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Go west, young man

California is the most likely destination for Cabrera

Posted: Wednesday November 7, 2007 12:11PM; Updated: Wednesday November 7, 2007 12:37PM
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Despite sporting the lowest payroll, the Marlins appear ready to deal away young stars Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis.
Despite sporting the lowest payroll, the Marlins appear ready to deal away young stars Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis.

Also in this column:
• 12 more trade possibilities
• Rivera, Posada in the driver's seat
• Rangers take a pass on Bonds
• More news and notes

ORLANDO -- The great Miguel Cabrera should prepare for a cross-country move after the cost-conscious Marlins put him on the trading block within the last 24 hours. The Dodgers, Giants and Angels are all expected to be major players for Cabrera, who at 24 is one of the games best hitters and most valued commodities.

The Marlins instigated their latest fire sale and triggered some major interest here at a slow-moving general manager meetings -- beyond the overwhelmingly pervasive A-Rod Sweepstakes, that is -- when they made Cabrera available in calls to selected teams.

Cabrera, generally considered to be one of the top five young players in the game, should also draw interest from the Red Sox and Yankees, among others. Both those teams, plus the three California clubs, have the type of young talent to make a blockbuster deal for Cabrera; however, the big question is which one of the five is willing to give it up.

Florida will also entertain offers for star pitcher Dontrelle Willis, whose poor 20007 season should be mitigated by an abject lack of top-flight pitching on the free-agent market. A blockbuster involving both Marlins stars isn't out of the question.

The Marlins are as experienced and proficient as anyone at the fire sale, so interested teams should not be expecting any bargains. Cabrera's a poor third baseman (some may see him as a first baseman or outfielder) and his conditioning is "up and down,'' according to one interest exec, but he still has two years before he can become a free agent -- which means his value should be even higher than Mark Teixeira's was when the Rangers traded him to the Braves for quite a haul (including catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia).

Florida reportedly receives in excess of $30 million in revenue-sharing but apparently likes to pocket money. The Marlins' payroll was a league-low $25 million in 2007, and Cabrera's salary, which is expected to rise from $7 million to $12 million in 2008, his second arbitration season, is a detriment for the team. But their belief that they can't keep him long-term is probably the impetus for the sale.

The availability of Cabrera shakes things up here considerably and could wind up eliminating one team from the A-Rod sweepstakes, which is believed now to consist of at least the Angels, Dodgers, Mets and Red Sox, and possibly several more teams. Although some teams may prefer to switch Cabrera to first base or the outfield.

The Marlins, who acquired Hanley Ramirez for Josh Beckett in a Boston blockbuster that may have been the best trade for both teams over the past decade, will be seeking very young and extremely talented players. They are believed to be interested in some combination from Boston that would include Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz and/or Jon Lester. Boston seems likely to retain free-agent third baseman Mike Lowell but could conceivably play Cabrera elsewhere. Cabrera has long been viewed as a budding Manny (though he's not the worker that Ramirez is).

The Dodgers, who have prospects galore to trade, may actually be the most logical landing spot for Cabrera, who hit .320 with 34 home runs and 119 RBIs in 2007. Los Angeles has a plethora of young outfielders and pitchers and could also offer a third-base prospect, Andy La Roche, in return. Outfielders Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier should interest the Marlins, as should young pitcher Chad Billinsgley and pitching prospects Clayton Kershaw and Jon Meloan.

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