As most of Major League Baseball’s players and teams continue to prepare for opening day, the Detroit Tigers and representatives for Miguel Cabrera were apparently in deep contract discussions. As the two-time MVP signed an 8 year contract extension worth $292 million over the next 10 years. On the surface, it may seem like a good move to lock up the two-time AL MVP, as quickly as possible. However, the Tigers had until the end of the 2015 season to do so. While the timing of the extension is questionable, it’s the terms of the deal that’s really the head scratcher.
Cabrera, who is 30 years old, will be 40 years old at the end of this deal. Although, the amount of money paid out will probably be a lot less by the end of the deal, it’s still a lot of money to pay a 40-year-old ball player, who by that time will be primarily a DH. It’s very understandable why the Tigers would want to secure Cabrera. Two-time defending American League MVP. 2012 Triple Crown winner. The first player to do so since 1967, when Carl ‘Yaz’ Yastrzemski did it for the Boston Red Sox. These are just a few of his latest accomplishments. It could have been a devastating blow for a team like Detroit to lose him, or maybe not.
In 2012, the St. Louis Cardinals were in a very similar situation with slugger Albert Pujols. At that time, Pujols was already a free agent, and there were several teams interested. The Cardinals were very interested in bringing back the 3-time National League MVP, but Pujols’ asking price was a little too steep. Initially, the Cardinals offered a 5 year deal, that some say Pujols was offended by. Later on, the Cardinals offered a 10 year deal, but the total amount ($210 million) was substantially lower than what the Los Angeles Angels finally signed him for ($254 million). The Cardinals offer was also front loaded, which means the bulk of the contract would have been paid out in the first few years of the deal.
Of course, the Cardinals ended up losing Pujols, but they’re franchise has hardly missed a beat. After blowing a 3-1 lead over the eventual World Series champion, San Francisco Giants in the 2012 NLCS, St. Louis beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2013 NLCS to make the World Series. From there, the Cardinals lost to the Red Sox, but the two seasons after losing their star player have been great, while Pujols and the Angels have struggled overall.
To be fair, questions about Pujols’ health were a big reason why the Cards were hesitant to break the bank. Cabrera, on the other hand doesn’t have as many questions about his health. The big question for Detroit is can they afford Cabrera at this price, while continuing to make moves to improve the team? The Cardinals have been able to do it without Pujols, but the Cardinals are one of those franchise’s in sports that have that winning pedigree. They just know how to win. The Cardinals, also have one of the best farm systems in baseball. Which, not only keeps the organization fresh with young talent, but also gives them leverage to make a deal when they need to. While Detroit has enjoyed a lot of success recently, by appearing in two World Series (2006, 2012), the Tigers organization historically isn’t quite on the same level with St. Louis. It will be interesting to see, with such a huge contract for such a long period of time, if the Tigers will be able to put the talent around Cabrera, to make them a contender year in, year out?
Then, there is the ripple effect this contract may have on Major League Baseball, itself. Many MLB execs were infuriated with not only the terms of this deal, but the timing. Many of them wondered why not wait until after this season to ink Cabrera, since he wasn’t due to be a free agent until the end of the 2015 season? However, their main issue is the money. Cabrera, is no doubt one of the best players in the game, so he is deserving to an extent, but this will likely open the door to larger contracts for more players, even further than it already it is. We’ve seen monstrous contracts for players like Alex Rodriguez ($275 million) and Pujols, and not much value in return. Cabrera’s contract easily exceeds both of them. One thing’s for sure. Tiger fans will be expecting Cabrera to exceed his playoff numbers in recent years. In the Tigers last two playoff appearances, Cabrera batted in the .260’s with only 4 home runs. Now, with his main protector in the batting order, Prince Fielder playing in Texas, Cabrera could find it very difficult to deliver the numbers he has in recent years. The pressure is definitely on in Detroit. Can Miguel Cabrera continue to deliver?