Miguel Cabrera Rumors

AL Central Notes: Miguel Cabrera, Kipnis, Twins

The AL Central has already been in the news twice this morning, with the Tigers trading for veteran shortstop Alex Gonzalez and the Twins releasing reliever Matt Guerrier.  More from the division:

  • "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.

Tigers, Miguel Cabrera Begin Extension Talks

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.

Tigers Notes: Cabrera, Paulino, Verlander

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.

Tigers Avoid Arbitration With Max Scherzer

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.

Heyman reports that in spite of settling on a one-year agreement, the Tigers still have hopes of extending Scherzer and teammate Miguel Cabrera (Twitter link).

Quick Hits: Free Agents, Scherzer, Papelbon, Mulder

With Nelson Cruz, Stephen Drew, Ubaldo Jimenez, Kendrys Morales and Ervin Santana all in seeming free agent limbo after rejecting qualifying offers, Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan argues that the current free agent compensation system has proven to be too limiting.  While teams will give up draft picks to sign bigger stars like Robinson Cano, the so-called second tier of free agents are finding it much harder to get work.  "Last offseason, there were a number of guys affected in ways different than we expected compared to a freer market to pursue jobs.  It appears that's happening again, " MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said.  One club executive suggested to Passan that teams could make qualifying offers to more free agents next winter given the evidence about how it pushes prices down for some players.

Here's some more from around baseball…

  • The Tigers have recently made several important moves in the post-Christmas offseason period, and 2014's big early-year move could be laying the groundwork for a Max Scherzer extension, MLB.com's Jason Beck opines.  Beck thinks GM Dave Dombrowski will look to a one-year deal for 2014 to avoid going to arbitration with Scherzer, and those talks could lead to negotiations with agent Scott Boras over a longer-term extension.
  • Also from Beck, he wonders if the Tigers could discuss a new contract with Miguel Cabrera (signed through 2015) or possibly add another reliever to the bullpen.  Detroit has already addressed its main bullpen need by signing closer Joe Nathan, and also acquired Ian Krol and Joba Chamberlain for the relief corps.
  • Jonathan Papelbon discussed his name surfacing in recent trade rumors, the differences between the Phillies' and Red Sox clubhouse atmospheres and his joy at seeing his ex-Boston teammates win the World Series last October in a frank radio interview with Rob Bradford and John McDonald on WEEI's Hot Stove Show.  A partial transcript of the interview is available at WEEI.com.
  • The Phillies were interested in Mark Mulder before the veteran signed with the Angels, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter link).
  • Forbes Magazine's Maury Brown discusses Major League Baseball's growing revenues and the effect on player salaries and acquisitions in a podcast with BostInno's Alex Reimer, who has a partial transcript of the interview here.
  • MLB.com's Anthony DiComo covers a number of Mets-related topics as part of a reader mailbag, including how he doesn't see Dee Gordon or Didi Gregorius as logical trade targets for the team.

Miguel Cabrera, Andrew McCutchen Win MVP Awards

Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera and Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen were respectively announced as the American League and National League Most Valuable Players, according to the Baseball Writers Association of America.

This is the second consecutive year that Cabrera has captured the MVP trophy, making it three years in a row that a Detroit player has won the award after Justin Verlander's MVP year in 2011.  While Cabrera's 2013 season lacked the history of his 2012 Triple Crown campaign, he achieved another unique treble by leading the league in every slash line category (.348/.442/.636) and also hitting 44 homers and 137 RBI. 

Cabrera captured 23 of 30 first-place votes from the writers and finished second on the other seven ballots.  Angels outfielder Mike Trout was Cabrera's runner-up for the second straight year, claiming five first-place votes and 19 second-place votes.  Orioles first baseman Chris Davis and Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson each received one first place vote and finished third and fourth overall on the ballot, with Yankees second baseman (and free agent) Robinson Cano finishing fifth.

McCutchen's race to the MVP Award wasn't nearly as close, as he captured a whopping 28 of 30 first-place votes.  McCutchen was an all-around threat, hitting .317/.404/.508 with 21 homers, stealing 27 bases, scoring 97 runs and providing a strong (+8.4 UZR.150) glove in center field — he generated 8.2 WAR according to both Fangraphs and Baseball Reference.  He becomes the first Pirate to win the MVP since Barry Bonds in 1992.

Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt finished second in the balloting despite not receiving any first-place votes.  Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina received those other two firsts and finished in third place, followed by teammate Matt Carpenter in fourth and Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman in fifth place.

Stark On Miguel Cabrera, Kershaw, Nolasco, Stanton

Jayson Stark's latest Rumblings & Grumblings column for ESPN came out yesterday; here are some highlights.

  • There have been enough informal conversations between Miguel Cabrera and the Tigers on a contract extension that both sides expect a deal to get done, a friend of the player tells Stark.  The tricky part is that a new deal would begin with the 2016 season, at which point Cabrera will be 33.  It seems likely that Cabrera would need an average annual value in the $30MM range, but Stark's sources picture anywhere from three to five additional years.
  • Some of Stark's sources don't consider Yankees second baseman and #1 2014 free agent Robinson Cano the type of player to build a team around.  One exec, though, told Stark, "I can't imagine him leaving."
  • Stark hears Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw seeks a ten-year deal, which would be the first for a pitcher since Wayne Garland signed a ten-year, $2.3MM deal in 1977 (those were different times).  One exec can't possibly see Kershaw leaving L.A., and could picture $200-210MM over seven years.  Even that would be well beyond C.C. Sabathia's record seven-year, $161MM deal, which was signed on the open market with the Yankees after the '08 season and included an opt-out clause.  I feel that Kershaw's agents at Excel Sports Management have to score an opt-out in any new deal, especially with the Dodgers giving them to Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu.
  • One exec suggests the Angels offer Mike Trout the Buster Posey deal, which amounted to eight years and $159MM in new money.  Stark says "folks around the game" do not see Trout signing, however.
  • The Orioles and Yankees are "leading the parade of teams that already have interest" in Miami's Ricky Nolasco.  The 30-year-old is easily the highest-paid Marlin, and should have about $7.7MM remaining on his contract at the trade deadline.  Nolasco has a 3.61 ERA in 82 1/3 innings, and sports his best strikeout rate since 2010.
  • Would anyone sign Alex Rodriguez, if the Yankees end up releasing him?  "No chance," says one executive.
  • The Marlins have shown no interest in dealing right fielder Giancarlo Stanton midseason, say clubs that have inquired, though Stark thinks Marcell Ozuna's emergence could push them toward trading Stanton this winter.  Stanton should return from a hamstring injury next week.  

Quick Hits: Angels, Montero, Gomes, Dodgers

Miguel Cabrera might have been hitting home runs in Anaheim if the Angels had been able to swing a deal for him in 2007, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports. The Marlins had Cabrera on the trade market, and the Angels offered Howie Kendrick, Jeff Mathis and either Ervin Santana or Nick Adenhart. But the Marlins wanted both Santana and Adenhart, and the Angels changed their minds about dealing Kendrick, and the trade fell through. Had the deal worked out, Shaikin says, Cabrera could have joined with fellow 2012 MVP candidate Mike Trout in the Angels' lineup. (Of course, Trout was acquired with the No. 25 pick in the 2009 Draft, which was a compensation pick for losing Mark Teixeira. If the Angels had acquired Cabrera, they might not have acquired Teixeira, which means it's possible they wouldn't have drafted Trout. They also would have had to sign Cabrera to a long-term deal, the way the Tigers did. Reimagining history can be complicated.)

The Marlins' side of the deal would have worked out a bit better, too. We'll never know what might have been with Adenhart, who died in an accident in 2009, and Mathis hasn't hit well. But Kendrick turned out to be a better player than any the Marlins got when they sent Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers for a package centered around Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin.

Here are more notes from around MLB.

  • After Jesus Montero's demotion, his role in the Mariners' future is unclear, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports writes. Mike Zunino now appears to be the Mariners' future catcher, and Montero will work on playing first base at Triple-A Tacoma. If Montero will play predominantly first base and designated hitter going forward, that puts him in an awkward position, because one of the reasons he was sent down in the first place was that his hitting wasn't particularly good even for a catcher. Still, the door remains open to Montero, Morosi notes, since Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak has not hit well, and main DH Kendrys Morales will be a free agent at the end of the season.
  • Yan Gomes' play so far is creating a "pleasant problem" for the Indians, Sheldon Ocker of the Akron Beacon-Journal writes. Gomes, who arrived in Cleveland with Mike Aviles when the Indians sent Esmil Rogers to the Blue Jays last offseason, is hitting .311/.328/.672 with five home runs in 61 at bats so far. His performance suggests he might be able to one day become an everyday catcher, not just a utility player who catches occasionally, Ocker writes. Carlos Santana is, of course, the Indians' starting catcher, but if Gomes keeps hitting, the Indians will have to find a way to get him more playing time.
  • The Dodgers were criticized for absorbing hundreds of millions of dollars in salary (and giving up five players, including prospects Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa) when they acquired Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto from the Red Sox last August. But, MLB.com's Lyle Spencer tweets, Gonzalez, Crawford and Punto have been the Dodgers' three best position players this year. Of course, that says more about the Dodgers' offense than anything else — the Dodgers are scoring just 3.39 runs per game, second-to-last in the National League.

Quick Hits: Choo, Miggy, Braden, Mariners

Reds center fielder Shin-Soo Choo has been hit by an incredible nine pitches already, which, combined with a very discerning eye at the plate, has lead to an MLB-best .523 OBP. SB Nation's Rob Neyer opines that the Reds correctly assessed that the gap between Choo's offense and Drew Stubbs' offense would outweigh the defensive downgrade. While Choo won't keep this pace up, Neyer points out that Reds leadoff men combined for a .254 OBP last season, making the addition of Choo a worthwhile move.

Choo currently ranks third on MLBTR's 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings, and a career-year in terms of OBP would certainly help keep him near the top of that list. Here's more from around the league…

  • MLB.com's Lyle Spencer writes that Miguel Cabrera was nearly traded to the Angels prior to the 2007 trade that sent him to the Tigers. Cabrera himself told Spencer that he thought he was being traded to Anaheim. The Angels and Marlins discussed Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders in the deal as well as young infielders Howie Kendrick and Brandon Wood. Ultimately, Cabrera said that he thinks he wound up in Detroit because the Tigers were more willing to take on Dontrelle Willis and his $7MM salary.
  • Former Athletics left-hander Dallas Braden implied via Twitter that he could be entertaining a comeback attempt. Braden, now 29 years old, made just three starts in the 2011 season and hasn't pitched since thanks to a pair of shoulder surgeries. Braden famously threw a perfect game against the Rays on May 9, 2010 with his grandmother in attendance.
  • The Mariners' offensive woes present the "biggest crisis of the Jack Zduriencik era," writes Larry Stone of the Seattle Times. While he concedes that it's a small sample, Zduriencik made several moves to bolster the lineup this offseason but the Mariners find themselves in 29th place in nearly every offensive category. The collapse of Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero — who were supposed to be the team's young core — is a major setback in Zduriencik's blueprint.

Miguel Cabrera, Buster Posey Win League MVP Awards

Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera and Giants catcher Buster Posey were announced as the winners of the Most Valuable Player Awards in the AL and NL, respectively, the Baseball Writers Association Of America announced tonight.  Full results of the voting both the AL and NL can be found on the BBWAA's website. 

Posey and Cabrera become the first batting champs to both win MVP awards in the same season since Ernie Lombardi and Jimmie Foxx in 1938, and also are the first pair of MVPs whose teams squared off in the World Series since Kirk Gibson's Dodgers and Jose Canseco's Athletics met in the 1988 Fall Classic.

Cabrera became the first player since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 to win the Triple Crown, leading the AL with 44 homers, 139 RBIs and a .330 batting average (Cabrera's slash line also included a .393 OBP and a league-leading .606 slugging percentage).  This is Cabrera's first MVP award, having been a top-five finisher in the voting five previous times in his career, including a second-place finish behind Josh Hamilton in 2010.  Cabrera becomes the first Venezuelan-born player to win an MVP and the second Tiger to win an MVP in as many years, following teammate Justin Verlander's MVP/Cy Young double in 2011.  

The AL MVP race was seen as a tight battle between Cabrera and Mike Trout, but Cabrera ended up with 22 of 28 first-place votes, while Trout collected the other six first-place votes and ended up a distant second.  Trout narrowly missed joining Fred Lynn (1975) and Ichiro Suzuki (2001) as the only players to win Rookie Of The Year and MVP awards in the same season.  Adrian Beltre, Robinson Cano, Hamilton and Adam Jones round out the top six players on the AL ballot.

After missing much of the 2011 season due to a broken leg suffered in a home plate collision, Posey roared back in the best possible way, posting a .336/.408/.549 line, 24 homers and 103 RBIs.  Posey's .336 average led the Majors and earned him his first batting title, making him the first NL catcher to win a batting title since Ernie Lombardi in 1942.

In three years as a regular, the 25-year-old Posey has now won an Rookie of the Year Award, an MVP and two World Series rings.  Posey will receive a big raise this winter in his first trip through the arbitration process, as MLBTR's Matt Swartz projects Posey will receive $5.9MM in 2013.  Since Posey has four arb years as a Super Two player, the Giants could save themselves some money by locking Posey up to a multiyear contract.  Back in August, I thought Posey could get a seven-year, $84MM extension, but in the wake of his great postseason performance and his MVP award, a $100MM+ extension wouldn't be out of the question.

Posey received 27 of 32 first-place votes, easily outpacing Ryan Braun (three first place votes), Andrew McCutchen, Yadier Molina (two first place votes) and Chase Headley on the ballot.  Braves closer Craig Kimbrel was the finished in eighth place and garnered the most votes of any pitcher, also earning a second-place spot from one voter that made Kimbrel the only player beyond the top four to receive a top-three vote.