Miguel Cabrera almost certain to finish career with Tigers

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Miguel Cabrera is entering his 12th season with the Tigers.

Detroit — It might feel like it, but Miguel Cabrera's not a Detroit Tigers lifer. He broke in with the Marlins and played his first five seasons in Miami.

But there's a very good chance he'll never play for another team before he claims his place in Baseball's Hall of Fame, his plaque adorned with the Olde English D.

While the Tigers have been willing to trade practically everyone in this latest rebuild, Cabrera's almost certainly not going anywhere. Not even if he revives his career.

"You know, for me, I think Cabrera is gonna be with the Tigers the remainder of his career," general manager Al Avila said Thursday. "I really do. He's a guy that's going to be a Hall-of-Famer, Mr. Ilitch (Mike, the late owner) wanted to keep him here, and he's gonna wear that Detroit Tigers cap."

That's not an earth-shattering revelation, of course.

For starters, Cabrera is untradeable in his current state, as his health has declined, and his statistics have plummeted in step.

He played only 38 games in 2018 before a torn biceps ended his season. The year before, his OPS was .728, the lowest of his 16-year career.

And he's still owed $154 million over the next five seasons.

No team's blowing up Avila's cell phone clamoring for that combination.

Cabrera, who's entering his 12th season with the Tigers and turns 36 in April, reported to town this week in good spirits, and, most importantly, healthy. He's been working out in Florida, and taking his swings — often under the observation of Tigers officials, who've either been there in person, or monitoring via video updates.

Cabrera and the Tigers are hopeful for a career revival not unlike Red Sox slugger David Ortiz's following the prime of his career. After Ortiz's age-33 season, in which he posted a career-worst OPS of .794 in 2009, Ortiz went on to play seven more seasons, hit 224 more home runs and post an OPS of .945.

Such similar production would be music to the Tigers' ears — if for no other reason than he'd be worth the $30 million he'll make in 2019, 2020 and 2021 and the $32 million he'll earn in 2022 and 2023.

Of course, if the numbers go up as the remaining financial obligation goes down, then Avila certainly would start getting some nibbles — of which he'd have to entertain, if not seriously, given Cabrera's place in Tigers history. Then again, ace Justin Verlander occupied a similar status in Tigers lore, and he's a Houston Astro now.

"In Major League Baseball, I would say the majority of people feel that Cabrera can still hit, will continue to hit and he's still a feared bat," Avila said as the Tigers prepared to kick off their annual winter caravan. "If Cabrera stays healthy, he will be a productive player for any team. So anything's possible."


Twitter: @tonypaul1984