Three hundred million dollars for Miguel Cabrera? I don’t think Dr. Evil ransomed the entire world for that much in the last “Austin Powers” sequel. OK, the deal is reportedly for something less than $300 million, but that’s still epic. There are a few key takeaways from Cabrera potentially making this kind of money over 10 years.
If Cabrera's new contract -- which includes the two years remaining on his current deal and eight additional years -- is calculated as a 10-year deal, it's the biggest individual contract in sports history as well as baseball history, dwarfing Alex Rodriguez’s initial 10-year, $252 million deal with the Rangers from 2001 and his subsequent 10-year, $275 million deal with the Yankees that runs through 2017. It’s bigger than Robinson Cano’s 10-year, $240 million deal from just this past winter as well as Albert Pujols’ 10-year, $240 million payday. And Joey Votto, as a similar rust belt franchise hero? Signed for $225 million, he’s the guy who just got bumped from the top five contracts in sports history.
The Tigers didn’t have to do this deal now -- or did they? Miggy was already signed through 2015 for $22 million this year and next, after all. But obviously, Tigers owner Mike Ilitch realizes he can’t take it with him as he’ll turn 85 this summer. And after a few near misses the past couple of years, you can imagine how he’d like to see his Tigers hoist one more flag to fly forever.
However, this much money almost automatically makes you wonder if this is what the Tigers decided to do with their entire dividend from dealing Prince Fielder to the Rangers last winter. Because Max Scherzer just said he wasn’t going to sign with anybody until after the season, apparently vast sums of cash were burning a hole in Ilitch’s very deep pockets. It remains to be seen if this buys Ilitch, the Tigers and the city of Detroit another World Series trophy in his lifetime, but mazel tov on the old man’s willingness to try buying happiness.
What about Scherzer? Maybe the Tigers can also afford to re-sign him after this season, maybe not. Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter are also free agents after this season, and that’s a potential $26 million off the books. Austin Jackson, currently making $6 million, will head into a lucrative last year of arbitration next winter. In the same way that this much money for Miggy should teach us never to say never when it came to a deal dwarfing A-Rod’s, I wouldn’t rule out the Tigers’ willingness to afford anything within reason if it buys them a title within these 10 years.
Speaking of reason, have the Tigers completely taken leave of their senses? Aren’t they nuts for giving Miggy this much? Yes and no. Yes, Miguel Cabrera is clearly one of the most remarkable hitters in the history of the game, and as Dan Szymborski recently observed, he’s someone who could win the Triple Crown again. Who else are you and I going to live to say that about?
So yes, Cabrera is someone worth the price of admission if you’re buying a seat. For now. But paying that much money on a guy’s 30-something decade, potentially signing him through his 41st birthday or so? When he’s built that way and should be playing only first base (or DH) from here on out? Yeah, it’s probably also more than a little nuts.
Baseball Prospectus’ 10-year PECOTA forecast through 2023 suggests he’ll be an elite offensive hitter through 2020, when he’ll be 37. Then he’ll slide somewhere down around normal human being production for a first baseman, if you define normal as “talented enough to play in the major leagues,” something only a few thousand people on the planet can do. That’s a huge overpay on the back end of a deal, on top of what might be seen as an overpay right now.
Finally, this deal might be the first thing that Mike Trout has to thank Cabrera for, because even if Miggy’s reliable hardware rival has to wait until after the 2017 season to get market rate or superhero market rate, you can only imagine what Trout will command.
Christina Kahrl writes about MLB for ESPN. You can follow her on Twitter.