Marlins deal Pierre to Cubs for three pitchers

Updated: December 7, 2005, 8:47 PM ET
Associated Press

DALLAS -- The Florida Marlins likely finished their salary purge on Wednesday, sending center fielder Juan Pierre to the Chicago Cubs for right-hander Sergio Mitre and Double-A pitchers Ricky Nolasco and Renyel Pinto.

Marlins' 2005 Opening Day Lineup
CF Juan Pierre -- traded
2B Luis Castillo -- traded
LF Miguel Cabrera -- moved to 3B
1B Carlos Delgado -- traded
3B Mike Lowell -- traded
C Paul Lo Duca -- traded
RF Juan Encarnacion -- FA
SS Alex Gonzalez -- FA
P Josh Beckett -- traded

The only high-priced players remaining on the Marlins roster are 22-game winner Dontrelle Willis and slugger Miguel Cabrera, who are eligible for salary arbitration for the first time but not expected to be traded. Pierre is eligible for salary arbitration and expected to make $5 million to $6 million in 2006.

"I can guarantee you that Miguel Cabrera will be in the lineup," new Marlins manager Joe Girardi said, referring to his team's youthful slugger, who is not eligible for arbitration until after next season. "Other than that, there aren't a whole lot of guarantees."

The 28-year-old Pierre batted .276 with 181 hits, 96 runs and 57 stolen bases last season -- which he described as "an embarrassing year, a very disappointing year" during a conference call with reporters.

Pierre gives the Cubs the leadoff hitter they lacked in 2005, when they finished fourth, 21 games behind the Cardinals, with a 79-83 record that was their first losing season in three years.

"He puts pressure on the opposition," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "He brings a different dimension to our lineup so we can play small ball and set up the guys behind him to play long ball as well."

The Cubs also agreed to terms with veteran left-handed hitter John Mabry on a one-year, $1.075 million contract on Wednesday.

With his speed and left-handed bat, the Cubs had hoped Corey Patterson would develop into a leadoff hitter. But the third overall pick in the 1998 amateur draft was a bust at the top of the order, and was even sent back to Triple-A Iowa for more seasoning.

He hit just .215 last year with 118 strikeouts, and his on-base percentage was only .254. He didn't have much luck bunting, either.

And the Cubs didn't have anyone in the system to replace him.

"It was a priority," general manager Jim Hendry said. "There's a lot of clubs just lacking that bona fide leadoff hitter. We knew the competition was very tough.

"It's no secret we chased Rafael Furcal hard. And even if we got him we would have chased Juan Pierre hard."

Pierre seemed relieved that the deal was completed.

"It's been a couple weeks here just wondering, waiting to see where I'd go," he said. "The last week, it seems like it's been a different team everyday. But I'm definitely excited to be a Chicago Cub."

Watching the dismantling of the Marlins was not easy for Pierre.

"Guys you build friendships with and bond with, you see them getting picked off one by one and you know that you're gonna be one of them; it's just a matter of when and where," he said. "The situation here is bad. I'm looking forward to being a Cub. Every year, they're in the thick of things. They do what it takes to be competitive. I'm just excited to go out and play in front of 40,000 fans everyday."

In all, the Marlins have cut about $45 million in 2006 payroll after starting last year at $60 million. Leaving through trade or free agency are: Josh Beckett, A.J. Burnett, Paul Lo Duca, Luis Castillo, Mike Lowell, Guillermo Mota and Carlos Delgado.

Other Marlins free agents not expected to be re-signed include outfielder Jeff Conine, second baseman Damion Easley and shortstop Alex Gonzalez.

"I'm glad I'm not down there any more. Fire sales are always tough," Burnett said Tuesday after agreeing to a five-year, $55 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays. "They'd better teach Dontrelle how to play all nine positions."

Girardi said he would make sure Willis didn't try to do too much.

"My expectation for him is to be a leader. From everything I know, and from talking to him, he already is a leader," Girardi said. "So I just want him to be himself. Don't try to do too much, because I'm not going to let him."

Mitre was 2-5 with a 5.37 ERA in 60 1-3 innings. Pinto, a lefty, was 10-3 with a 2.71 ERA in Double-A and Nolasco, a righty, was 14-3 with a 2.89 ERA, also with the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx.

"We have an abundance of young starters," Girardi said. "Other teams would probably like to have eight veterans, but we have eight young starters. They have the ability to push each other."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press