Miguel Cabrera Signs 10-Year, $292-Million Contract
That sound you just heard was the sound of the jaw of the collective baseball world hitting the floor. Why, you ask? Because Thursday evening, the Tigers and Miguel Cabrera came to an agreement on a 10-year, $292-million contract extension that will take effect starting this year. That means the deal will cover the final two years of Cabrera’s current deal as well as the eight years that follow.
If that didn’t come as enough of a shock, the deal also includes two additional vesting options worth $30 million apiece for years 11 and 12. That potentially brings the total of the deal to $352 million. I’ll give you a few moments in order to allow that to process. Oh, and in case you didn’t realize, Cabrera is also set to turn 31 on April 18. Through the process of simple, non-Common Core math, he’ll be 43-years-old by the time this deal is over.
At first, this seems like another case of the rich getting richer. The Tigers, spending money to keep a super-star. Meanwhile, the Indians can’t reach agreement with their ace, even when he’s offering them a discount on the price to keep him in town. Woe is us. However will we be able to compete when the Tigers are able to pay the two-time AL MVP, Miguel Cabrera, whatever he wants? We’re doomed.
Only the situation is not that dire, at least not for the Indians.
You see, there’s one thing you really need to know about this extension. It’s terrible. It’s a mistake. It’s what Grantland’s Bill Simmons would refer to as a “salbatross.” This contract is going to be a disaster and the Indians, a team that understands the concept of cautious spending, will reap the benefits.
If we’ve learned anything about contracts in Major League Baseball throughout the years, it’s that a 10-year contract is never a good idea. It’s especially terrible when the player is on the wrong side of 30. Look at the Angels and Albert Pujols or the Yankees and Alex Rodrigues. Even Josh Hamilton‘s 5-years, $133-million was a terrible idea at the time and looks even worse now. Bottom line is that this deal may work out for 2013 but beyond that? Good luck.
The craziest part of all is that the Tigers just got themselves out from under the weight of a bad contract this off-season. That trade of Prince Fielder and the remaining years of his 9-year, $214-million contract were seen as a saving grace. At the time, moving Fielder freed up enough salary space to allow the Tigers to resign other valuable pieces like Victor Martinez, Max Scherzer, or any number of other potential free agents.
Well, not any more. That dream is dead and along with it the hopes of keeping their nearly decade long run of success in tact. Enjoy the ride while it lasts, Tiger fans. It’s about to come to a very abrupt halt.
From the Indians perspective, this decision by the Tigers to throw away any and all financial flexibility couldn’t have come at a better time. The Indians are a team that appears to be trending upward. With several key pieces locked up at a decent price and a handful of skilled prospects either ready or close to being ready to make the jump to the bigs, having one of their division rivals weaken themselves in the future is a huge win. We all have wondered if this is the year that the Tigers begin to regress. If not this year, then in the coming years we should begin to finally see a fall from grace.
The oddest part of this move by the Tigers, at least looking at it from the perspective of a division rival, is that they didn’t have to do this, not now at least.
Miguel Cabrera was still under contract for the next two seasons, not making him a free agent until after the 2015 season. By that time, Cabrera would be 33-years-old. At this stage in his career, a lot can happen. One injury is all it takes to turn a perennial all-star into a journeyman. Why not wait two years, assess Cabrera’s performance, and then decide whether or not to pay him? If the Tigers clearly had every indication of paying whatever it took to keep Cabrera in Detroit, why not wait and then offer him this deal following the 2015 season?
You know why? Because often times general managers for professional sports teams just can’t help themselves. That is how you get rid of an awful 9-year, $200-milion dollar contract and only a few months later replace it with an even worse 10-year, $300 million contract. Looking for more examples of stupid decisions by team executives? there are a whole slew of contracts in the NBA that reflect this very point.
That being said, the Tigers are still a very good team and will likely compete for the AL Central crown and a chance to win the World Series. But beyond this season, who knows? Worst case scenario, Mike Ilitch sells a lot more pizza and renders this entire argument a moot point. But, in the best case scenario… this could be the beginning of the end for the Tigers and the beginning of a very opportune situation for the Indians.