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Willis and Cabrera

Since the pair are both arbitration eligible in the off-season it is a reasonable question to ask whether they will be a part of next year's team.  It was one that was asked of new manager Fredi Gonzalez.

Fredi Gonzalez had only been introduced as Marlins manager a few minutes earlier when he faced the first hard question of his fresh tenure.

Was he confident Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera would be part of his roster in 2007?

"Yes," Gonzalez answered, quickly and firmly.

I hope this is one of those questions Gonzalez asked up front before taking the job.  From a fan's point of view, they'd better be.  With all that has happened to the team in the last 12 months, if either or both of the duo were to be traded, it would be time to move the team.  Because the Fish won't have enough fans left in South Florida to fill a yellow school bus much less the stadium.

Willis will probably get around 7.5 million and Cabrera in the neighborhood of 4 million.  If the organization can't pony up that amount of dough for the biggest names on the roster, it's time to rethink the goals of the club.

I understand that no long term contracts will be given and that it will be a year-to-year situation until a stadium deal can be reached.  No problem.  I understand that.

The early returns sound like Dontrelle and Miguel will be on the team next season.

"I think for sure Dontrelle is there [in 2007]," said a source familiar with the Marlins' thinking. "Anything is possible, but I think he and [Cabrera] will be back. Right now they are a big part of where the Marlins are going."

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"I think we recognize the production and the talent level of Miguel and Dontrelle," Beinfest said. "We recognize what we have in these two guys. They're stars."

And while Beinfest said, "You never want to say never" when it comes to possible trades, he doesn't sound in any hurry to end this profitable pairing.

"Miguel's production the last 3½ years has just been incredible," Beinfest said. "Dontrelle is a very special player in a lot of ways. It's just not wins and losses or his innings pitched. It's a lot of different things that he brings that makes him such a special player. We recognize what they mean to this organization and this team, and we'll see what happens."

In other words, as long as Loria makes good on his promise to expand the budget, they will start the season with the club.

After the 2007 season is when the stadium lease expires and after that, the team can do a yearly lease until 2010.  Past that, they will be orphans.

If the organization can't put together a new stadium deal, the most expensive players on the team could become trade bait for prospects.

Let's hope it doesn't come to that.