NEW YORK (AP) - It was nearly two years ago, hours before the New York Yankees' World Series opener against Philadelphia. As players prepared, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman went up to his office and telephoned a half-dozen of his counterparts, among them Detroit's Dave Dombrowski.
"I remember Dave saying, 'Hey, what are you doing calling me? Isn't this Game 1 of the World Series? You've got a big game tonight,'" Cashman recalled. "I was like, 'Hey, I'm out of it. I already messed this team up enough. Nothing more I can do. So now I've got to talk about the 2010 team and how I can mess that one up.'"
Fast forward 3 1/2 weeks.
Dombrowski was driving from Detroit to Chicago with his family for a Thanksgiving visit with his parents. His cell phone rang, and Arizona GM Josh Byrnes was on the line.
"He said he talked to Brian. There was the potential of a three-way deal," Dombrowski related. "Would we be open-minded to it? And that sort of got that ball rolling."
And so began the talks that led to an unusual seven-player trade that helped build three division winners. Come this weekend, the Yankees, Tigers and Diamondbacks all will be in the playoffs _ Detroit and New York playing each other.
Detroit sent All-Star center fielder Curtis Granderson to New York, which dealt right-hander Ian Kennedy to Arizona, and lefty reliever Phil Coke and outfield prospect Austin Jackson to the Tigers. Detroit traded All-Star pitcher Edwin Jackson to the Diamondbacks, and Arizona sent touted young pitchers Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth to the Tigers.
Byrnes had called Cashman before contacting Dombrowski, feeling out the Yankees GM on what he might be looking for. Then running the Diamondbacks, and now San Diego's senior vice president for baseball operations, Byrnes returned from the GM meetings in Chicago, gathered his aides and guessed New York was focused on Granderson.
"We sat down as a staff and kind of played around with it on a dry erase board and felt like the Yankees were the logical spot," Byrnes said. "We didn't know that. We just thought about that. Granderson was a logical fit. Obviously, they probably had to assess that winter with (Johnny) Damon and (Brett) Gardner and some other things, how they wanted their outfield to be."
It took six weeks of talks from Cashman's initial call until the deal was finalized on Dec. 9. Word started to leak out the day before, after the three GMs reached a tentative deal while meeting in Cashman's suite at the winter meetings in Indianapolis.
Granderson remembers where he was when he found out.
"I was shopping at a West Elm store in Chicago," he said. "I started getting text messages from my friends."
He put up MVP-type numbers this year, with team-leading totals of 41 homers and 119 RBIs. Austin Jackson, his replacement in the Detroit outfield, had 10 homers and 45 RBIs, played above-average defense and at age 24 has time to improve.
Scherzer (14-9) is tied for second on the Tigers in wins, Coke is their No. 1 lefty out of the bullpen and also made spot starts, and Schlereth (3.51 ERA) was a key relief component for Detroit.
Edwin Jackson pitched a no-hitter for Arizona against Tampa Bay in June last year, then was redealt a month later to the Chicago White Sox in July 2010 for Daniel Hudson, who at 16-10 is second in wins for the Diamondbacks this year.
Kennedy has become a star in Arizona, going 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA, a performance that could earn him the NL Cy Young Award. He had impressed with the Yankees during three starts at the end of the 2007 season, but he was out for much of 2008 with a strained muscle near his right ribcage and bursitis in his right shoulder blade. He pitched in just one big league game in 2009 because of surgery to remove an aneurysm from beneath his right biceps. The trade moved him a lot closer to his California home than the Bronx.
"I always heard my name up in trades every single year, every single offseason, so I didn't really believe it at first," Kennedy said. "I didn't know how to react. You don't know whether to act excited because you get to come to a new team, come to the West Coast."
As often is the case in baseball these days, money was a factor. While the Yankees took on the contract of Granderson, who is making $8.25 million, Detroit received four players whose salaries total less than $1.9 million.
"For us, there are four guys on our ballclub that are all young service guys," Dombrowski said. "Scherzer after this year is still three years away from free agency. Coke, same way with him."
And young players got a chance for playing time, which rarely happens with the Yankees.
"I think it worked out for the best, for the players and for the teams," Austin Jackson said. "I was excited to get the opportunity and try to get my big league career started, but I was kind of sad to leave a lot of my friends that I made over there."
When Kennedy left the Yankees, he briefly allowed himself to think ahead. At some point, whether by trade or free agency, there could be pinstripes in his future.
"I told Cashman, 'I know a lot of guys come back, and I know this is a business, and I could end up with the Yankees another day,'" Kennedy said. "He goes: 'Yep, a lot of guys come back.'"
AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley in San Francisco and AP Sports Writer Noah Trister in Detroit contributed to this report.