Tigers send top prospects to Marlins for Cabrera, Willis

Updated: December 5, 2007, 1:51 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

The Florida Marlins and Detroit Tigers have agreed in principle on a trade that will send Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to Detroit for key prospects, sources told ESPN's Peter Gammons on Tuesday.

The Tigers would send outfielder Cameron Maybin, pitcher Andrew Miller, catcher Mike Rabelo and minor league pitchers Eulogio De La Cruz, Dallas Trahern and Burke Badenhop to the Marlins.

The deal is expected to be announced Tuesday night when the physicals and paperwork are completed.

"It's very serious, but nothing is finalized yet because some issues need to get worked out," Tigers manager Jim Leyland told The Associated Press.

Miller was Detroit's top pick in the 2006 draft and went 5-5 in 13 starts after being called up last summer. Maybin was the Tigers' first pick in 2005 and shot through the farm system, hitting .143 in 24 major league games, Rabelo batted .256 in 51 games, and 23-year-old De La Cruz appeared in six games for the Tigers, hitting 100 mph on the radar gun.

Willis was on vacation when he heard the news.

"I'm in Mexico right now with my family. I'm kind of busy," he told the AP.

Cabrera Vs. A-Rod

With their payroll constraints, the Marlins obviously didn't want to pay Miguel Cabrera anything close to Alex Rodriguez money. Their stats through their first 720 games make it seem like Florida had something to worry about.


Florida didn't even approach the Tigers until Tuesday morning. The Marlins told the Tigers they could have the two stars for those six players, then Detroit called back about two hours later and agreed.

"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."

Detroit had not been considered a contender for Cabrera or Willis.

Cabrera would join an imposing lineup that already includes Magglio Ordonez, Gary Sheffield, 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.

"I'm glad we're in the other division," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "That lineup just got scary."

Willis, coming off a down year in which he went 10-15 with a 5.17 ERA, will be part of a solid rotation with Justin Verlander, Kenny Rogers and Jeremy Bonderman as Detroit tries to reach the World Series for the second time in three seasons.

The Los Angeles Angels had pursued Cabrera for weeks. The Marlins didn't give the Angels one last chance.

Better Start Fast

Dontrelle Willis' poor second half last season was only rivaled by that of his new teammate, Jeremy Bonderman, who ended up 11-9 with a 5.01 ERA. Here are their numbers after the All-Star break:

Opp. BA.313.323
* -- Tied for second worst in MLB, min. 10 starts

"The deal they appear to have reached, they felt was a better fit for them," Angels general manager Tony Reagins told a pool reporter.

Cabrera and Willis were the last players left from Florida's 2003 championship team. 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.

"It was kind of like, wow, when I heard. I halfway expected one of them to get traded, but not both in the same deal. So it's a little bit of a shock," Marlins left fielder Josh Willingham said.

"It's deflating because they're great teammates and good friends. It's going to be hard not seeing them around. I know we got some good players in the deal, but Miguel and Dontrelle are proven big league players, and it's going to be tough to fill those roles. Miguel brings you more than 100 RBIs, 30 home runs and a .300 batting average, and while Dontrelle had a disappointing year last year, he's a workhorse. He's going to eat up 200 innings and he's always healthy. It will be tough to replace those guys."

Questions about Cabrera's conditioning came up as he was shopped this offseason, but he has apparently been working out.

"He looks good," said Los Angeles Angels catcher Mike Napoli, who has been training with Cabrera for the last three weeks, according to the Los Angeles Times. "He's starting to slim down, and he's getting real strong."

Cabrera, who is a four-time All-Star, hit .320 with 34 home runs and 119 RBIs last season for the Marlins. He has a career .313 batting average over five seasons with the Marlins, as well as a career .542 slugging percentage.

But Cabrera, who was listed at 185 pounds when he was called up to the majors in 2003, played 2007 at about 255 pounds and made an NL-high 23 errors at third.

Trainer Sean O'Brien, who has been working with Cabrera, didn't say how much weight he has lost. "But he's changing his body composition," O'Brien said, according to the Times. "He's leaner. He's combining weight loss with an increase in muscle mass."

"I told the Marlins he's going to be in the best shape you've ever seen him in," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said, according to the Times. "Whoever gets this guy is going to have a heck of a ballplayer with a different mentality. He's a big man and he has to take care of himself. ... He has the power and talent to be one of the best players ever."

Willis has been an All-Star twice in his five-year career. The 2003 Rookie of the Year had his second year in a row with declining numbers. In 2005 the left-hander was 22-10 with a 2.63 ERA and was second in Cy Young balloting.

Willis started this past season 5-1 in April and 2-2 in May, but he went 1-11 over June, July and August.

Peter Gammons is a baseball analyst for ESPN. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.