MIAMI (AP) -The team with the National League's smallest payroll may swing the biggest deal at baseball's winter meetings next week.
The Florida Marlins are taking bids for All-Star slugger Miguel Cabrera, who has become too expensive for their modest budget. With up to five teams in the market for the third baseman, the Marlins figure to come away from any trade with a handsome package of players.
``We are not going to comment on specific players or trade rumors,'' general manager Larry Beinfest said. ``But he's an awfully good player, that's for sure.''
Still only 24, Cabrera is already a four-time All-Star. Since 2004 he has averaged 32 homers and 115 RBIs per year, with a batting average of .318. He's up for arbitration and is likely to make between $10 million and $13 million in 2008, while the Marlins' payroll last year was only $31 million.
The Los Angeles Angels have been considered the front-runners to acquire Cabrera. Their competition includes the crosstown Dodgers and perhaps several other teams.
The Marlins are less likely to trade left-hander Dontrelle Willis, who is in line to make $7 million or more next season. The former 22-game winner is coming off his worst year (10-15, 5.17 ERA), reducing his trade value, and his agent said he expects Willis to still be with the Marlins when spring training begins.
``That's my gut feeling,'' agent Matt Sosnick said. ``I'm often surprised by the Marlins. They keep things close to the vest. But I would expect him to be back.''
Sosnick said he also expects the Marlins to keep another of his clients, left-hander Scott Olsen, who was plagued by off-the-field problems in 2007 and went 10-15 with a 5.81 ERA.
Beinfest declined to predict whether many trades will be made at the meetings in Nashville, Tenn.
``You never know,'' he said. ``It's not often that everybody gets together, and you try to use that time and be as productive as possible.''
Beinfest is believed to want four players in exchange for Cabrera, and his team is desperate for pitching. The Marlins set franchise records in 2007 for hits, runs and home runs but finished last in the NL because their rotation went 42-63 with an ERA of 5.58, worst in the majors.
``Obviously we'd like to shore up the pitching,'' Beinfest said.
He also seeks a center fielder and would need a replacement for Cabrera, who has been on the market since the general managers' meetings in early November.
Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick, outfielder Reggie Willits and pitchers Ervin Santana and Nick Adenhart have been mentioned as possibilities in a trade with Florida. The acquisition of Kendrick would mean a move to third base for Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla.
The Dodgers could offer pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Jonathan Broxton and third baseman Andy LaRoche. The Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants are other potential suitors.
Cabrera's relationship with the Marlins has been strained at times. There are concerns about his weight and defense - he tied for second among major league third basemen with 23 errors - and he was criticized last February by Beinfest and team president David Samson for missing offseason team promotional events.
The Marlins have a long history of purging payroll. Two years ago they traded right-hander Josh Beckett and third baseman Mike Lowell to the Boston Red Sox in a deal that sent shortstop Hanley Ramirez and right-hander Anibal Sanchez to Florida.
Sanchez went 10-3 and threw a no-hitter as a rookie in 2006, and Ramirez hit .332 with 29 home runs in his second big league season this year.
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