In the eyes of the Florida Marlins, the Angels and the Dodgers are the teams most likely to acquire star third baseman Miguel Cabrera, a baseball source said Tuesday.
The Marlins made that assessment after surveying interested teams at last week's general managers meetings in Florida. It is uncertain whether the Angels and Dodgers are pursuing Cabrera the hardest or whether the Marlins simply rank the Angels and Dodgers as having the best young talent among potential trade partners.
The Marlins would like the Angels to include second baseman Howie Kendrick and top pitching prospect Nick Adenhart in any trade and would like the Dodgers to include pitcher Chad Billingsley or top pitching prospect Clayton Kershaw, perhaps both. The Marlins traditionally insist on top young pitching in any deal.
If the Marlins ask for two pitchers as part of a package of three or four players, neither the Angels nor Dodgers figure to have the depth for a deal, unless Florida expands the trade to include pitcher Dontrelle Willis. The Marlins would free an estimated $20 million in payroll next season by trading Cabrera and Willis.
The Angels, according to another major league source, do not want to trade four players straight up for Cabrera, 24, who has a .313 career average in 4 1/2 big league seasons and has averaged 31 home runs and 115 runs batted in the last four years.
Though they have refused to part with Kendrick the last two winters, the hard-hitting second baseman is not considered untouchable.
But the Angels would trade Kendrick only if they felt the package was right -- they don't want to trade Kendrick and Adenhart and third base prospect Brandon Wood and one of their catchers, Jeff Mathis or Mike Napoli, for Cabrera.
If the Marlins do insist on four players, including Kendrick, they might be willing to add second baseman Dan Uggla, 27, who hit .245 with 31 homers and 88 RBIs last season, to the deal.
Cabrera is expected to make between $11 million and $12 million in arbitration next season, but he is a much cheaper alternative to free-agent third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who is reportedly looking for $30 million per year for at least eight years.
New Angels General Manager Tony Reagins met with Rodriguez's agent, Scott Boras, in Anaheim before the GM meetings. Tuesday was the first day teams could discuss monetary figures with free agents, but Reagins said he did not extend any formal contract offers.
"We're still in the information-gathering process," Reagins said.
As for growing speculation that the Angels are the front-runners to sign Rodriguez, Reagins said, "I don't know where it comes from. Obviously, some of it is from people seeing our need, but I don't like to comment on speculation."
The Angels could explore the possibility of signing free-agent third baseman Mike Lowell, who earned most-valuable-player honors while leading Boston to a World Series win over Colorado. But they don't want to go four years on Lowell, who reportedly has a three-year offer of about $40 million to return to the Red Sox.
The Angels won the American League West for the third time in four years this season but were hit hard by injuries and swept by Boston in the first round of the playoffs.
"If the season started today, I like our club, when healthy," Reagins said. "I like our starting pitchers, our bullpen, and if we have a healthy Garret Anderson, Gary Matthews Jr. and Vladimir Guerrero, I think we're pretty good. I don't feel pressured to make a huge move, but if you can get better, that's what you want to do."