A 19-year MLB veteran, his presence will always be a positive impact. He is eight home runs away from No. 500 and 92 hits away from No. 3,000 — two historic milestones he seeks to add to an already strong Hall of Fame resume. Cabrera’s teammates are drawn to his greatnessas they often seek his advice.
“When you got Miguel Cabrera on the other side of the diamond, or in the same hitting group, or in and around the clubhouse,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said earlier this month, “you’d be crazy not to tap into that expertise and that wisdom.”
But he is making $30 million this season, $32 million next season and another $32 million in the 2023 season. Meanwhile, the Tigers have a 21-22 record since the beginning of May. With Hinch at the helm, the team is focused more on winning and less on grinding through the worst years of the rebuild.
That means production matters.
“I’m like really struggling this season,” Cabrera said May 21, after a two-homer game in a 7-5 win over the Kansas City Royals. “Getting that big home run right there gives me positivity to go out there and keep fighting. Keep fighting, try to play hard the next day and try to help our team win more games.”
Entering Saturday, Cabrera is hitting .219 — the worst batting average in his career — with five doubles, five home runs, 26 RBIs, 15 walks and 53 strikeouts in 51 games. He has the third-most RBIs on his team, behind Jonathan Schoop (33) and Robbie Grossman (34).
He struggled through April and May, hitting .184 with two homers and 17 RBIs. He grounded into all eight of his double plays during the first two months of the season, landed on the 10-day injured list from April 11-24 with a left biceps strain and only showed a few glimpses of his old self.
“We’re confident when he comes up to bat that he’s going to deliver and get a hit,” Hinch said. “The overall numbers, it’s going to take a while for them to normalize and get better. There are a lot of at-bats in April and May that you can’t get back and simply just add hits. A consistent approach is going to be really key. I think he’s found a comfortable approach that has paid off for him. I hope that can continue.”
Cabrera’s comfortable approach, as Hinch described, has been displayed in June.
In 14 games in June, Cabrera is 17-for-56 (.304) with four doubles, one home run, eight RBIs, one walk and 16 strikeouts. He has logged five of his 12 multi-hit games during this span and hasn’t grounded into a double play.
As a result, his batting average jumped 35 points from .184 at the end of May.
“He’s hitting the ball hard, and he’s hitting to all fields, which is good,” Hinch said. “He’s pulled a few balls and hit some rockets into right-center the last couple days. I think his swing has cleaned up to being a little bit more efficient and hitting the ball on a line more than hitting with loft. His misses have been better. His contact has been on the higher-end, and subsequently, the results have picked up. It’s good to see him hit with two strikes, pull the ball and also stay with that normal swing into right-center and get some hits.”
In his past four games, Cabrera went 7-for-16 with four RBIs.
His double in Tuesday’s 4-3 win pushed him to 5,001 career total bases, the 22nd most in MLB history. To break the top 15, he must pass Mel Ott (5,041), George Brett (5,044), Lou Gehrig (5,060), Tris Speaker (5,106), Cal Ripken Jr. (5,168), Dave Winfield (5,221) and Ken Griffey Jr. (5,271).
Although Cabrera is chasing his milestones, he ultimately wants to win.
More often than not, the Tigers’ offensive success is predicated on Cabrera’s production, considering the former two-time American League MVP is still batting in the heart of the lineup. Recently, his performance has improved, and the Tigers are winning games.
And Hinch thinks there’s more in the tank.
“All in all, Miggy’s in a good place, both physically and mentally, to pick things up,” Hinch said.
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.