Angels brainstorm Cabrera trade
Hall of Famer Perez feels third baseman will only get better
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- As a special assistant to Florida Marlins president David Samson, Tony Perez has an active, professional interest in the Miguel Cabrera trade negotiations.
As a Hall of Fame player who has seen Cabrera evolve from a kid with raw talent to an accomplished hitter with few equals, Perez -- the Marlins' manager in 2001 -- has a personal interest in the young slugger.
"He's still a kid," Perez said of Cabrera, already an All-Star four times at age 24. "But he knows what he's doing and what he has to do. He's a great player.
"You see guys like him come along every 100 years."
As new Angels general manager Tony Reagins and manager Mike Scioscia made their way to the Winter Meetings on Monday from the Dominican Republic, they no doubt were weighing all the options and possibilities with respect to Cabrera, the hottest item -- along with Minnesota's Johan Santana -- at Major League Baseball's annual trade show.
The Marlins are believed to be seeking three of the Angels' premier young talents -- Howie Kendrick, Ervin Santana and Nick Adenhart -- along with another position player in exchange for Cabrera, a third baseman who also can play one of the corner outfield spots.
The one red flag with respect to Cabrera has been his weight. Big-boned at 6-foot-2, he reportedly reached the 245-pound range last season.
Perez, attending Monday's Veterans Committee announcement, said Cabrera is aware of his need to stay in shape and is busy doing something about it.
"Everybody said that [was an issue] last year," Perez said. "He has committed to work out over the winter. I haven't talked to him lately, but the last time we spoke he said he was staying in Miami until December, before going home to Venezuela, so he could work out.
"He's a big guy. He has to be careful [about his weight]. I think he'll stay on top of that. He'll be OK. I think he'll have a long career, play a lot of years. He can put up a lot of numbers if he does."
Asked if he believes Cabrera can someday join him in Cooperstown, N.Y., with a Hall of Fame plaque, Perez grinned.
"I think so, sure," he said. "He's still only 24, and look what he's already done."
Another factor to consider with Cabrera is that he hasn't been hitting in a home ballpark tailored to his hitting style. Like Perez, his mentor in his Marlins youth, Cabrera goes with the pitch and uses the whole field, and that has taken away some home runs in Florida's Dolphin Stadium.
More than half (72) of Cabrera's 138 career homers have come on the road. Some of those doubles and outs he's driven to right center on Dan Marino Boulevard in Florida could be home runs in Angel Stadium -- if the Angels find the right combination of players to land the big fish.
"He was a natural hitter from the first time I saw him," Perez said. "Even at 16, 17, he was able to make adjustments. That's why he did so many things in his early years. That's a gift he has.
"I always talk to him and have told him to use the whole field, and don't change. I tell him. 'Go with the pitch and do what you're doing naturally. Don't change anything when you go 0-for-4, 0-for-8. Just keep going.'
"That's what he's done, and I think it's why you don't see him get into any big slumps."
Those familiar comparisons, Cabrera to Perez, clearly are not a coincidence. Cabrera was smart enough to take Perez's instructions -- they did carry Perez to the Hall of Fame, after all -- and run with them.
Perez played his final Major League game for Cincinnati in 1986 at age 44. Clearly, this big man took care of himself in ways Cabrera can only hope to emulate.
Perez beamed when he recalled Cabrera's first career home run in 2003.
"He hit it to right-center at home, a game-winner," Perez said. "Our ballpark makes a lot of guys try to pull the ball all the time, but not him.
"He has power everywhere."
It remains to be seen if that Cabrera power will be on display in Anaheim in 2008, in the exalted company of Vladimir Guerrero.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.