March 2014

Breaking down the Cabrera extension

The year-by-year breakdown of Miguel Cabrera’s $292 million extension came out today, first reported by Jon Heyman. And the contract is somewhat backloaded, though maybe not as much as expected.

Cabrera’s $22 salary remains intact for this year and next. His salary will jump to $28 million for 2016 and 2017, then $30 million from 2018 through 2021. The last two guaranteed seasons of his deal are the most lucrative at $32 million each. Thus, yes, Cabrera will make $32 million at age 40 in 2023.

Cabrera will get either a $30 million salary in 2024, if his option vests with a top 10 MVP finish or if the club picks it up, or he’ll get an $8 million buyout. The same option is in place for 2025, though not with a buyout.

The deal also includes some good-sized bonuses. Another MVP award will earn him $2 million. Finishing second through fifth in the voting will earn him $200,000. Placing sixth through 2010 will earn him $100,000. Winning the Hank Aaron Award is worth $250,000. He also has a bonus of $100,000 for being voted an All-Star or being named to the Baseball America, AP or Sporting News end-of-season All-Star teams.

Cabrera has $100,000 bonuses for Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards, $150,000 for LCS Most Valuable Player, and $200,000 for World Series MVP. If he wins league MVP, the Hank Aaron Award and World Series MVP in the same season, he gets a $1 million bonus.

Bottom line, he has a pretty good chance at earning well beyond the $292 million guaranteed money in his contract.

Opening Day lineups (updated with Royals lineup)

Opening Day 012

What was long suspected became reality Sunday with the release of the Opening Day lineup: Austin Jackson is no longer the leadoff man in Detroit.

What was not anticipated also became a fact: Austin Jackson is now the man batting behind the Tigers’ big two run producers, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. Jackson will bat fifth on Monday, partly out of his phenomenal Spring Training, partly out of the lack of any proven options.

“I think the middle part of the lineup, below Victor, is where you probably have a little more gray area and can shift people around if necessary,” Ausmus said.

If there was a spot where Ausmus could use a hot bat, that was it. None were hotter in Spring Training than Jackson, who hit .429 (24-for-56) in Grapefruit League play with nine extra-base hits, two home runs and 14 RBIs.

“He’s hit there really for the majority of Spring Training and he’s looked exceptional,” Ausmus said. “Does that necessarily mean it’s going to carry over? No, but right now I feel he’s the best option in that spot.”

The matchup also potentially favors Jackson, a right-handed hitter who fares better against right-handed pitchers (.291 career, .296 last year) than lefties (.246, .213). Royals Opening Day starter James Shields, in turn, is a right-hander who gives up a higher batting average to righties (.264 career, .272 last year) than lefties (.249, .233). More to the point, Jackson is 8-for-25 with three walks lifetime off Shields, including 8-for-21 the last two seasons.

TIGERS (career numbers off Big James Shields)

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B (9-for-41, 3 HR, 3 walks, 3 K’s)
  2. Torii Hunter, RF (15-for-46, 4 doubles, 12 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (17-for-40, 6 doubles, 2 HR, 4 walks, 6 K’s)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (9-for-34, 9 K’s)
  5. Austin Jackson, CF (8-for-25, 3 walks, 7 K’s)
  6. Alex Avila, C (6-for-21, HR, walk, 10 K’s)
  7. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  8. Alex Gonzalez, SS (0-for-7, K)
  9. Rajai Davis, LF (2-for-14, triple, 3 K’s)

P: Justin Verlander

ROYALS (career numbers off Verlander)

  1. Norichika Aoki, RF
  2. Omar Infante, 2B (0-for-1)
  3. Eric Hosmer, 1B (9-for-39, HR, 4 walks, 8 K’s)
  4. Billy Butler, DH (30-for-68, 2 HR, 8 walks, 9 K’s)
  5. Alex Gordon, LF (14-for-66, 2 HR, 7 walks, 24 K’s)
  6. Salvador Perez, C (8-for-21, HR, 4 K’s)
  7. Mike Moustakas, 3B (6-for-33, HR, walk, 7 K’s)
  8. Lorenzo Cain, CF (2-for-9, 3 K’s)
  9. Alcides Escobar, SS (8-for-40, walk, 4 K’s)

P: James Shields

Tigers purchase Collins contract, finalize 25-man roster

The Tigers’ 25-man roster is now set. And Tyler Collins can finally celebrate making the team.

After a couple days in which the Tigers had 25 active players in camp but weren’t finalizing anything, a clear sign of waiting to see what roster cuts in other camps might bring, the Tigers set their roster Saturday. Collins, who came to camp on a non-roster invite because he didn’t have enough years to require a 40-man roster spot, had his contract purchased from Double-A Erie, where he spent last season.

There had been suspense whether the Tigers would make a run at a left-handed hitting outfielder with experience. Ex-Tiger Brennan Boesch reportedly has an out clause in his contract with the Angels, while players who are out of minor-league options generally had to be claimed by this point if a team was going to pick them up in time for Opening Day.

The Tigers also made their season-opening moves to the disabled list. Jose Iglesias (stress fractures in both shins) and Bruce Rondon (Tommy John surgery) both went on the 60-day DL, while Andy Dirks was placed on the 15-day DL. The latter move doesn’t necessary mean the Tigers expect Dirks (back surgery) to be back in sooner than 60 days. They just don’t need the 40-man roster spot, so there’s no reason to use the 60-day DL for him just yet.

Officially, rosters have to be finalized by Sunday.

Tigers-Nationals exhibition rained out

I didn’t go to Washington, but apparently the weather wasn’t very good, because they didn’t wait long to postpone Saturday’s exhibition between the Tigers and Nationals. Essentially, the Tigers got an overnight stay in D.C. before returning home Saturday evening.

Only a couple players will really be affected by it. The first is scheduled starter Anibal Sanchez, who was scheduled to throw around 85 pitches to get ready for his regular-season assignment Thursday against KC. Instead, Sanchez will now throw a shorter session against Tigers hitters along with Rick Porcello as part of Sunday’s voluntary workouts (no, it’s not voluntary for the hitters scheduled to face them, I’m told).

The other player affected is Don Kelly, who was supposed to get some field work in Saturday’s game. He returned to game action Friday in Lakeland, but it was a minor-league camp game, and he was the designated hitter for both teams in the contest. I’m not sure whether that will help set Brad Ausmus’ decision on who starts in left field for Opening Day. He said Friday he still hadn’t decided.

What Cabrera deal says about Scherzer situation

The question was going to come up, and it wasn’t going to take long into Friday’s press conference announcing Miguel Cabrera’s record contract extension.

Why do this now?

The answer from team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski was fairly long.

“When you’re in a position like ourselves trying to make things happen, and you’re in a spot where you’re anticipating what’s going to take place in the game, my experience has told me if you are in a spot where you have a star player, that you’re much better off to sign them with two years left on his contract than one.

“I realize that a lot of other people may think in other ways, but for me, when you get to one year away, that lure of free agency becomes very large for a player. Secondly, they get a lot of additional pressure on themselves to test that market. Perhaps if you had something to observe on the player, that you felt you needed to observe, I could understand that. I don’t think we need to observe Miguel’s abilities at this point. I think he’s the best player in the game of baseball.

“So to me, I’ve always really approached with two years in advance, if possible, because those lures end up being large. Secondly, since I’ve been in the game and people look at those dollars, generally — I know people will look and say this is the largest contract out there, and understandably so — the dollars generally don’t go down with other contracts.”

Left unsaid was what this meant about Max Scherzer’s situation. The answer on that seems fairly straightforward: A deal probably wasn’t going to happen, on either side.

The Tigers had a choice to make last offseason, when both Scherzer and Justin Verlander had two years left before free agency. At that point, Verlander was a vote or two away from being a back-to-back Cy Young winner. Scherzer was emerging as a top-quality starter, having overcome a slow start to 2012 to deliver some of the nastiest pitching in the game down the stretch before a shoulder issue limited him entering the postseason.

Given the choice, the Tigers signed Verlander. Under the circumstances, a lot of teams would have. Once that choice was made, the chances of re-signing Scherzer ahead of free agency became low. The money that might have swayed him away from free agency two years out wasn’t going to be the same at one year out, even without the breakout season.

Once Scherzer went 21-3, started in the All-Star Game and won the AL Cy Young award, those chances became lower, though the Tigers tried. Doesn’t mean Scherzer doesn’t like Detroit. Does mean he’s well aware of the market.

Could the Tigers have fit a Scherzer extension and a Cabrera extension into their budget? The fact that the Tigers were doing both negotiations at the same time suggests they thought they might, at least to a point. They still might, though the fact that other teams will be bidding next offseason makes the chances seemingly remote. The chances might have been better, obviously, if they had taken place one offseason apart, rather than at the same time.

Source: Cabrera, Tigers agree to terms on long-term extension

The Tigers went into Spring Training with two contract situations to watch: Max Scherzer entering his final year before free agency, and Miguel Cabrera entering the stage to consider an extension with two years left on his deal. Detroit will head north having locked up one of the two.

Cabrera and the Tigers have agreed to terms on an eight-year extension that, when added in with the remaining two seasons on his current deal, is expected to comprise the largest contract in baseball history, a source with knowledge of the talks told MLB.com. The deal will be announced on Friday, the final day for the Tigers’ Spring Training camp. Jon Heyman first reported the deal Thursday evening.

The agreement extend Cabrera’s current contract through at least 2023. Published reports estimate the value of the extension at $248 million guaranteed. A report from CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman said the deal will include vesting options for two more years at $30 million each.

Add in the remaining years on his current contract, which will pay him $22 million per year in 2014 and ’15, and Cabrera would make about $292 million over the next 10 seasons, not including the options. With or without the options, if the remaining years on the current deal are included, the terms mark the largest contract in Major League history, surpassing the 10-year, $275 million deal signed by Alex Rodriguez after the 2007 season. It would also all but ensure that Cabrera concludes his career in a Tigers uniform.

While Scherzer’s situation had a sense of urgency to it this spring, with free agency so close and neither side interested in negotiating during the season, Cabrera has been fairly laid-back about his contract talk. He said going into camp that they had no rush on getting a deal done, tempering fears that this spring would be Detroit’s lone shot to keep him long-term.

An extension comes almost six years to the day after the Tigers made Cabrera, then a new arrival from the Marlins, one of the highest-paid players in the game. He’s scheduled to make $22 million this season and next on the eight-year, $152.3 million extension he signed on March 24, 2008.

When that deal came together, observers said Ilitch finally had the baseball superstar he wanted. This deal ensures that he’ll keep him for the rest of Cabrera’s career and likely the rest of Ilitch’s days.

Thursday: Tigers vs. Braves

Originally, this Tigers lineup was set up to face a left-handed starter, as Alex Wood was slated to pitch for the Braves today. The assignment went to Aaron Harang at some point, but don’t expect any changes.

The lineup is very similar to yesterday’s batting order against Philly’s Cliff Lee, which backs up the notion that Rajai Davis could get some opportunities to bat leadoff against lefties.

TIGERS

  1. Rajai Davis, LF
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  4. Victor Martinez, DH
  5. Torii Hunter, RF
  6. Austin Jackson, CF
  7. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  8. Bryan Holaday, C
  9. Alex Gonzalez, SS

P: Max Scherzer

BRAVES

  1. Jason Heyward, DH
  2. B.J. Upton, CF
  3. Freddie Freeman, 1B
  4. Chris Johnson, 3B
  5. Ryan Doumit, RF
  6. Dan Uggla, 2B
  7. Evan Gattis, C
  8. Andrelton Simmons, SS
  9. Jordan Schafer, LF

P: Aaron Harang

Tigers cut Hardy, Marinez, roster seemingly set

Barring a trade or a waiver pickup, the Tigers’ 25-man roster appears to be set. Detroit finalized its bullpen Thursday by assigning non-roster invitees Blaine Hardy and Jhan Marinez to minor-league camp.

The moves mean — again, barring another move — that Evan Reed and Luke Putkonen take the final two spots in the Tigers bullpen.

“We have 25 people, but it’s not the official 25 yet,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “Anything can happen in 48 hours.”

Hardy made a very good case to give the Tigers a third lefty reliever along Phil Coke and Ian Krol, taking the momentum he built from last summer’s stretch run at Triple-A Toledo. He threw nine scoreless innings to start out camp before four unearned runs March 18 against the Jays and three earned runs March 20 against the Nationals put some crooked numbers on his pitching line.

Hardy is expected to open the season with the Mud Hens, working out of the bullpen. Whether he takes a rotation spot, where he thrived down the stretch last year, or a bullpen opening remains to be seen, though the abundance of lefty relievers in Toledo would suggest a starting spot.

Marinez, signed over the winter as a minor-league free agent, gave up 10 runs, seven earned, on nine hits over 6 1/3 innings this spring. He walked seven and struck out six. He had a horrible opening outing, allowing six runs in two-thirds of an inning Feb. 28, a great middle run, then struggled near the end, walking five batters over his final three outings to lead to four runs.

“He actually has a good arm,” Ausmus said. “He has the potential for a wipeout slider.”

Wednesday: Tigers at Phillies

Spring Training 003

Miguel Cabrera has had some memorable trips here to Clearwater. Two years ago, he took a bad-hop ground ball just under his right eye, knocking him out of action for a few days but barely avoiding a far worse injury. Last year, he hit a ball that supposedly left the ballpark completely. He’s in the lineup today, so you’ve been warned.

Most of the regulars are playing today with the exception of Austin Jackson. Tyler Collins starts in his place in center field. Andrew Romine gets the start today at short against Phillies starter Cliff Lee. Brad Ausmus noted yesterday how Collins has held his own against lefties, but Lee should give him a pretty good test.

Justin Verlander should get stretched out close to 100 pitches today in his final spring tuneup. Blaine Hardy, who was supposed to pitch yesterday but didn’t, made the trip today and is scheduled to pitch. So, too, is Phil Coke, which should erase lingering doubt whether he’s going to make the roster. If the Tigers were going to release him and pay just one-fourth of his salary, today is the day they’d have to put him on waivers.

Today’s game is available live online at MLB.TV, or you can watch the replay tonight on MLB Network at 11pm. Or you can watch both, I suppose. You can also listen to the radio broadcast on AM 1270 in Detroit and MLB Gameday Audio online.

TIGERS

  1. Rajai Davis, LF
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  4. Victor Martinez, DH
  5. Torii Hunter, RF
  6. Alex Avila, C
  7. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  8. Tyler Collins, CF
  9. Andrew Romine, SS

P: Justin Verlander, Phil Coke, Blaine Hardy, Al Alburquerque

PHILLIES

  1. Ben Revere, CF
  2. Jimmy Rollins, SS
  3. Chase Utley, 2B
  4. Ryan Howard, 1B
  5. Marlon Byrd, DH
  6. Domonic Brown, LF
  7. Cesar Hernandez, 3B
  8. Bobby Abreu, RF
  9. Wil Nieves, C

P: Cliff Lee, Antonio Bastardo, B.J. Rosenberg, Jake Diekman, Shawn Camp, Brad Lincoln

Tuesday: Tigers at Braves

wedgecardBrad Ausmus still isn’t saying what his Opening Day lineup is going to be, and he’s hinting that he might not have much of a set batting order from one day to the next. Still, today’s lineup — at least from who’s in it, if not the order — looks like a starting nine to expect to see next Monday at Comerica Park. It includes Rajai Davis, who returns to the lineup after a week off to deal with his sore right hamstring, and Alex Gonzalez, who arrived this morning from Orioles camp after his trade on Monday.

Today’s game is on ESPN, whose broadcast team for the game includes former Indians and Mariners manager Eric Wedge in his debut for the network. I’m sure the comments section will let me know how it goes for him, but I’m hoping for the best. He seemed like a better guy and better baseball mind than his fate in Seattle would suggest.

ausmuscardTIGERS

  1. Rajai Davis, LF
  2. Torii Hunter, RF
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  4. Victor Martinez, DH
  5. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  6. Austin Jackson, CF
  7. Alex Avila, C
  8. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  9. Alex Gonzalez, SS

P: Rick Porcello, Ian Krol, Phil Coke, Jhan Marinez, Blaine Hardy

BRAVES

  1. Jason Heyward, RF
  2. B.J. Upton, CF
  3. Freddie Freeman, 1B
  4. Chris Johnson, 3B
  5. Justin Upton, LF
  6. Dan Uggla, 2B
  7. Gerald Laird, C
  8. Ramiro Pena, SS
  9. Tyler Pastornicky, DH

P: Ervin Santana

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