It’s fair to wonder if an aging Miguel Cabrera could hinder the Detroit Tigers’ next competitive club
Living legend of Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera has a lot of respect for his future. A first-round Hall of Fame, jersey retreat and a statue beyond center-left field, all among the honors to come. But Miguel Cabrera has not spoken of his desire for these career accolades. He discussed his desire to play two more seasons.
In a recent interview with ESPN’s Sage Steele, Cabrera said the following:
“Two years is all. My right knee is in really bad shape. I have to take care of it during the offseason and prepare for next season. I will play another two years. I think that’s enough. I’ll be happy with 20 years in the big leagues if I can make it happen. I would say thank goodness for the opportunity and say two more years and I’m done.
Cabrera’s question then becomes: “Can he do it?” No one is trying to claim that Miguel Cabrera still has batting titles in the tank. Those days are long gone. The real conundrum lies in the Detroit Tigers competition window. When they get in there, building their roster when they do, and if Cabrera would love the Detroit Tigers by donning the Olde English D, or gaining his dough from a couch somewhere south.
It is going in the right direction in terms of performance. Its previous -0.8 bWAR has improved near replacement level these days. I discussed his positional changes a few weeks ago and how his numbers had improved since their inception. Whether these adjustments are sustainable remains to be seen, but it made this surprise 2021 season a little more palatable than usual.
Likewise, he now has one of the scoring monkeys on his back, with 500 home runs behind him. While that doesn’t mean much in the context of the club’s competitiveness, it does in deciding if your franchise player is going to hit those home runs in a different uniform. What a bittersweet emotion that would have given fans, much like watching Justin Verlander celebrate his World Series in Houston.
Miguel Cabrera was diagnosed with a chronic right knee injury in 2019; the same wound that made him bark now, according to him. While Cabrera is revered for his tenacity and ability to stay on the pitch despite severe pain over the years, these things don’t tend to subside with age. Two more seasons of dealing with his type of injury and being in his type of pain can push him to the point where playing turns out to be punishment.
Miguel Cabrera’s position, or his absence, is also difficult. He’s played about a third of his first baseman games this year, but the majority of the time has been spent as a DH. While the location allows him to stay cooler, the standards for hitting in such a position should be high, as no contribution to the team elsewhere is to be found. Considering Hinch’s propensity to mix and match, I wouldn’t be surprised if he would rather leave this place open and use it as a half day off for his regulars if needed.
Do the Detroit Tigers allow him to play?
Right now, they can afford it. Cabrera was productive enough to avoid crippling an otherwise athletic and aggressive baseball brand as the Detroit Tigers played. Until they find someone better or their active roster is depleted, the opportunity cost of letting Cabrera walk isn’t worth playing. This conversation is reminiscent of old perspectives “blocked” by the arguments of MLB players. It’s not a problem, so don’t worry about it until it is.
Money is money. He gets it anyway. So the question then becomes whether Cabrera can help the Detroit Tigers win. What I’m saying, the LA Dodgers win with Albert Pujols in their roster. Call me crazy, but I don’t see the Detroit Tigers rolling out Dodger-type rosters over the next two seasons. Cabrera’s role is likely to diminish over the next couple of seasons and that’s okay. In the end, it may prove to be better for the team’s competitiveness and Cabrera’s health to reduce his load over time.
Keep the “he won” or “he deserves to play” arguments. This is a tough business that revolves around winning baseball games. If Cabrera, or any player, obstructs this, he will be eliminated. I don’t see Cabrera as a future major contributor to their success, but neither do I see it as the detriment he’s been described to be in the past.
For these reasons, let him play for as long as he wants (or as long as he can).