DETROIT (AP) – Jim Leyland isn’t good at waiting to open his presents.
Unfortunately for him, he won’t get a chance to play with his newest toys until spring training – two long months after Christmas.
On Wednesday, Leyland’s Detroit Tigers completed a blockbuster trade with the Florida Marlins, adding two of baseball’s brightest young stars to one of the sport’s deepest rosters.
Detroit got starter Dontrelle Willis and third baseman Miguel Cabrera from Florida in exchange for six prospects, most notably outfielder Cameron Maybin and pitcher Andrew Miller.
“It’s almost like walking past the Christmas tree four days before Christmas with all the presents there, but you can’t unwrap them,” Leyland said. “It’s been mind-boggling.”
Leyland’s biggest problem, other than patience, might be fitting Cabrera into a lineup that already includes hitters like Magglio Ordonez, Gary Sheffield, Placido Polanco and Curtis Granderson.
Cabrera played 248 games in leftfield and another 100 in right during the first three years of his career, but has only played third base in the last two years.
The Tigers are set in right with Ordonez, but Cabrera could see some time in left in place of the anticipated Jacque Jones/Marcus Thames platoon.
“I’ll do whatever they need,” Cabrera said. “That could be third or it could be left – I’ll be ready.”
The obvious solution would be for Cabrera to replace Brandon Inge at third. Inge is considered one of the American League’s best defensive third basemen, and is a favorite with Tigers fans, but hit just .236 last season.
Leyland and team president Dave Dombrowski said Wednesday that they had been so busy putting together the trade that they hadn’t even had a chance to think about Inge’s future.
“It came so fast and is such a dynamic trade really for both teams that when we leave this press conference, we’ll probably go up to our room and see which is the best way to go for the Detroit Tigers,” Leyland said while announcing the trade with Dombrowski and Marlins president Larry Beinfest.
A message seeking comment was left for Inge by the Associated Press. The seven-year veteran, who was a catcher until 2004, could get some time backing up Ivan Rodriguez, and has played all three outfield positions.
Things are much simpler when it comes to a spot for Willis. After Detroit sent pitching prospect Jair Jurrjens to Atlanta as part of a package for Edgar Renteria, Miller was the favorite to land the fifth spot in Detroit’s rotation.
Now, though, it will be Willis joining Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman, Kenny Rogers and Nate Robertson.
“Those four guys are all very talented, and they are all different kinds of pitchers, so I’m looking forward to picking all of their brains,” Willis said. “You’ve got four young guys and one timeless guy in Kenny Rogers.”
Snow was falling in Detroit when the trade was officially announced, but Willis wasn’t going to let that ruin his vacation in sunny Mexico.
“I know what the weather can be like up there – the first time I ever saw snow was when I was playing for Kane County in the Midwest League,” he said. “I’m going to a great team, so I’m not worried about a little cold weather.”