Tigers reach preliminary deal with Marlins for Cabrera and Willis

Updated: December 5, 2007, 11:33 PM ET
Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Detroit and Florida finished their eight-player mega-deal with surprising speed Wednesday, leaving Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis eager to start playing for the Tigers. For other teams, the winter meetings were mostly talk and little action.

Johan Santana was still with the Minnesota Twins as negotiations with the Boston Red Sox appeared to slow down. The New York Yankees, having said they were out of the Santana sweepstakes, were considering only minor moves.

There was no major news on Oakland's Dan Haren and Baltimore's Erik Bedard, two other starting pitchers who may be available in the trade market.

Colorado did move to re-sign Aaron Cook, closing in on a $30 million, three-year deal with their World Series Game 4 starter.

While pitching has been the focus of many teams, the Los Angeles Dodgers talked with St. Louis about third baseman Scott Rolen, who has feuded with Cardinals manager Tony La Russa.

"He asked to be traded. So I think under normal circumstances, if a guy doesn't want to be part of your situation, then you consider that. So inquiries have been made," La Russa said, sounding a bit like Don Corleone.

In the biggest trade of the offseason, the again-downsizing Marlins received a package of six players from Detroit, including two highly rated prospects: left-hander Andrew Miller and outfielder Cameron Maybin. The teams reached a preliminary agreement Tuesday.

"It's tilting, isn't it? It's not a good thing," said Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire, whose team competes with Detroit in the AL Central. "There's very, very good teams in our division. Detroit obviously has really, really improved themselves, and they're pretty good to start with."

Florida also received catcher Mike Rabelo and right-handers Burke Badenhop, Eulogio De La Cruz and Dallas Trahern. Signed for $1,325,000 next year, Miller immediately became the highest-paid player on the Marlins.

Cabrera and Willis were the last players left from Florida's 2003 World Series championship team. But having failed thus far to secure funding for a new ballpark, the Marlins felt they couldn't afford the salaries of Cabrera, who figures to make at least $11 million next year, and of Willis, who likely will earn about $8 million.

"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," Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria said.

Willis, a former NL Rookie of the Year award winner, was on vacation in Mexico when he heard the news.

"I was caught off-guard," he said on a conference call. "When I heard where I was going, I was eager and excited."

Tigers president Dave Dombrowski said the pudgy Cabrera had already lost 15 pounds during the offseason.

"If he has been a little bit overweight, he's still a pretty good player, in fact a very good player," Dombrowski said. "We'll work with him on it."

On the Santana front, Minnesota general manager Bill Smith maintained the two-time AL Cy Young Award winner could remain with the Twins. Santana will get $13.25 million next year, then become eligible for free agency. The Twins haven't been able to sign him to an extension.

"I've said all along it's our first choice," Smith said. "We'd love to have him. We'd love to keep him."

New York Yankees senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner said Tuesday his team had ended its pursuit of the left-hander, leaving Minnesota to decide whether to accept an offer from the Boston Red Sox that would include Jon Lester or Jacoby Ellsbury and a package of prospects.

The Mets also have told the Twins they remain interested.

"Everyone knows who is out there," New York manager Willie Randolph said. "The big fish are out there. Santana is still out there. I don't think that we're necessarily out of the picture even though I think Boston and the Yankees get most of the play on that. Depends on what Minnesota wants, if they have what we like, that's something that might happen."

But Minnesota didn't seem in a hurry to trade Santana.

"If it's a Red Sox player, Red Sox timetable. That's how I would look at it," Boston general manager Theo Epstein said. "They're probably doing the same thing."

------=

AP Baseball Writer Mike Fitzpatrick and AP Sports Writer Jimmy Golen contributed to this report.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index