Miguel Cabrera Rumors

Miguel Cabrera To Miss Six Weeks

The Tigers have placed first baseman Miguel Cabrera on the 15-day disabled list with a Grade 3 calf strain, and he will miss six weeks, according to Jason Beck of MLB.com (Twitter links). They’ve selected the contract of infielder Jefry Marte from Triple-A Toledo to take his place on the active roster.

Obviously, the injury represents a significant blow to the Tigers, who are trying to hold on against the Royals and Twins in the AL Central. Cabrera currently leads the American League in batting average (.350), on-base percentage (.456) and OPS (1.034).

The 32-year-old Cabrera has been one of baseball’s most durable players throughout his career, appearing in 148 or more games in every season since 2004. Remarkably, this will be his first career stint on the disabled list.

When Miggy says he can’t play, you know it’s serious,” says Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, via MLive.com’s James Schmehl. “Miggy plays through anything.”

It’s unclear how the Tigers will replace Cabrera in their lineup. Marte, formerly a prospect in the Mets organization, hit a solid .271/.337/.497 for Toledo while playing third base and shortstop, although he’s also played first base on occasion in the past. Alex Avila and Andrew Romine are also currently on the Tigers’ active roster and have played first base this season. Avila, who recently returned from the disabled list himself, will start at first base today, Schmehl tweets.


AL Central Notes: Indians, Tigers, Cabrera

For the third installment of a four-part series comparing the Indians and the division-rival Tigers, Cleveland.com’s Zack Meisel spoke to both Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski and Indians GM Chris Antonetti about the way in which their payroll allows them to operate. Dombrowski discussed how the financial muscle provided to him by owner Mike Ilitch allows for an aggressive approach that he didn’t necessarily have when serving as GM of the Expos and Marlins, or even earlier in his Tigers tenure. While a larger pool of resources hasn’t changed his philosophical approach to the game, per se, it has changed his approach to accomplishing his goals.

Antonetti, meanwhile, discussed the importance of acquiring and building around players in the “sweet spot” of their careers, as the Tribe GM termed it — players who are entering, or in the midst, of their peak years (and subsequently are in the early stages of arbitration). The young nature of Cleveland’s core made the team comfortable with adding only Brandon Moss and Gavin Floyd to the roster this winter, Antonetti added. “It’s a group that played its best baseball in the second half, and so as we looked at things, we felt very good about the group of guys we headed into the offseason with,” Antonetti said.

Some more AL Central notes…

  • The Tigers announced yesterday that two-time AL MVP Miguel Cabrera has been cleared to begin non-impact baseball activities, which include hitting and throwing. Cabrera “will begin a running progression until full weight-bearing is achieved,” per the press release. While the Tigers neglected to give a specific timetable for his return, the release indicated that the club is “optimistic” that Cabrera will be ready come Opening Day. Cabrera underwent surgery in October to remove bone spurs from his right ankle and repair a stress fracture in his right foot.
  • A report earlier this week indicated that the Royals watched Phil Coke throw recently, and Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets that the Royals have not only watched Coke, but also Alfredo Aceves throw. Kansas City is still on the hunt for relief depth, McCullough notes. While Coke makes some sense as a lefty option in the K.C. bullpen, he’s reportedly seeking a Major League contract, whereas Aceves could certainly be had on a minor league deal.
  • When the Braves and Royals engaged in Justin Upton trade talks earlier this winter, Atlanta wanted left-handed prospect Sean Manaea included in the deal, according to Peter Gammons in his most recent post at GammonsDaily.com. The 34th overall pick of the 2013 draft, Manaea was projected by many as a top 10-15 pick before questions about hip and shoulder injuries caused his stock to drop. The southpaw performed well in his first pro season, posting a 3.11 ERA, 10.8 K/9 and 2.7 K/BB rate over 121 2/3 IP in high-A ball. Gammons believes Manaea has a shot at being a late-season call-up this year, and compares him to another heralded left-handed prospect in Carlos Rodon.

AL Notes: Red Sox, Cabrera, Capuano, Mariners

Commisoner Rob Manfred tops the 50 most fascinating figures in baseball, according to the New York Post’s Joel Sherman. Manfred has been pro-active during the first month of his tenure, Sherman opines, by already engaging the MLBPA over issues such as keeping the batter in the box between pitches and being ready to ignite play quicker after half-inning breaks while continuing the pitch clock experiment in the minors with an impetus to have them in MLB by next season. Rounding out Sherman’s top five are: Alex Rodriguez, Matt Harvey, Giancarlo Stanton, and Joe Maddon.

Here’s the latest news and notes from the American League:



Miguel Cabrera, Adam Wainwright Undergo Surgery

Two of the game’s biggest stars, Miguel Cabrera and Adam Wainwright, underwent surgery today, according to reports from MLB.com’s Jason Beck and Will Carroll of Bleacher Report (Twitter link).

Cabrera’s operation isn’t entirely surprising, but doctors also discovered a stress fracture in the navicular bone near the top of his right foot, Beck writes. That injury requires a longer rehab process and required screws to be inserted into Cabrera’s foot, according to Beck.

Cabrera will be re-evaluated in three months’ time, and GM Dave Dombrowski said the former AL MVP will be “pretty much inactive” until that point. Dombrowski wouldn’t comment on whether or not Cabrera would be ready for Spring Training, but it seems possible that he’ll be getting a late start to his 2015 campaign at this point. Dombrowski said the team would provide further updates once Cabrera is re-evaluted in January, but missing an offseason of workouts does bring his status for Opening Day in 2015 into question. Needless to say, the onset of injuries is troubling for both Tigers fans and the team itself, as Cabrera is owed an enormous sum of $240MM through the 2024 season.

Shifting to Wainwright, the team has since confirmed the news, and Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch provided further details. Wainwright had some cartilage “trimmed” in the back of his elbow in order to avoid irritation in that area, an official tells Goold. The Cardinals have said Wainwright will resume a throwing program in eight weeks, and the surgery is not expected to impact his 2015 season, Goold writes.

Clearly, the eight-week timeframe for Wainwright is less troubling than Cabrera’s outlook, although it doesn’t leave a large amount of room for setbacks. That schedule would allow Wainwright to resume throwing in mid-to-late December. The right-hander is owed $78MM over the remaining four years of his five-year, $97.5MM contract.


AL Notes: Donaldson, Tomas, Red Sox, Cabrera, Smoak

In this morning’s Insider-only blog, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes that he feels a Josh Donaldson trade is likely for the Athletics this offseason. Billy Beane has shown a willingness to trade players at their peak value, Olney writes (citing the Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill trades, among others), and Donaldson’s salary will begin to rise quickly now that he’s hit arbitration. Olney looks at the rest of Oakland’s roster and notes that no other trade candidate has value as high as Donaldson’s, so while Jeff Samardzija would be an attractive chip, Donaldson could help Beane usher in his next roster reconstruction.

Some more news from the American League…

  • The Red Sox won’t hold a private workout for Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas, reports Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. The team did attend his showcase in the Dominican Republic and they’re intrigued by his power, but the team’s glut of outfielders and concerns over Tomas’ strikeout rate in Cuba have tempered their interest.
  • Tim Britton of the Providence Journal points to the Pirates’ success in reviving the careers of Edinson Volquez, Francisco Liriano and A.J. Burnett and points to some similar buy-low candidates that the Red Sox could try for on the free agent market. Of course, as he notes, the Sox are expected to pursue Jon Lester and James Shields, so his suggestions of Justin Masterson, Brandon McCarthy and Ervin Santana are intended to be secondary targets.
  • Miguel Cabrera turned down his share of the team’s postseason bonus when the time came to sign the paperwork, reports Paul White of USA Today. Cabrera refused to sign, instead stating that he “just wants the ring.” As White points out, Cabrera could be turning down as much as $300K (though that figure pales in comparison to his salary), and that money could be reallocated to other players as well as Tigers staff such as clubhouse personnel, traveling secretaries, etc.
  • Justin Smoak‘s contract to avoid arbitration last year contained a rare club option, and Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times writes that it’s a virtual lock that the Mariners will buy out his $3.65MM option for $150K and non-tender the first baseman. Smoak, the centerpiece of an ill-fated Cliff Lee trade with the Rangers, hit just .202/.275/.339 and has failed to establish himself as a regular in four seasons with Seattle.
  • Also from Divish’s piece, GM Jack Zduriencik called the decision to pick up Hisashi Iwakuma‘s $7MM option a “no-brainer,” which certainly isn’t surprising.

Tigers Extend Miguel Cabrera

The Tigers have signed star slugger Miguel Cabrera to a major long-term contract extension, the team announced.  On top of the two years and $44MM he is already owed under a prior extension, Cabrera will be under contract for an additional eight years and $248MM, with two more years possible via successive vesting/club options. All said, the Tigers will field the two-time American League MVP through at least the 2023 season, his age-40 campaign. 

Cabrera

With those numbers, the deal would set several high-water marks. Most notably, an average annual value of $31MM would top the newly-minted record of $30.7MM set in the Clayton Kershaw extension. The figure of $248MM in new money would represent the the third-largest single contract in MLB history (and the biggest contract given to anyone other than Alex Rodriguez). With ten years and $292MM in overall future commitments to Cabrera, the Tigers stand to owe him more than any team has ever owed a single player at any point in time, besting the ten-year, $275MM Rodriguez contract in that respect.

And that is all before factoring in the deal's two vesting options, which could add two additional seasons at $30MM apiece.  Each of those options vest only if Cabrera finishes amongst the top ten of the MVP vote in the year prior. 

The deal is slightly backloaded, as Cabrera will earn $28MM in 2016 and 2017, $30MM a year over 2018-21, and $32MM for both of 2022 and 2023. Cabrera can also rack up significant additional earnings through a host of performance and awards bonuses, including $2MM for each MVP award.

The Relativity Baseball client, who turns 31 in April, has been the game's most consistent force at the plate for at least the past four seasons. Over those campaigns, Cabrera has logged successive OPS+ figures of 178, 179, 164, and 187. Of course, in the "down" year of 2012, he also managed to secure a Triple Crown. 

Cabrera's current deal — an eight-year, $152.3MM extension — has paid off handsomely for Detroit. The Venezuelan slugger has racked up a cumulative .327/.407/.588 triple-slash and 227 home runs over that deal. He leads the bigs in homers and slugging percentage over that time, is a close second in average to Joe Mauer, and lands fourth in OBP. And, yes, he is comfortably ahead of all other players with 737 RBI in the same term.

Cabrera is set to shift back to first base after spending the last two seasons at the hot corner. Though advanced defensive metrics have not loved his glove on either side of the diamond, they generally prefer his work at first. Unsurprisingly, the 6'4", 240-pound Cabrera has not been valued as a plus on the basepaths, though neither has he been a serious negative in that area of the game. 

While there has been some controversy over Cabrera's successive AL MVP awards, given that his contributions come almost exclusively at the plate, there is no doubting his offensive prowess and status as one of the game's few truly elite players. Indeed, he has accumulated a healthy 36.4 rWAR and 35.1 fWAR over his time in Detroit.

The question remains, however, whether he can continue that remarkable pace well into his thirties. Though Cabrera has certainly shown no signs of slowing in the immediate term, he is already under contract for two more years. That deal takes him trough his age-32 season, so any new guaranteed years would be buying out his age-33 campaigns and beyond. 

Cabrera's extension is not only larger, but starts at an older age than other recent comparables. The biggest free agent deals for first basemen are the ten years and $240MM given to Albert Pujols and the nine-year, $215MM Prince Fielder contract. On the extension side, Joey Votto's ten-year deal guaranteed him $225MM in total. The Cabrera deal covers his age-33 to 40 seasons. Pujols signed on for his age-32 through 41 seasons, while Fielder's contract runs from his age-28 to age-36 years and Votto's deal (inked while he still had two years left on his original extension) goes from age 30 to 39.

Viewed in this light, the staggering overall commitment is fraught with risk. Needless to say, the Pujols contract looks to be a bad one at this point. And while it is easy to say that Cabrera represents a better risk at this point, he is not on the kind of all-time-great pace as was Pujols when he inked his deal. To be fair, Pujols was coming off of a year in which he posted a personal-low 147 wRC+ and was valued at 4.4 fWAR, but before that he had posted ten straight seasons with at least a 150 wRC+ and 7 fWAR tally. Cabrera, on the other hand, is coming off of his best-ever season in terms of wRC+ (a remarkable 192 mark), but peaked at 7.6 fWAR. His early-career history features less outstanding seasons at the plate than Pujols had, and Cabrera has only topped 6 fWAR in five seasons due to his lesser contributions in other aspects of the game.

Most importantly, of course, Pujols was a free agent while Cabrera is still two years away from the open market. If anything, the fact that Pujols had a season that hinted at decline before landing his deal is reason for further wariness with respect to a pre-free agent commitment to Cabrera. To be sure, the Tiger is a great player. But it is difficult to see this deal creating surplus value for Detroit, and rather easy to see how it could end up working out poorly for the club. With that in mind, why didn't the team wait at least another year before moving to lock down Cabrera?

Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com first reported that the sides were close and that a deal had been reached (via Twitter). Jon Morosi reported (via Twitter) that the deal was for eight years and approximately $248MM. ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick reported that the deal would extend the total commitment to ten years and just under $300MM (links to Twitter). Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com first suggested the $292MM total commitment figure on Twitter. Heyman reported the presence and value of the vesting options (via Twitter), and reported the final contract breakdown (Twitter links) and bonus provisions (Twitter links).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


AL Notes: Lester, Middlebrooks, Tigers, Royals, Astros

The retirements of Yankee icon Derek Jeter and Commissioner Bud Selig and the Red Sox's quest to repeat as World Series champions are baseball's top storylines this season, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. The Mike Trout/Miguel Cabrera debate also makes Cafardo's list along with five other topics to monitor in 2014. Stoking the discussion, the dynamic duo both agreed to lengthy and lucrative contract extensions just one day apart this past week: six years, $144.5MM for Trout and eight years, $248MM for Cabrera

In other news and notes from the American League:

  • Within the same article, Cafardo opines Jon Lester better be willing to accept less from the Red Sox than the six-year, $144MM proposal the Tigers made to Max Scherzer adding negotiations with the left-hander will be a true test of how much faith the club has in its top pitching prospects.
  • Lester addressed the media today, including WEEI.com's Rob Bradford (who provides a transcript of the extension-related portion of the presser) and contrasted his situation to Scherzer's. "Every situation is different, every negotiation is different, every person is different, so until it'€™s there in front of you with a pen to sign it, or not presented to you and you have to go the other way, then like I said, we'€™ll deal with that when it comes.
  • Contact lenses could be the key to the season for Red Sox's third baseman Will Middlebrooks, according to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. An eye test this spring revealed Middlebrooks' vision had deteriorated to 20-25 in his right eye and 20-30 in his left. "For everyday life, you’d never correct it," the 25-year-old said. "But for what I do, you need to be able to see the little things. Once I put them in, I could really see the spin on the ball. I was always just reading trajectory of the ball. I was never seeing the spin."
  • Pitching and offense are reasons why the Red Sox can repeat while history (no team has sucessfully defended its World Series title since 2000) and questions up the middle are reasons why they won't, writes CSNNE.com's Sean McAdam
  • Tigers President/CEO/GM Dave Dombrowski told MLB Network Radio (Twitter link) he had the financial wherewithal to extend both Cabrera and Scherzer. "We had both negotiations going simultaneously," said Dombrowski. "We were trying to sign both."
  • The Royals have had mixed results with their philsophy of developing pitchers, reports Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. The organization believes you need 10 pitching prospects to deliver one to the Majors and that has worked in developing relievers, but only four prospects have started a game for Kansas City during GM Dayton Moore's seven-year tenure, McCullough notes.
  • The Astros have been active at the Trade Deadline the past two seasons, but that may not be the case this year, writes the Houston Chronicle's Evan Drellich. "No question. This year's different," GM Jeff Luhnow told Drellich. "This year, we have veteran players. If they play well, we're likely to keep them as opposed to move them. There’s always going to be that temptation…we’ll balance all the factors, including the fact that we do want to show significant progress."  

Reaction To Cabrera, Trout Extensions

Two of the game's highest-profile players — two-time reigning AL MVP Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers and 22-year-old Angels outfielder Mike Trout, the man who arguably should have taken those titles — just signed on for significant new extensions. Cabrera inked an eight-year, $244.5MM deal that kicks in after the 2015 season, while Trout sold all three arb-eligible seasons and three of his free agent campaigns for a total of $144.5MM. Here are some reactions:

  • We already took a look at a few opinions on the Cabrera contract, which drew some strong negative sentiment. But Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski defends the move, telling ESPN.com's Jayson Stark that he "didn't want to lose" Cabrera. The deal was necessary, said Dombrowski, for Detroit to retain a player that he considers an all-time great hitter who will be able to maintain production for another decade. "Would I love to be able to sign Miguel Cabrera for $22MM a year for the next five years? Of course," said Dombrowski. "But was five years going to get this done? The answer to that is no. And I know that for a fact." Cabrera's interest in staying with the club mattered, but seemingly only went so far. "He did want to be a Tiger," Dombrowski said, "but you've still got to pay him in today's world."
  • Turning to Trout, it appears that the sides were negotiating (at least at this stage of talks) with a clear idea that the deal would cover only six years. As Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweets, Trout countered the Halos' original offer of $140MM with a $153MM figure. The final number landed closer to the Angels' preferred figure, of course. By holding to a six year commitment, the Los Angeles Times' Bill Shaikin writes, Trout figures to have a chance at an even bigger payday down the line.
  • The Trout contract makes sense for both sides, reasons ESPN.com's Keith Law (Insider link). That sentiment is not exactly shared by Dave Cameron of Fangraphs, who argues that Los Angeles got a huge discount on Trout's free agent seasons. 
  • Trout has always been linked to fellow phenom Bryce Harper. But that does not necessarily mean that Trout's contract will serve as a template for future negotiations between Harper and the Nationals, as Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports. Agent Scott Boras used some interesting terms in discussing the Trout deal, but left no doubt as to his meaning: "I think [Trout is] a very special cup of tea, for which he is deserving of a completely different brew. While few, I definitely consider Bryce Harper as part of the next generation of elite brand of teas. Certainly as a studied connoisseur, I may hold a differing opinion as to the availabiity, demand and value of tea futures."

AL Central Notes: Cabrera, Scherzer, Quintana, Twins

The Tigers' record-setting extension with Miguel Cabrera has been heavily questioned by most pundits, but CBS Sports' Jon Heyman has a more positive take on the contract, opining that you can hardly put a price on keeping one of the all-time great hitters in baseball history.  General manager Dave Dombrowski should also deserve some benefit of the doubt, since, as Heyman writes, "no team has done a better job than the Tigers of procuring star talent through trades, and practically no team has done a better job of picking the right players to give the best contracts to, either."

Here's some more news from Detroit and elsewhere around the AL Central…

  • Dombrowski met with Max Scherzer earlier this week to clear the air after both the team and Scott Boras (the pitcher's agent) released public statements about the halt in their contract negotiations.  Scherzer told reporters (including John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press) that the GM apologized for comments that unintentionally portrayed the right-hander "in a negative context."  Dombrowski also apologized for the contract numbers becoming public, and he was upset with whomever it was who leaked the information.
  • In a phone conversation with Lowe, Dombrowski said “These negotiations are tough and difficult, and when you don’t come up with a mutual agreement, it can leave a little bit of tension. To me, it is always better to reach out to somebody to discuss it.  Max is a tremendous person and great pitcher."
  • In regards to an earlier item of his, ESPN's Jim Bowden clarifies (via Twitter) that Scott Boras' last proposal to the Tigers about a Scherzer extension would've covered seven of the righty's free agent years.  The Tigers' last offer would've covered only six free agent years, which would've kept Scherzer in Detroit through the 2020 season.
  • Jose Quintana may now have a higher profile in the wake of his five-year, $21MM extension, yet he is still one of game's more underrated and lesser-known starters, as Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan writes in his exploration of how Quintana developed from a virtual non-prospect to a cornerstone of the White Sox rotation.
  • The offense-needy Twins could've added some more pop in their final roster moves, ESPN 1500's Phil Mackey opines.  Mackey also suggests that backup catcher Josmil Pinto's live bat should be utilized more often as a regular DH rather than just a couple of starts per week or the odd pinch-hitting appearance.
  • The Twins' struggles of recent years can't be blamed on ownership, Patrick Reusse of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes, as the club has been more than willing to spend on payroll.  Minnesota's payroll topped the $100MM mark in both 2011 and 2012, yet the team finished last in both seasons due to poor drafts and trades from former GM Bill Smith, plus some bad injury luck with the likes of Justin Morneau.

Reaction & Analysis: Miguel Cabrera’s Extension

The Tigers extended Miguel Cabrera at a price of (at least) eight guaranteed years and $248MM yesterday, making Cabrera the highest-paid player, in terms of average annual value, in baseball history.  Such a massive contract was bound to generate a lot of commentary, and the early returns aren't positive over Detroit's move.  Here are some of the opinions…

  • Executives from all over baseball are panning the extension, ESPN's Buster Olney reports (ESPN Insider subscription required).  While Cabrera is obviously highly respected as a hitter and extending his contract for at least some length of time isn't a bad idea, several execs and scouts suggested three different ways that the Tigers could've approached the extension differently.
  • In an Insider-only piece, ESPN's Keith Law rips the extension, citing the history of how rare it is for star players to stay productive into their late 30's, especially ones of Cabrera's body type.  David Ortiz could be a best-case scenario for Cabrera, and while Ortiz is still a force, Law notes that the Red Sox have kept their star DH on short-term contracts through his late 30's to protect themselves if he suddenly declines.
  • The fact that a team in a troubled market like Detroit could afford such a huge contract is actually a good sign for Major League Baseball's health, FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi argues, and it could lessen the threat of a work stoppage when the collective bargaining agreement expires in 2016.  Tigers owner Mike Illitch's willingness to spend and his clear desire to retain Cabrera at any cost played a role, though Morosi notes that Joey Votto's extension with the Reds might've been an even riskier long-term deal for an even smaller-market club.
  • The Tigers could be expecting a major revenue bump in the form of a new TV deal, as their current local broadcast contract reportedly expires after the 2017 season, Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan writes.  While this could explain how the Tigers expect to account for Cabrera's contract, however, Passan doesn't believe it excuses the decision, calling the extension possibly "the greatest debacle in the desolate baseball wasteland filled with bad-contract carcasses."
  • The extension is both "terrible and understandable," according to Fangraphs' Dave Cameron.  Had the Tigers not extended Cabrera, he likely would've gone elsewhere as a free agent in two years, and Illitch clearly wants to win now.  On the other hand, Illitch could be leaving the franchise in tough financial shape once he passes on, the Tigers are already going cheap at a few positions due to payroll limitations and Cameron feels the deal is simply "a ridiculous overpay."
  • Mike Trout could be the biggest winner from Cabrera's extension, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal writes.  Trout and the Angels were reportedly negotiating an extension in the neighborhood of six years and $150MM, and Rosenthal figures Trout might as well take that deal now.  "He would become a free agent at 28, and heaven knows what he will be worth then," Rosenthal writes.
  • Cabrera's deal seems to guarantee that the Tigers won't re-sign Max Scherzer next offseason, ESPN's Jim Bowden opines (Insider-only piece).  The timing of the extension "reeks of desperation" after the Tigers' negotiations with Scherzer broke down, "and the Tigers are giving off the vibe of a jilted lover on the rebound."
  • My take: I have to agree with the consensus that this extension will end up being a major albatross for the Tigers.  It would be one thing if Detroit had a bunch of well-regarded prospects ready to give the team quality production for a few seasons' worth of minimum salaries, but the Tigers' farm system was recently ranked 28th in the 2014 Baseball America Prospect Handbook.  With little minor league help on the immediate horizon, it makes even less sense to tie up so much money in just a few players.  It also puts pressure on Nick Castellanos (the club's top prospect) to contribute right away as the everyday third baseman and puts even more pressure on GM Dave Dombrowski to restock the farm with some quality drafts.