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Miguel Cabrera Rumors
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.
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.
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."
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."
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.
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.
4:48pm: The contract under consideration would go through at least 2021 (Cabrera's age-38 season), if not further, tweets Morosi. Extrapolating from these two reports, it would appear that the sides are contemplating a deal that would, at a minimum, land at around $180MM in total new money (six years at approximately $30MM).
4:45pm: The average annual value on the deal is expected to be in the range of $30MM per year, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. It is worth bearing in mind that Clayton Kershaw's recent extension set a new high-water mark in AAV at $30.7MM.
4:27pm: The Tigers are closing in on a huge new extension for star Miguel Cabrera, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. After holding discussions over the last several days, says Heyman, a deal appears imminent, though a physical would still need to be taken. Cabrera is a client of Relativity Baseball.
Of course, the timing of this news is notable as well, as the club recently saw extension talks with outstanding starter Max Scherzer put on ice. Scherzer, of course, is slated to hit the open market after the coming season, making his situation more pressing — though not necessarily more important — than that of Cabrera.
- "Word is there is some early optimism" in contract talks between the Tigers and superstar Miguel Cabrera, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Heyman believes Cabrera should top Alex Rodriguez's $27.5MM average annual value, but probably won't be able to score a ten-year deal. With Cabrera already signed through 2015, a new deal would begin with his age-33 campaign. The Tigers recently broke off talks with pitcher Max Scherzer, who is eligible for free agency after this season.
- Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis says everyone on the team was rooting for Justin Masterson to get a deal done, but added, "Everyone in this room, at one point of time, has experienced the business side of this game," talking to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Kipnis offered nothing to reveal the state of his own contract negotiations, which have the typical Opening Day deadline. The Tribe opens their season in Oakland a week from today. Kipnis remains under team control through 2017.
- Infielder Eduardo Escobar and veteran Jason Kubel have made the Twins, tweets La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Escobar is out of options, while Kubel is subject to tomorrow's $100K retention bonus deadline. Neal's colleague Phil Miller has quotes from non-roster invitee Jason Bartlett, who appears to be on the losing end of the team's backup infielder battle.
- Twins second baseman Brian Dozier calls an extension "very unlikely," but he remains open to midseason talks, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Dozier, 27 in May, is already under team control through 2018.
- "For the way we're set up with our finances and our payroll, starting pitching costs a lot of money to maintain, so that's why it's important to develop it," Royals assistant general manager for scouting and player development J.J. Picollo tells MLB Pipeline's Jim Callis. Callis names Yordano Ventura, Kyle Zimmer, Sean Manaea, and Miguel Almonte as the team's top young arms.
- For the White Sox, "the most recent [roster] cuts stem from the decision to retain a third first baseman based on latent talisman powers," writes Jim Margalus of South Side Sox in reference to the team's decision to bring Paul Konerko back.
- What is it like finding out you've been traded? "I was literally on the field, taking ground balls, when the GM, Jerry (Dipoto) comes running out, pulls me off the field with (manager Mike Scioscia)," new Tigers infielder Andrew Romine tells Dick Scanlon of the Detroit Free Press. He added, "We go in and have a meeting and right away: 'Hey, we’re trading you over to Detroit for a left-handed pitcher.'"
- For a reminder which AL Central players are out of options, check out my post from March 6th.
The Tigers have begun discussing an extension with Miguel Cabrera, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports writes. Morosi emphasizes that the talks remain preliminary, and there is little urgency, since Cabrera is not eligible for free agency until after the 2015 season.
Cabrera is currently signed to an eight-year deal worth $152.3MM. He will make $22MM both this season and next. He turns 31 in April and is eligible for free agency shortly before his age-33 season. His age might make it somewhat tricky to find common ground on a deal. Last year, ESPN's Jayson Stark asked agents and executives what a Cabrera deal might look like, and they speculated that he might get anywhere from three to five years. Morosi suggests Cabrera's representatives at Relativity Baseball could compare Cabrera to Albert Pujols and argue Cabrera should get an even bigger contract than Pujols' ten years and $240MM, but that may be unlikely, due to Cabrera's age and the fact that the Pujols contract is widely perceived to be a problem for the Angels.
Happy birthday to former Tigers outfielder Chet Lemon, who turns 59 years old today. Lemon, the 22nd overall pick of the 1972 draft, spent his first seven seasons with the White Sox before he was traded to Tigers prior to the 1982 season. "Chet The Jet" went on to be a staple in the Detroit outfield for the next nine seasons, hitting a solid .263/.349/.437 with 142 homers in 1203 games as a Tiger and earning himself a ring as part of the 1984 World Series championship team.
Here's the latest from Motown…
- Miguel Cabrera told reporters (including MLB.com's Jason Beck) that he hasn't talked to his agents about contract extension talks with the Tigers, though the two-time AL MVP isn't concerned given that he still has two years remaining on his current deal.
- Catcher Ronny Paulino has been suspended for 100 games after testing positive for exogenous testosterone, Major League Baseball announced. Paulino was originally acquired by the Tigers from the Orioles last August and Detroit re-signed the veteran backstop to a minor league deal in November. This is the second PED suspension for Paulino, who was suspended for 50 games spanning the 2010 and 2011 seasons. He last played in the Majors in 2012, appearing in 20 games with Baltimore.
- Justin Verlander isn't planning on talking fellow ace Max Scherzer into remaining with the Tigers once his contract is up. "Max is his own guy….He’s going to make his own decisions, but I don’t think I need to be a recruiter," Verlander told reporters, including Beck. "I think from what he’s been saying, he’s made it loud and clear that that he wants to stay in Detroit….I think what this organization has done has recruited him — not just the players here. I think he enjoys being part of this team." Verlander also discussed such topics as the Tigers' offseason moves and the rise of salaries across baseball during his chat with the media.
The Tigers and 2013 American League Cy Young Winner Max Scherzer have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $15.525MM, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter). Scherzer is represented by agent Scott Boras.
Scherzer and Boras were able to parlay his 2013 success into a massive $8.8MM raise — a whopping 130 percent raise on last year's salary and nearly $2MM more than the $13.6MM projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz. As Swartz noted in his Arbitration Breakdown piece on Scherzer, the previous record raise for a pitcher with five-plus years of service time was Carlos Zambrano's $5.9MM raise back in 2007. Scherzer's $8.8MM pay increase shatters that mark and isn't likely to be touched at any point in the near future. With David Price having settled at $14MM and Clayton Kershaw having inked a historic extension, Scherzer seems to be a lock to take home the biggest one-year payday among arb-eligible players this offseason.
This is Scherzer's final season before heading into free agency, and one would think that another elite campaign would put him and Boras in position to try to top CC Sabathia's record-setting $161MM free agent contract that still stands as the largest open-market contract ever signed by a pitcher.
Scherzer is fresh off a dominant season in which he pitched to a 2.90 ERA with 10.1 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and a 36.3 percent ground-ball rate in a career-high 214 1/3 innings. Some will argue that his Cy Young award was due to his gaudy 21-3 record, but Scherzer's 6.4 fWAR trailed only Clayton Kershaw, and his 6.7 rWAR was right in line with Hisashi Iwakuma (7.0) and Chris Sale (6.9) among American League starting pitchers.