July 15, 2014 at 1:00 am

'Buddies' Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout enjoy their friendly competition

Minneapolis — During batting practice at the All-Star Game Tuesday night, Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera gleefully tossed a couple pitches to Angels center fielder Mike Trout.

Cabrera and Trout, of course, have been at the center of the biggest debate in baseball over the past two years. Both had historically great seasons in 2012 and 2013, but the discussion over who was more deserving of the American League’s Most Valuable Player award has become a regular argument.

While others squabble, the two stars have bonded over their success.

“We’re buddies,” said the 22-year-old Trout. “We’re always competing with each other. He’s fun to watch, and it’s fun to battle each year with him.”

Cabrera, 31, said their relationship is “great.”

“We talk every time we see each other,” he said. “When we’re in the field we compete, but we’re good friends.”

The question of why either player is more valuable than the other can yield several different responses and, in some cases, philosophical discussions about different statistics and metrics. Ultimately, Cabrera won the debate in the eyes of the voting baseball writers for the MVP in 2012 and 2013. The voters valued Cabrera’s incredible hitting over Trout’s marvelous all-around game.

And there’s a good chance the two will be battling for votes again, either this year or in the future.

During his interview session Monday, Cabrera was asked if he thought Trout was the MVP this year.

“I don’t know,” he said. “If you want to give the MVP to Trout, that’s OK with me.”

The Tigers’ slugger is glad he doesn’t have to make the decision.

“I don’t vote. I play,” he said. “That’s not my job.”

Cabrera said Trout is “unbelievable” and said people need to appreciate what he has accomplished thus far in his young career.

In 2014, Trout has been the clear-cut best player in the A.L. He’s batting .310 with 22 home runs, 26 doubles, five triples and 10 stolen bases without being caught. He’s also a solid center fielder, though some metrics show he’s not in the top tier.

Cabrera, meanwhile, has played well, but not equal to the incredibly high standard he’s set for himself. He’s hitting .306, but his slugging percentage is down from .636 in 2013 to .534 this year. His 14 home runs are well behind his typical pace.

But Cabrera can go on a tear at any time, and he has more value defensively because he’s a much better at first base than third, where he played the last two years.

In addition to their all-world talents, Trout and Cabrera are both team-first guys, which makes them well-respected by their peers.

“I just try to play my game, and at the end of the year, if I’m MVP, that’s what it’s going to be,” Trout said.

Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen, the National League MVP in 2013, said he’s glad Cabrera and Trout are in the A.L. If either were in the N.L., McCutchen’s trophy case might not be as full.

“They’re two amazing players,” he said. “You’ve got Trout, who can do everything. You’ve got Miguel Cabrera, who’s pretty good, too -- just not as fast.

“Those guys are really good. Miguel is one of, if not the best hitter in baseball. He does it every single year. He hits in the mid-.300s every year. He hits 35 plus home runs, he drives in over 120 (runs) every year. That’s pretty tough to do.”

And while fans and media engage in the debate between Trout and Cabrera, McCutchen said the players don’t discuss it.

“We’ll let you guys talk about that, and we’ll just play the game,” he said.

jkatzenstein@detroitnews.com

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Mike Trout greets Miguel Cabrera at home after Cabrera's homer in the first inning. / Jeff Roberson / Associated Press