Mar 26, 2014; Clearwater, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera (24) walks off the field before a spring training exhibition game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Bright House Field. Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

What They’re Saying About Miguel Cabrera’s Contract Extension

Fans of the Detroit Tigers love Miguel Cabrera, and rightfully so. He’s the best hitter of the current generation and he’s been one of the cornerstones of a Tigers team who has enjoyed a stretch of success that’s just about as good as any in the history of the franchise.

But this seems crazy, right? TEN years and $292 million for a player who’s going to turn 31 years old in less than a month? I can understand why the initial (and possibly final) reaction of many has been to pan the deal.

We’ll offer more MCB analysis to come, but here’s a look at what some writers and analysts – both locally and nationally – have to say about Miggy’s big payday.

It’s an ESPN Insider post, so you’ll have to have a subscription to read the whole thing, but I think Keith Law’s headline sums up his feelings: “Miguel Cabrera deal a disaster for Detroit”.

In analyzing Miguel Cabrera’s enormous contract extension with the Detroit Tigers, I might as well just rerun my column on the Ryan Howard contract from April 2010: Teams just do not need to extend veteran players who are two years from free agency out into their late 30s (or beyond).

I don’t like the Howard comparison because he was never close to being as good as Miggy, but one could just as easily use Albert Pujols (or Alex Rodriguez) and say the same thing. There’s just really no history of long contracts for post-30 players working out.

Dave Cameron of FanGraphs offers a point-counter point take from several angles, but this is becoming my reason for not particularly liking the contract: it doesn’t seem like the Tigers gained anything by extending him two years before they had to.

By giving Cabrera the equivalent of 10/$292M when he was two years away from free agency, the Tigers are implicitly arguing that his open market value this winter would have been something more along the lines of $325 to $350 million.

There’s no reasonable justification for that valuation, not when Robinson Cano topped at $240 million and only had a single bidder over $175M. One can rationally prefer Cabrera to Cano, but there’s no way that Cabrera is 30% to 40% more valuable.

I think this is similar to the contract that Justin Verlander signed last spring. The Tigers seemingly paid these guys as open-market free agents well before they had to, and now hold all of the injury/decline risk before the new portion of the contract kicks in.

Chris Iott of MLive wonders if contract inflation in the ever-expanding market could save the deal.

Of course, every year when a premier free agent signs a deal, fans think — wow, that’s a lot of money. They should. It’s unbelievable money. It’s a ton of money. But there’s another ton behind that one. And another. And another. And two or three after that.

National television contracts keep growing. Contracts for local broadcasting rights keep going up. When the current deal between the Tigers and Fox Sports Detroit runs out, you can bet that the Tigers will score huge. They will make way more money than their deal currently pays them. The market will continue to climb.

He’s definitely right that $30 million per year won’t seem like a ton of money for a star player in 10 years’ time, but he’s also right when he goes on to wonder if that much money for a 35+ year old DH will make sense (even given inflation).

We’re not going to know if this contract ends up being a good buy or not for a long time. Cabrera would be well worth the $30 million per year if he continues to perform at the level he has over the last five seasons, but how long can he keep that up?

Most analysts refuse to believe that he’ll be an MVP candidate late into his 30’s, and I tend to agree with that. What state of affairs will the Tigers be in in 2019? It’s hard to say, but we do know that they’ll have $59 million tied up in a pair of 36-year olds in Cabrera and Verlander.

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Tags: Detroit Tigers Miguel Cabrera

  • gstoye44

    If he can maintain his current pace for three more seasons, and emulate David Ortiz (or, even better, Hank Aaron) for the next three after that, it’ll certainly make the deal easier to swallow. The back half of the deal is pretty crappy, no matter how one looks at it…

  • chrisHannum

    I think pundits are misreading this… it just doesn’t matter what the surplus value of this deal is going to be in 2020, it’s about the effect it will have NOW. In 2020 Mike Ilitch will probably be gone, Dave Dombrowski will probably have a new job and the Tigers will probably not be a contender (with or without Cabrera and with or without his contract). The only people negatively impacted by this deal are Mike Ilitch’s baseball-hating kids, because all of that negative surplus value is going to be reflected directly in a lower valuation of the franchise on the open market. Forbes should be panning this deal, not Kieth Law. As far as Ilitch and DD are concerned, it’s going to keep Cabrera happy and productive for as long as the Tigers window was going to be open, which may not extend beyond 2015 anyway, and during that period it’ll keep fans from worrying about impending doom.