In a previous article I hypothesized on Miguel Cabrera’s intrinsic trade value. I hadn’t given it much thought until around two months later when Jim Bowden wrote a similar article on ESPN Insider, and it was covered on some of the local sports radio shows. The funny thing was, people went absolutely bananas. And naturally, when a mass of people start voicing complaints about a certain subject, I like to find a dank corner in my basement and sullenly dwell on the issue at hand so I can choose a stance to complain loudly about.
The prospect of trading Cabrera is unconscionable: he is literally one of the top-5 best players the Detroit Tigers have ever had, a generational talent like Barry Bonds or Albert Pujols, and has become synonymous with the franchise to the point of being a major seller to free agents. However, the financial aspect of a player of this caliber is monumental, especially as contracts only get larger and larger. So, in Part 2 of this series, the first thing we need to think about is the financial situation of Mike Ilitch and the Detroit Tigers.
Everyone who is a fan of pro baseball knows that Mike Ilitch desperately wants to win a World Series. Something inside him clicked after 2003 where he wanted to clean house and start putting together a club that can legitimately win a championship, and ten years and two World Series appearances later, he has his wish with this current squad. Right now, the Tigers arguably have no weaknesses, from their offense to their pitching, and every position in between. This team is in one of the best positions to win, and if they don’t this year there will be hell to pay.
If they fail to win it all this year Ilitch can, hypothetically, foot the bill for one more fantastic shot. He has a majority of the highly talented players under contract for another year, but he’ll have to decide whether or not to bring back veterans or add anyone new. Austin Jackson is arbitration eligible for two more seasons (each year a new raise), and then he’s a free agent. Scherzer is due a raise this season, and then will be a free agent in 2015. Doug Fister, Andy Dirks, Alex Avila, Rick Porcello, Drew Smyly, and others will all be looking for raises in the future as well. Eventually, all this will start adding up, and that’s not even necessarily factoring in what the Tigers will do about second base or reliever or any other additions they might tack on.
And really, if the Tigers try to sell off pieces to clear some space for Cabrera, do you think other teams are chomping at the bit to take on Fielder’s deal? Or Anibal Sanchez’s? Or even Justin Verlander’s, if they decide to go that horrible route? They have a lot of money invested in talented players who aren’t getting any younger, and if they decide to try and extend Cabrera this offseason, what do they do with Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter’s remaining season here? Does that fall under ‘footing the bill’ for another run?
With the rising prices of star players, in addition to all those raises and those new Tigers, who are we to say that Ilitch will want to spend any more? He’s already got two mega-contracts on the ledger with Justin Verlander and Prince Fielder, and things won’t be getting any cheaper. How will Cabrera’s new deal affect this? Heck, how will Max Scherzer’s new contract affect Cabrera’s? We’ve already established that Miguel be looking at Albert Pujols-type money, and that market could get even pricier if any other free agent comes along and breaks the bank before Cabrera’s current extension expires.
And it’s not just the Tigers that the ownership is spending on. The Ilitches are also footing the bill for 56% of the new Red Wings’ stadium in Detroit, and that’s in addition to the payrolls and expenses of the Wings. Things are looking very pricey and again, this is without factoring in another huge deal (or two).
A more gloomy scenario sees Mr. Ilitch perhaps passing control of the team to his children due to disinterest, age, or (God forbid) passing away. We don’t know how invested his children would be, or even if they would want to sell the team for a princely sum. If they choose to slash the budget, would there be room for Cabrera’s and Max Scherzer’s new deals in addition to Verlander and Fielder? Would the selling of the team bring in a more frugal, bottom-lined owner? Would the prospect of all those teams affect the sale, thus enabling both Scherzer and Cabrera to skip town during the lull between owners?
The last financial factor that is incredibly terrifying is a suitor dishing out more dough than the Ilitches could: the New York Yankees.
The Yankees have been on a mission in terms of shedding salary, and as of now, heading into the 2015 offseason when Cabrera becomes a free agent, they have a grand total of two players under contract and six arbitration-eligible players. In this scenario, one has to imagine by that point they’ll have found a way to void the rest of Alex Rodriguez’s contract and will be paying Robinson Cano instead. This also neglects any free agent they may sign (and they have been looking for cheaper players recently instead of shelling out the biggest bucks), or any they may acquire.
Still, with a setup like that, and the Yankees’ propensity to outbid everyone for the shiniest, most coveted star, the Tigers will be hard-pressed to match whatever ungodly sum New York flops at Cabrera’s feet (one has to think they could offer close to, if not more than, 30 million dollars a season). This is not out of the realm of possibility, and that is horrifying.
Part 3 will examine potential returns if Dombrowski decides to trade Cabrera, and which teams might offer the best return of the Greatest Hitter of our Generation.