Before the fanboys get their jerseys ruffled, let me preface this article with a statement:
Miguel Cabrera is the best baseball player in the last decade, and will be remembered as one of the best players in the history of Detroit.
Satisfied? Good. Now pay attention while I explain to you that a 10-year contract is a bad move, even when signing a Hall of Famer.
Who was 2003 Cabrera? Do you know?
Miguel, the starry-eyed Venezuelan came bright and shining into the Florida Marlins’ organization. He played in 87 games, with a .268 batting average, 12 home runs and 62 RBI’s. Not too shabby. He played the outfield in nearly every game and was one of the main reasons (along with Steve Bartman) why the Marlins won the World Series in 2003.
Flash forward 10 years.
Cabrera has gone from a hopeful prospect to a hopeful Hall of Famer. 2003 Cabrera and 2013 Cabrera are men in totally different leagues. But after signing a contract extension spanning 10 years and worth $292 million, will he be the same player?
I am not debating Cabrera’s stats. The man is a machine. Since his rookie year his batting average has never fallen under .290, he has 100+ RBI’s in nine straight seasons, and has played in at least 90 percent of regular season games every year of his career. Consistency is the secret to his success in the MLB. That, and possibly clairvoyance.
But what happens a decade into the future is something that nobody can predict.
Salaries that reach nine digits change people. The last large deal Detroit made was Prince Fielder to the not-so-sweet tune of $214 million. Two average seasons and two disappointing postseasons, Fielder found a new home in the Lone Star state. Fielder lost the edge he had when he signed his life-changing checks, and not for the better. Detroit avoided a bullet and a restricting contract by sending Fielder away, but did not seem to learn their lesson.
Granted, Cabrera and Fielder are totally different players. Cabrera wants a championship, that much is clear. That man was willing to play through a debilitating groin injury in last years’ postseason, where every at bat was a struggle and every ranging play at third only made the damage worse.
Many players see a contract like Cabby’s as the ultimate goal. How could they not? The two-time MVP could walk up to the plate, strike out looking every at-bat and still make $31 million a year. He is set for life. In fact, if Cabrera plays every game during his 10-year contract, every at-bat will cost Detroit $49,423.
At this point, worrying is all conjecture. And yes, it is incredibly unfair to question the motivation of the man who has put his life into this sport. To question a man who has played better (and without steroids) than anyone in the last decade is borderline ridiculous. 30-year old Miguel Cabrera is at the top of his game. We can only hope that 40-year old Cabrera will be too.
Richie Cozzolino is the host of Tiger Talk for Impact Sports.