a�?I think if we were healthy, I think we’d be in the race right now.”
A little over one week ago, Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera said that while addressing his club’s underwhelming season and criticisms facing current manager Brad Ausmus.
And while there’s no use in worrying about the a�?if we were healthy…” thoughta��the Tigers are currently battling it out with the White Sox for last place in the AL Centrala��it does turn my focus to one individual in particular: Miguel Cabrera himself.
Detroit is no longer the dominant force in the Central, having won four consecutive division crowns from 2011-2014 before going into a tailspin this year.
At 32 and set to make at least $28 million per year over the next eight seasons, how long can we expect Cabrera to keep it up? It’s not a simple answer, but if his recent numbers are anything to go on, we could still be looking at one of the more productive players in baseball for a couple more seasons.
First off, it will be interesting to see what becomes of this Tigers teama��not over the next eight seasons, necessarilya��but more like two or three, when Cabrera might still put up similar numbers to those of 2015.
On July 30th, one day before the MLB non-waiver trade deadline, Dave Dombrowskia��Detroit’s then-president and GMa��stated a�?We’re not giving up, in the sense you try to win every day. But in our position, we look at us as rebooting going into next year.”
Less than one week later, he was gone.
Are we to take that as a sign that ownership does not, in fact, endorse a a�?retooling” or rebuilding type of situation? Perhaps. From a realistic standpoint, though, ownership might want to reconsider. There isn’t exactly a core of talent within either their lineup or rotation.
The shine of 35-year-old Victor Martinez from last seasona��.335/.409/.565; 32 home runs; 70 walks and 42 strikeoutsa��has faded, as that line plummeted to .242/.299/.364 this term. While guys like J.D. Martinez (27) and Jose Iglesias (25) provide the fans with something be excited about, there isn’t much else.
What about pitching? Well, outside of an unexpected turnaround to Justin Verlander’s career, Detroit’s rotation is a proverbial dumpster fire. As a team, Detroit’s ERA is third-worst in the league and not surprisingly, they’ve allowed the third-highest batting average against at .270.
Which begs another question: how much of this team are we expecting Cabrera to carry next season? Or even the year after?
A career .321/.399/.562 hitter, Cabrera put up three consecutive seasons with even better numbers from 2011-2013a��slashing .341/.428/.609a��en route to three straight batting titles and two consecutive MVP awards (2012, 2013).
And while those numbers dipped significantly last year, the Tigers’ first baseman still finished with an impressive line of .313/.371/.524. Any team would be happy to have that. Additionally, when 2014 saw his lowest home run total in a full season (25), he made up for it with a career-best (and league best) 52 doubles.
Then there’s 2015, which has been different in a couple notable ways for the first baseman. First, he spent time on the disabled list for the first time ever in his almost-13-year career. Time to hit the panic button, right? Not exactly.
Cabrera has a�?rebounded” from last season to the tune of .337/.437/.534. If that pace were to hold for the remainder of the regular season (nine games), he’d earn his fourth batting title in the last five years. Currently 15 points ahead of the next-closest playera��Xander Bogaerts, .322a��I think it’s safe to say he’s in the clear.
Let’s get one thing straight: that eight-year contract for $240 million is outrageous. There’s no defending it, explaining it, or getting around it. That extension kicks in when he’ll be 33 years old. Will it be worth it eight years down the road? Absolutely not.
But if Cabrera can do for at least two more seasons what he’s done his entire career, and help Detroit get through the phase they’re currently going through, I imagine it will have been worth it to the folks that paid him.
And, I wouldn’t count out either of those possibilities.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference