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Down The Line

June 24, 2007|BILL SHAIKIN

The one that you want, the one you can't get

In last week's discussion of the Ducks' winning the Stanley Cup after trading two top young players and three draft picks for defenseman Chris Pronger, we noted the Ducks inherited a contract that bound Pronger to Anaheim for four years. The hitters most popular in baseball trade rumors -- Mark Teixeira, Troy Glaus, Adam Dunn, Torii Hunter, Sammy Sosa, even Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Bonds -- can walk away from a new team after this season or the next one.

The major leaguer most comparable to Pronger might be Miguel Cabrera, the Marlins third baseman. He's 24, already a three-time All-Star, and he can't file for free agency until after the 2009 season.

The Dodgers would happily surrender top prospects to get him. So would the Angels, believe it or not. So would every other team with a deep wallet and a deep farm system.

Just one problem: The Marlins aren't trading Cabrera.

Cabrera accounts for $7.4 million of the Marlins' $30-million payroll, but the Marlins can handle that, at least for this season and probably next.

Two major league executives each said his club had approached the Marlins about making an offer and been told not to bother.

"I'll give you my canned answer," Florida General Manager Larry Beinfest said. "Some players are less likely to be traded than others."

Cabrera is the Marlins' best player, widely regarded as one of the five best in the majors. The Marlins are 5 1/2 games out of first place in the National League East.

"We're certainly not ready to wave a white flag or anything," Beinfest said.

Not that this will be the Marlins' concern, but the lucrative offers sure to come Cabrera's way in free agency might be tempered by concerns about his conditioning. The Marlins list Cabrera at 6 feet 4 and 240 pounds, and White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen warned his countryman to lose weight, or else.

"When you don't hit .340 with 40 homers, they're going to call you fat boy from Venezuela," Guillen told reporters last week.

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Fighting on, catching on

With the third pick of the 1999 draft, after Josh Hamilton and Josh Beckett had been selected, the Tigers chose USC catcher Eric Munson. They took his catcher's mitt away and told him he would make the majors as a first baseman.

"When you're 21, you don't really have a say. You just do what they tell you," Munson said. "Obviously, looking back, I wish I would have said something and pushed them to catch more."

He did make the majors as a first baseman, but not for long. He bounced from the Tigers to the Twins and the Devil Rays, then showed up in the Astros' camp in 2006, reporting early and offering to help as a bullpen catcher.

By the end of camp, he was a catcher again, for the first time in seven years. He backed up last year, started this year in the minors, and now he's splitting time with three-time Gold Glove winner Brad Ausmus. If he plays well, he could replace Ausmus next season.

Munson turns 30 in October.

"In the last 12 months, he's come a long way," Ausmus said. "If he can learn to catch and be a left-handed bat with power, he can be in the big leagues for a long time. Major league catching is not very strong at this point."

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Ex-Angel files of the week

The Cardinals, trying desperately to defend their World Series championship with a depleted starting rotation, acquired Mike Maroth and Tomo Ohka last week. They've also cut the playing time of ex-Angels second baseman Adam Kennedy, batting .208 after signing a three-year, $10-million free-agent contract. ... The National League closer with the most saves without blowing one? Kevin Gregg of the Marlins, another ex-Angel, with 14. Armando Benitez is his setup man.

-- BILL SHAIKIN

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