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What a haul: Tigers load up at Meetings

What a haul: Tigers load up

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tigers arrived at the Winter Meetings not expecting to swing deals. Really.

But a funny thing happened once they started exploring possible moves with other teams, though other teams weren't really laughing. Detroit's front office ended up as the busiest people at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center.

"We feel good," president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said on Thursday morning before he and his assistants headed for the airport. "You always try to keep things in perspective, but I like our ballclub."

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Of the eight trades made at these Winter Meetings, the Tigers made three of them, and they're not likely to stop there once they return to Detroit. However, none are expected to have the same impact as what they've accomplished here.

The shape of the franchise has been dramatically altered with the additions of Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis from Florida for top prospects Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller and others. More tinkering is expected to follow for the Tigers to fine-tune their roster, not to mention their payroll, before opening Spring Training in February.

Interest continues to percolate surrounding Brandon Inge, the incumbent third baseman now displaced by Cabrera. He could feasibly fit in left field with Jacque Jones if the Tigers so choose, but the three years and $19.1 million left on the contract he signed last year present a major obstacle to that. For the moment, it also appears to be a stumbling block in trades, as the Tigers are reluctant to pay any of that remaining money for him to go somewhere else. Marcus Thames, eligible for arbitration for the first time after hitting 44 home runs over the last two seasons, could also be dealt if the Tigers go a different path to platoon with Jones in left.

While the Dodgers are reportedly a possibility to deal for Inge, another option could be the Giants, who would use him to replace Pedro Feliz at third. San Francisco has some financial wiggle room and a handful of pitching prospects in the middle levels of its farm system.

Then, of course, comes the matter of contracts for the players the Tigers now have. Both Cabrera and Willis are eligible for arbitration, and while the Tigers are expected to aggressively pursue a long-term deal with Cabrera, they'll have to work out contracts for next season with both of them regardless.

Willis presents a special conundrum. If the Tigers sign him longer term, they must gamble on Willis turning around his performance after a struggling season. If the Tigers wait a year to see how he performs in 2008 and Willis rebounds as hoped from his 2007 struggles, they'll have a tougher time working out a deal when Willis is only a year away from free agency.

For Willis' part, agent Matt Sosnick said Wednesday that he's open to signing a long-term deal in Detroit.

Neither case will be easy, not to mention any possible trades, and they'll extend the Tigers' workload into the holiday season. But it's trouble they'll gladly endure to have that talent on their club.

Winter Meetings

"I'm excited, and I think we're all excited," Dombrowski said. "We're pleased things have gone well. It's a good club going into the year. There's no question about it."

Deals done: The Tigers acquired right-hander Denny Bautista from the Rockies in exchange for right-hander Jose Capellan; acquired third baseman Cabrera and left-hander Willis from the Marlins in exchange for outfielder Maybin, left-hander Miller, catcher Mike Rabelo and right-handers Burke Badenhop, Eulogio De La Cruz and Dallas Trahern; acquired outfielder Freddy Guzman from the Rangers in exchange for first baseman Chris Shelton.

Rule 5 activity: They lost right-hander Randor Bierd to the Orioles in the Major League portion of the Draft; selected left-hander Juan Cedeno from the Nationals and right-hander Benjamin Fritz from the A's in the Triple-A portion of the Draft; and lost left-hander Corey Hamman to the A's and right-hander Jose Fragoso in the Triple-A portion of the Draft.

Goals unfinished: They really didn't have many goals coming in, so it's more a matter of goals surpassed with Cabrera and Willis. Their smaller hope of adding to the bullpen went unfulfilled and will likely remain so, but they didn't feel they had to make a move in that area anyway.

Unfinished business: The Tigers must clear up their extra position players now with Inge, Thames and Jones all potential options for left field. Clearing some payroll in that regard would be an added benefit.

GM's bottom line: "You always have a part on your club you can address. There's never a perfect club out there. Right now, I don't know what's going to happen [on the field next season], but we have our club right now and we like it."
-- Dombrowski

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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