NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Dontrelle Willis was on vacation in
Mexico when the blockbuster deal was completed, and Miguel Cabrera
was home in Venezuela.
Their next stop is Detroit, where the busy Tigers are building
an awfully powerful team.
The Tigers finalized their big trade with the Marlins on
Wednesday, an eight-player swap that sent both coveted All-Stars
from cash-strapped Florida to go-for-broke Detroit.
"I was caught off-guard," Willis said on a conference call.
"When I heard where I was going, I was eager and excited."
The Marlins received a package of six players, including two
highly rated prospects: left-hander Andrew Miller and outfielder
Cameron Maybin. The teams reached a preliminary agreement Tuesday,
with the deal subject to both sides being satisfied after
exchanging medical records.
The Tigers also sent catcher Mike Rabelo and right-handers Burke
Badenhop, Eulogio De La Cruz and Dallas Trahern to Florida in a
huge trade that developed quickly and took the spotlight away from
the Johan Santana sweepstakes at baseball's winter meetings.
"The inclusion of Dontrelle was not something at the outset
that we had considered," Florida president of baseball operations
Larry Beinfest said. "We recognize the market value for both
Detroit president Dave Dombrowski didn't intend to pursue the
pair until he received a surprise phone call at home two days
before Thanksgiving from owner Mike Ilitch, who read in a newspaper
that Cabrera was available.
"I just wanted to kind of mention his name, that he seems like
he'd be a great player for us," Ilitch said, according to
"Well, he would be," Dombrowski remembered replying.
The clubs touched base a little bit Monday night, then Florida
approached Detroit on Tuesday morning. The Marlins told the Tigers
they could have both stars for those six players, then Detroit
called back later in the day and agreed.
"We made this trade to win now. It's obvious," Dombrowski
Tigers closer Todd Jones was more emphatic.
"Wow. Those moves put us over the top," he wrote in an e-mail
to The Associated Press.
The Tigers reached the World Series in 2006, then went 88-74
this season and finished eight games behind Cleveland in the AL
Cabrera and Willis can become free agents after the 2009 season,
but the Tigers hope to keep them long term.
"I have been on the trading block for so long," Willis said.
"It'd be mentally draining."
Cabrera, one of the game's top sluggers, joins an imposing
lineup that includes Magglio Ordonez, Gary Sheffield, Carlos
Guillen, 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.
The 24-year-old Cabrera made 23 errors at third base this season
and has been criticized for his conditioning. He's said he's been
working out this fall in Miami and Venezuela.
"I want to be in the best shape of my life," Cabrera said.
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.
"We didn't talk yet about that. I will play left field, third
base, whatever they want. I can't wait to go to spring training to
see what they want to do," Cabrera said.
Willis, the 2003 NL Rookie of the Year, is coming off a down
year in which he went 10-15 with a 5.17 ERA.
"I had to battle through some injuries. I had to still pitch,"
the effervescent left-hander said. "It was a combination of a lot
of things. Toward the end, I started to feel a little better to get
my command back."
Willis will be part of a solid rotation with Justin Verlander,
Kenny Rogers and Jeremy Bonderman as Detroit loads up for another
run at the World Series after losing to St. Louis in five games in
The Tigers' last title came in 1984, when they opened with a
"The 35-5 start might be in trouble from '84," Jones wrote in
Also Wednesday, the Tigers traded first baseman Chris Shelton to
the Texas Rangers for outfielder Freddy Guzman.
Shelton hit .326 with a team-record 19 extra-base hits in April
of 2006, including 10 homers, to help Detroit to a 16-9 record. But
he hit only six homers after April 30 and his average slid to .277
by the time he was sent down at the trading deadline.
He spent all of '07 in the minors, batting .269 with 14 homers
and 65 RBIs.
Guzman hit .269 with 92 runs in Triple-A Oklahoma, leading the
Pacific Coast League with 56 stolen bases.
Cabrera and Willis were the last players left from Florida's
2003 championship team, both called up from the minors during the
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.
"We received some terrific players in this trade, and we're
confident they will make a positive impact," Florida owner Jeffrey
Loria said in a statement. "Although we cannot ignore the economic
realities we face, which will change the moment we are in a new
facility, our determination to win on the field remains as
steadfast as ever."
The Marlins had been shopping Cabrera since the general
managers' meetings last month. The Los Angeles Angels pursued him,
but Angels owner Arte Moreno expressed frustration about the
negotiations, saying he twice thought the teams reached a deal
before they fell through.
"To talk about it publicly I think is unprofessional and
unnecessary," Beinfest said. "If people thought we were kicking
the tires, I think we kicked the tires today sufficiently."
At $1,325,000 next year, Miller immediately became the
highest-paid player on the Marlins.
"This is not woe is the Marlins," Beinfest said, mentioning
Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla and others still on the roster. "We have
really good players."
Beinfest sounded happy with the package of prospects his team
"We've built some pitching depth," he said. "These guys are
It was Dombrowski who was running the Marlins when they
jettisoned many of their high-priced stars after winning the 1997
World Series. Now, Beinfest is in a similar situation.
"I did have some flashbacks to those time periods," Dombrowski
"Nightmares or flashbacks?" Beinfest chimed in.