Ron Gardenhire met the media Friday, Oct. 20, after being introduced as the Tigers' next manager. Tony Paul
Detroit — While Miguel Cabrera dealt with multiple off-field distractions during a horrific season on the field, Tigers general manager Al Avila said Friday it was his health that was the paramount explanation behind the significantly decreased production.
"I'm not going to address any of his personal issues, because they're all personal," Avila said following the introduction of Ron Gardenhire as the team's new manager. "But for me, I do believe the main reason that Miguel Cabrera did not perform as well as we're accustomed to seeing is because of his injuries.
"From the get-go when he got back from the World Baseball Classic (in the spring), he was hurt, and so he was trying to play through these things. And he's got a great tolerance for pain.
"But at the end of the day, I think that's what affected him most."
Avila met with reporters for the first time since Cabrera's personal strife came to light in the last week, as reported by The News.
Cabrera's wife of 15 years, Rosangel, filed for divorce in Miami just before the start of the 2017 season. That case, while on court dockets throughout the entire season, has been recently withdrawn and a final hearing scheduled for next week has been canceled, her attorney confirmed to The News on Friday. The couple has three children, and appears headed toward reconciliation. Cabrera's attorney had recently withdrawn as attorney of record on the case.
Meanwhile, Cabrera, 34, is being sued by a Florida woman who's claiming he's not paying enough to support two children he fathered with her, in 2013 and 2015. That case is scheduled for mediation next week in Orlando.
Cabrera also was admittedly affected by the turmoil in his home country of Venezuela, where he has family and continues to fear for their safety.
Cabrera, a two-time Most Valuable Player and 11-time All-Star, suffered through the worst season of his 15-year career in 2017, as the Tigers tied the San Francisco Giants for the worst record in Major League Baseball. He batted .249/.329/.399 with 16 homers and 60 RBIs in 130 games.
Late in the season, it was revealed he had two herniated discs in his back, though it appears he will avoid offseason surgery.
Avila said the day after the season, Cabrera went home to Florida, met with his medical team and began his rehabilitation program.
"We're monitoring that," Avila said. "Look at Vladimir Guerrero, he had five discs that were hurt, and through good rehab he played for many, many years after that. Miguel Cabrera, it's less than five, there's two of them.
"I fully expect a fully healthy Miguel Cabrera coming back and getting back to producing."
The Tigers still owe Cabrera $184 million through the 2023 season, and potentially more should he trigger options by finishing in the top 10 in MVP voting in 2023 and 2024.
That's a massive financial commitment for a team that is in full rebuild mode, having slashed tens of millions in payroll in recent months with trades of Justin Verlander, Justin Upton, J.D. Martinez, Justin Wilson and Alex Avila.
And more cost-cutting trades could be coming this offseason, as the team continues to get younger.
For a veteran like Cabrera, a rebuild isn't ideal, as he starts to approach what almost surely is the sunset of his career. He's trying to win his second World Series championship, and first with the Tigers. He won one with the Florida Marlins in 2003, his rookie year.
But Avila said he's spoken to Cabrera on numerous occasions, and he's on board with the process -- not that he has many choices, given his contract is, at least today, almost certainly unmovable.
"He told me he's going to embrace this, he's going to make sure we do everything possible to get these young players playing the right way," said Avila, who has known Cabrera — the odds-on favorite to be the next player to enter Baseball's Hall of Famer with a Detroit cap on his plaque -- since he was a lanky teenager in Venezuela. "And he's going to be part of this process."