Detroit — It was one of those stories where the presumption wasn’t the reality. It happens a lot these days. Something that’s chopped up on social media and talk radio gets taken as fact.
The fact is, Miguel Cabrera has one year and $32 million left on his contract with the Tigers. He said in August that he had every intention of honoring that contract.
“I’m not going to quit,” he said.
Presumably new Tigers president of baseball operations Scott Harris could’ve come in and tried to discourage Cabrera from that by offering some kind of buyout. But given Cabrera’s stature in the organization, especially with the Ilitch family, and given his accomplishments in the game — given his pride and universal respect in the industry — that would have been a tough conversation.
Cabrera has earned the right to go out on his own terms.
And after Harris, manager AJ Hinch and Cabrera met earlier this week, that’s how things stand going into 2023.
“We expect Miggy to be here,” Hinch said before the game Saturday. “We expect him to do his part in the offseason to prepare himself to be healthy and be productive and be the icon that he is.”
The conversation with Hinch was prompted by comments Harris made on Mitch Albom’s radio show Friday.
“No, it is not time to move on from Miguel Cabrera,” Harris said. “He’s one of the best players of this generation and he still has a ton to offer. I met with him the other day and he has a great mindset right now. He’s committed to doing the work to make sure that he stays a productive player.
“Miggy is one of the best Tigers in the history of this organization. He has earned that. He’s a huge part of this team.”
What Harris and Hinch have cleared up is that Cabrera will return for his 21st big-league season. Significantly, there were no promises or guarantees about what happens through the course of next season.
Cabrera will turn 40 in April. The chronic pain in his right knee isn’t going away. The other aches and pains he’s dealt with as the season wore on — like the biceps strain that put him on the injured list last month — won’t magically dissipate in the second half of next season.
Cabrera doesn’t want to be in a position where he’s hurting the team. He has said that repeatedly the last couple of years. He doesn’t want to be in a spot where he’s keeping the team from contending. That, to this point, has not been the case.
“Miggy is very realistic with where he’s at both health-wise and performance-wise,” Hinch said. “He’s very much about winning. He wants to finish on a much better note than his last few years have been as a team. I think Miguel is on board with whatever he needs to do to make things better.”
Cabrera, as he likely will next year, came into the season feeling fresh and strong, despite the 99-day lockout. He notched his 3,000th hit on April 23 and for the first three months was arguably the most consistent hitter on the team, even if most of his hits were singles.
He was hitting .308 with a .347 on-base average and .718 OPS on July 6. Since then, he’s hitting .142 with a .211 on-base average and .209 slugging percentage. His average, entering play Saturday, was .251.
“He’s always felt better after time,” Hinch said. “He’s not going to feel any better than he’s going to feel when he starts the season next year. We saw that this year. In the first half he held up really well. But at the first sign of distress, it becomes hard for him to bounce back.”
It’s easy to envision next season playing out similarly. And if the Tigers are in contention and Cabrera is not producing, then it’s a much more manageable conversation, both ways, about how to finish the season.
“We don’t have all the answers today,” Hinch said. “But I’m glad Miggy is going to be around.”
Hinch gave Cabrera the night off Saturday. He wants him to play in the home finale on Sunday. It will be Cabrera’s 1,000th game at Comerica Park. Among active players, only Cabrera at Comerica and Yadier Molina at Busch Stadium have played 1,000 games or more at one park.
“That’s an organizational icon at its finest,” Hinch said.
Cabrera, the first player to play in 1,000 games at Comerica, will be the sixth player franchise history to reach that milestone. Charlie Gehringer, Al Kaline, Lou Whitaker, Alan Trammell and Norm Cash played 1,000 or more games at Tiger Stadium.
“I went to Miggy about playing in the final home game of the season,” Hinch said. “Whether it’s symbolic or not, playing at 12:10 p.m. isn’t ideal for anybody. But I think it’s important to our fans. It’s important to close out the home schedule and have Miguel be a part of it.
“He was all about it. He wanted to play all three games in this series. He’s been on board with me and with what we’re trying to do 100% since my first day. That hasn’t changed and it won’t change going into next season.”
Hinch paused. He’d been asked about the value of Cabrera’s presence, both on the field and in the organization.
“It would be a lot stranger to be a part of a team that doesn’t have Miguel Cabrera than it would be next year when he’s aging and in his last year,” Hinch said. “His presence matters to a lot of people in and around the organization and to his teammates.”
Twins at Tigers
First pitch: 12:10 p.m. Sunday, Comerica Park, Detroit
RHP Simeon Woods Richardson (MLB debut), Twins: An imposing figure at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, Woods Richardson is the No. 6-rated prospect in the Twins system, making seven starts at Triple-A St. Paul after a strong season in Double-A. He posted a 2.21 ERA with a sub-1 WHIP (0.85).
LHP Joey Wentz (2-2, 3.54), Tigers: This will be his seventh and final big-league start of the year. Next week he will be pitching in the Arizona Fall League. It will be interesting to see how he bounces back from his last outing. Devoid of both velocity and command on his fastball, the Royals roughed him up (three doubles, a triple, homer and three walks) for five innings.