NASHVILLE, Tenn. In a deal that could well make the National League East stronger in years to come, but appears to give the Phillies an easier schedule next season, the Florida Marlins and Detroit Tigers shook up what had been a sleepy winter meetings at the Opryland Hotel.
A classic win-now vs. build-for-the-future swap will apparently send Florida's two most recognizable stars, third baseman Miguel Cabrera and lefthander Dontrelle Willis, to Detroit for a six-pack of prospects, including crown-jewels outfielder Cameron Maybin and lefthander Andrew Miller.
The reported megatrade could be announced as early as today after medical records are examined and final details are worked out.
The Marlins, who have mastered the art of the firesale in recent years, will save a huge amount of money. Cabrera, coming off his fourth All-Star season in which he batted .320 with 34 home runs and 119 RBI, figured to easily surpass $10 million this season after making $7.4 million last year.
The Tigers are counting on Willis to rebound after going 10-15 with a 5.17 earned run average. He made $6.45 million in 2007 and also figures to get a hefty raise.
Florida also gets two Tigers prospects who had widely been considered untouchable.
While the Marlins are once again rebuilding – they'll also receive catcher Mike Rabelo along with pitchers Dallas Trahern, Eulogio De La Cruz and Burke Badenhop – the Tigers clearly are trying to win immediately.
And they'd better. After reaching the World Series in 2006, they failed to make the playoffs last season. And deals for veterans like Gary Sheffield, Edgar Renteria and now Cabrera and Willis have stripped what was once a well-stocked farm system.
Both players they are getting from Florida can be free agents after the 2009 season. And the Tigers also have to be concerned that Cabrera, who is only 24, reportedly played at 255 pounds last season.
* Colorado acquired righthanded reliever Jose Capellan from Detroit in exchange for righthander Denny Bautista. *