How the 'Big Deal' was sealed
Tigers, Marlins pull off eight-player blockbuster trade
The Detroit Tigers had an interest in talented young slugger Miguel Cabrera, and the Florida Marlins were willing to make a two-for-one trade.
The deal the Marlins had in mind was to trade Cabrera for Detroit's top two prospects, outfielder Cameron Maybin and pitcher Andrew Miller.
No way, said Tiger general manager Dave Dombrowski. That's how a two-for-one proposal became an eight-player trade.
The Tigers made it known if they were going to trade both Maybin and Miller, they would have to have Marlins pitcher Dontrelle Willis in the package.
The Marlins then came back to the Tigers and said if they included Willis they would have to have four other young players included in the deal -- catcher Mike Rabelo and right-handed pitchers Eulogio de la Cruz, Burke Badenhop and Dallas Trahern.
After the Marlins had held discussions with a number of teams who sought Cabrera, the Tigers were able to step forward in a bold manner to acquire two young stars in Cabrera and Willis.
The other key factor in the deal was the issue of service time, or the number of years and days a player has been at the Major League level.
Both Cabrera and Willis are in the four-plus category of time in the Majors. If either one had been eligible for free agency after the 2008 season, this deal wouldn't have been made.
In knowing they will have both Cabrera and Willis for two seasons, Dombrowski and the Tigers are confident they will be able to sign the players to long-term contracts if they feel these players are important to the long-term future of the team.
There is every reason to believe that both players will be important parts of the Tigers for many years to come. Cabrera is only 24, but he has established himself as one of the best power hitters in baseball.
Willis struggled last season, but at the age of 25, he has compiled a 68-54 career record and has shown the ability to deliver 200-plus innings a season.
Another key factor in the deal was that Dombrowski had met a number of needs for his team before reaching Nashville, Tenn., for the Winter Meetings.
The veteran general manager had traded for shortstop Edgar Renteria and outfielder Jacque Jones and re-signed starter Kenny Rogers and closer Todd Jones.
The moves prior to the Winter Meetings enabled Dombrowski to focus on other opportunities, and when he saw an opening with the Marlins and heard the support of his ownership, he moved quickly to add two stars to his team's roster.
"The Tigers are extremely excited to add two All-Star-caliber players in Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the organization," said Dombrowski. "Our ability to add both Cabrera and Willis is a testament to the organization's commitment to fielding a championship club."
Dombrowski would never say so, but the trade also is a testament to a general manager and his staff who have kept quiet when it comes to talking about trades and been swift when it comes to making a deal.
Fred Claire was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1969-98, serving the team as executive vice president and general manager. His book, "Fred Claire: My 30 Years in Dodger Blue," was published by SportsPublishingLLC. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.