March 28th, 2014
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.
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.