No more questions.
Miguel Cabrera is coming back in 2023.
“We expect Miggy to be here,” Detroit Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said Saturday. “We expect him to do his part in the offseason to prepare himself to be healthy and productive, and the icon that he is.”
A few months ago, Cabrera seemed to be mulling retirement because of an ailing right knee. He wouldn’t commit to another season in Major League Baseball. The next day, though, Cabrera insisted he would be back for the final year of his contract, cashing in $32 million.
The other part of that decision came Friday, when Tigers president of baseball operations Scott Harris revealed the club-player relationship with Cabrera would continue into 2023. Hinch, in charge of writing the daily lineup card, supported his boss Saturday. All three parties are committed to what Cabrera has previously said will be his final season.
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“No, it is not time to move on from Miguel Cabrera,” Harris said Friday while talking with the Free Press’ Mitch Albom on WJR-AM (760). “He’s one of the best players of this generation. He still has a ton to offer. I met with him the other day. He has a great mindset right now, and 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.”
With six games remaining entering Saturday’s game against the Minnesota Twins, the 39-year-old designated hitter — a two-time MVP and 2012 Triple Crown winner — is crawling to the finish line. He was placed on the injured list Sept. 4 and returned Sept. 19. Since then, he is batting .185 with one home run (his first since July 25), one walk and five strikeouts in seven games.
Beyond the basic statistics, Cabrera struggles to drive high-velocity fastballs and is tapped out of power. His average exit velocity is 89.9 mph; in 2020, it was 93.2 mph and ranked in the 97th percentile.
“After I came back from the (injured list), I started to swing better and swing more free,” Cabrera said Sept. 28, after hitting the 507th home run of his 20-year career. “Hopefully I can keep my biceps strong and my knees strong and make better swings at home plate and try to make something happen.”
In 2022, Cabrera ran out of gas at the All-Star break. He went to Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles — for his 12th All-Star appearance — with a .287 batting average (and a .324 on-base percentage) in 79 games. Without power, Cabrera excelled as a contact hitter and was contributing positively.
Similar production should return in 2023. How long it lasts is anyone’s guess, but it’s hard to imagine Cabrera hovering around a .300 average beyond the All-Star break next season if he couldn’t do so this season.
“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 as a team. I think Miguel is on board with whatever we need to do to make things better. … He’s been on board with me and what we’re trying to do 100% since my first day. That hasn’t changed and it won’t change going into next season.”
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Since the All-Star break, Cabrera is batting .149 with a .232 OBP in 30 games. He didn’t look healthy throughout late July, and his role as an everyday player diminished. At the beginning of August, the Tigers significantly decreased his workload. At the beginning of September, he injured his left bicep on a swinging strikeout. A ruptured tendon, similar to June 2018, would have required surgery and ended his season, and possibly his career.
But it was only a biceps strain.
He took his rehabilitation seriously and was determined to return to the Tigers’ lineup before the end of the season. He accomplished the short-term goal, and looking ahead, Cabrera wants to finish out another 162-game schedule.
“He’s always felt better after time,” Hinch said. “He’s probably not going to feel any better than he’s going to feel when he starts the season next year. I think we saw that this season. His first half, physically, he was holding up pretty well.”
The meeting between Harris and Cabrera included Hinch. The second-year manager called the discussion “very productive” as Harris continues to listen and evaluate the organization he is taking over.
Coming into the job, Harris had to make a decision about Cabrera. In May 2021, the Los Angeles Angels cut future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols. He was designated for assignment due to lack of production and dissatisfaction with his playing time. (Since then, Pujols has played for the L.A. Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals, topping 700 home runs for his career last month.) The second reason seemingly doesn’t apply to Cabrera, who understands his end-of-career role.
As for the production, the Tigers believe they can carry Cabrera on the 26-man roster and get positive results in a farewell tour.
“We’ll monitor him,” Hinch said. “We’ll try to come up with a game plan that works best to fit the roster that’s going to be built over the next six months. We don’t have all the answers today, but I’m glad Miggy is going to be around.”