Central Notes: Cabrera, Hicks, Alzolay

MLB Trade Rumors

Tigers veteran Miguel Cabrera will turn 40 years old in April, shortly after beginning the final guaranteed season of the mega extension he signed back in 2014. Though he’s not quite the hitter he was back then, he’s still going to be a part of Detroit’s plans next season. “We expect Miggy to be here,” manager A.J. Hinch tells Chris McCosky of The Detroit News. “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.”

As noted by McCosky, Cabrera’s 2022 got off to a nice start, as he kept his batting average above .300 into July. However, he has slumped badly since then while dealing with various nagging injuries, currently sitting on a batting line of .251/.299/.315 for the year. That production amounts to a wRC+ of 76, or 24% below league average, which is well below Cabrera’s previous low of 92 from 2017.

Going into the season, it seemed as though Cabrera was on the verge of being nudged out of the club’s plans, as they spent aggressively in the offseason to try to compete in 2022. With the promotion of first base prospect Spencer Torkelson, it was fair to wonder if an awkward situation was approaching with the club trying to compete and Miggy standing in the way. Instead, Torkelson and the Tigers both fell way shy of expectations, with the youngster hitting just .197/.281/.301 so far this year and club sporting a record of 64-93.

The fact that Cabrera is still owed $32MM next year doesn’t mean he is immune from being cut from the team if he continues to underperform. Just last year, the Angels designated Albert Pujols for assignment in May while he was playing out the final year of his contract at a $30MM salary. Both Hinch and new president of baseball operations Scott Harris voiced their support for Cabrera being a part of the 2023 club, though how much of a role he gets to play is likely to be determined.

Some more notes from the Central divisions…

  • The Cardinals are planning to reinstate right-hander Jordan Hicks from the injured list for their final regular season series, which begins tomorrow in Pittsburgh, according to MLB.com. Hicks went on the IL on September 17, retroactive to September 15, due to right arm fatigue. He has long tantalized fans with his triple-digit velocity but also been frequently set back by command issues and injuries. This season, he’s made 34 appearances and has a 4.92 ERA, 24.4% strikeout rate, 57.5% ground ball rate but a 13.6% walk rate. The Cards have already clinched the NL Central and can use their final games to assess the condition of Hicks’s arm before they begin a series against whichever team winds up in the final Wild Card spot.
  • Cubs right-hander Adbert Alzolay seemed to be a potential rotation building block last year, appearing in 26 games with 21 of those being starts, logging 125 2/3 innings with a 4.58 ERA. However, this year, a shoulder strain landed him on the injured list to begin the season and he only made his season debut a couple of weeks ago. This mostly lost season has resulted in several pitchers surpassing him on the depth chart and perhaps leading to a move to the bullpen. Alzolay discussed this possibility with Patrick Mooney of The Athletic and seems fine with it. “If my role is best out of the bullpen, being a long guy, being a guy that can throw in the eighth or close a game or whatever, I feel like I have the weapons to do that,” Alzolay says. “You won’t have me every five days there, but you can have me every two or three days. I can go and throw three or four innings, or I can go and throw one inning late in the game. So I feel like there are a lot more options there, and then that allows the team to go and be aggressive during the offseason.” The Cubs’ 2023 rotation will likely consist of Marcus Stroman, Kyle Hendricks and Justin Steele, with Keegan Thompson, Hayden Wesneski, Javier Assad, Adrian Sampson and Caleb Kilian having put themselves into consideration to varying degrees. With all of those options, and perhaps some offseason additions, it makes sense for Alzolay and the team to consider new ways for him to be a contributing member of the staff.

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