Dodgers, Angels whiff on Cabrera

Times Staff Writer

NASHVILLE -- The Florida Marlins dangled Miguel Cabrera before Southern California for weeks, confident the Angels or Dodgers would deliver four of their best young players for one of the best hitters in baseball.

The Angels and Dodgers said no, and the Marlins dramatically shifted course Tuesday. The Marlins agreed to trade Cabrera and pitcher Dontrelle Willis to Detroit for six young players, including the Tigers’ top two prospects, pitcher Andrew Miller and outfielder Cameron Maybin.

“That’s a lot of players,” Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti said. “They got what they wanted. Apparently, Detroit did too.”


Neither the Tigers nor Marlins confirmed the trade, pending a review of medical records, but an announcement is expected today. The news nonetheless spread quickly, to the delight of the Tigers.

“Wow. That’s unbelievable,” Detroit closer Todd Jones said. “I’m just blown away. I thought it was a big typo when I first saw it.”

The Marlins will shed their two most expensive players to accelerate their latest rebuilding process, with the possibility that former Angels pitcher Kevin Gregg, Florida’s closer last season, could be their highest-paid player next season, at about $2 million. Willis and Cabrera, each two seasons from free agency, are expected to earn a total of roughly $20 million next season.

The Tigers will acquire a durable starter and one of the most prolific hitters in the majors, assembling a monster lineup with Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez and Gary Sheffield at its heart.

“There’s a lot of American League pitchers [and teams] that just got real nervous. We’re one of them,” said Terry Francona, manager of the World Series champion Boston Red Sox. “That’s quite a lineup.”

That lineup features Curtis Granderson and Placido Polanco at the top -- and first baseman Carlos Guillen, shortstop Edgar Renteria, catcher Ivan Rodriguez and left fielder Jacque Jones at the bottom.

Chicago White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen chuckled when asked if that lineup scares him.

“Not me,” he said, smiling. “It’s the pitchers. That’s a good lineup. It’s not any different than the New York Yankees’ lineup last year.”

The Yankees led the majors last season by scoring 968 runs. No other team scored 900.

Of the Tigers’ top eight prospects, as ranked by Baseball America earlier this year, they will have traded four for Cabrera and Willis and two more for Renteria. None of those eight would have been expected to start next season in Detroit.

Florida is believed to have asked the Dodgers for four players for Cabrera, including outfielder Matt Kemp, first baseman James Loney and minor league pitcher Clayton Kershaw, their top prospect. Florida had backed away from pitchers Chad Billingsley and Jonathan Broxton but still insisted on a major leaguer as the fourth player.

Colletti said the Marlins offered him one last chance to say yes Tuesday.

“Everything was the same,” Colletti said. “The same names going out, the same name coming back and the same answer from me.”

The teams did not discuss expanding the trade by including Willis, but Colletti would not say whether the Marlins did not offer him or the Dodgers were not interested in acquiring him.

In exchange for Cabrera, the Marlins are believed to have asked the Angels for second baseman Howie Kendrick, catcher Jeff Mathis, pitcher Ervin Santana and top pitching prospect Nick Adenhart. The Angels had agreed to trade Santana or Adenhart but not both.

Angels owner Arte Moreno said last week he believed the Marlins had backed out of two deals for Cabrera. Angels General Manager Tony Reagins would not discuss whether the teams discussed Willis as well but said the Marlins did not offer the Angels a last chance to agree to a trade Tuesday.

“We feel we made offers that were competitive offers,” Reagins said. “It takes two teams to get something done.”

White Sox General Manager Ken Williams, who had hoped to land Cabrera after the Angels swooped in to sign Torii Hunter, learned of the Marlins’ trade via message while meeting with Chicago media Tuesday afternoon. Within one minute, Williams received a call from outfielder Jermaine Dye, who had spurned free agency and re-signed with the White Sox with the promise the team would add a “big fish” in the off-season.

Colletti had made a similar promise. After pledging in September to add a veteran slugger to the heart of the Dodgers’ lineup, he now appears content with Kemp and Loney there.

“I don’t think we veered off that very much,” Colletti said. “I think when you see what it’s going to cost to acquire a player [in free agency] or how much of the core of your team will be uprooted [in trade] -- which you didn’t know at the end of September -- you make that type of decision.”