help them go to the playoffs. We'll see what happens after that."
Oakland has unloaded a lot of talent in the last half of his decade, starting when pitchers Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder were dealt during a three-day span in December 2004. Matt Holliday went to the St. Louis Cardinals last week. Almost all of the players the A's have received via trade in recent years are unproven minor leaguers.
"We're going to use this as an opportunity for us to give Cliff a chance to see what he can do at the major league level," Beane said. "He's someone we think highly of. We're going to give him a long trial run. He's earned that."