Sunday Tigers links: Miguel Cabrera will finish out his contract in 2023

Bless You Boys

As we enter the final week of the season, let’s take a look around some of the news from the Detroit Tigers and around the league.

The first key piece of offseason news from the Tigers has arrived early. New President of Baseball Operations, Scott Harris, along with A.J. Hinch, had a sit down with Miguel Cabrera to discuss his future. By the sound of it, the big man is going nowhere as long he can recover this offseason and come to camp feeling healthy enough to play.

Harris discussed the conversation with Cabrera on Mitch Albom’s radio show on Friday. He confirmed that the Tigers won’t be buying out Cabrera’s contract. Instead, the Tigers’ legend will be back for his 16th season with the club to play out the final guaranteed year of the eight-year, $248 million extension signed back in March of 2014.

Cabrera had a solid stretch for a few weeks in May and early June, but was otherwise one of the least valuable players in the game in 2022. Since June his numbers have completely cratered, leaving him with a 76 wRC+ and a .251/.299/.315 line for the year. His isolated power mark was a gruesome .065 on the year, with just five home runs.

Cabrera has 421 plate appearances so far this season. Presumably the plan is to trim that substantially. Either way, he’s set to be one of the worst offensive players in the game again, and the easiest position at which the club could make offensive upgrades will remain partly clogged until 2024.

However, unless the Tigers make some huge moves this offseason, the odds of Cabrera hurting the team, something he has repeatedly insisted he won’t allow, are pretty small. This does limit on Harris’ options for improving the offense to a degree, and he needs all the options he could get, but unless things go shockingly well next season and the roster spot becomes a problem, it just isn’t much of an issue.

This allows Cabrera to go out on his own terms, while giving Tigers fans the chance to say goodbye to one of the greatest Tigers of all-time. The club was never going to unceremoniously release him at season’s end without the fanfare for his final games in a Tigers uniform. As a pure baseball move it isn’t ideal, but this was always in Cabrera’s hands, or more precisely, his knees.

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The Mariners finally end their drought

This time of year, we’ve gotten pretty accustomed to finding an underdog or two to root for, as the Tigers remain very far from the postseason. The Seattle Mariners will fit the bill for many as they finally ended the longest postseason drought in the game with a walkoff victory over the Oakland A’s on Friday night.

Congratulations to the Mariners and their fans. That’s a very fun team with a budding superstar in rookie Julio Rodriguez leading the way, and they appear to have enough pitching to hang with the big boys. Cal Raleigh’s walkoff blast immediately seizes a place in Mariners history.

That leaves the duel between the Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers for the final NL Wild Card slot as the only postseason berth left to be decided. The two clubs are in a virtual dead heat with only four games left on the 2022 calendar. There is still some jockeying for position going on in the NL East in particular.

Angels pay Ohtani

Superstar Shohei Ohtani has one year remaining until free agency. Instead of allowing the arbitration process to play out, the Los Angeles Angels decided to make a goodwill gesture, presumably hoping to work on the superstar as part of their push to keep him long-term. Ohtani would’ve earned far less in arbitration. Instead he’ll take home $30 million next season.

Of course, that’s arguably half of what he’s actually worth, and if he does hit free agency that bidding war is going to be something else. It’s entirely possible that he will finish second in both the AL MVP and Cy Young award voting this season. It will be interesting to see if this earns the Angels any credit with Ohtani toward an extension whenever negotiations about his future get underway.

All hail the Judge

As you’re no doubt aware, New York Yankees star outfielder, Aaron Judge, is having an incredible season. On Wednesday, he became just the second American League player to ever hit 61 home runs, tying Yankees’ great and former single season home run leader, Roger Maris. That number doesn’t mean what it used to, but considering the level of pitching in the game now, it’s absolutely incredible.

One way to look at it, is to recognize that the second most home runs hit this season is Kyle Schwarber’s 42. When you take into the account the scoring environment, this is no doubt one of the greatest seasons in baseball history, and even the Triple Crown remains within reach. Judge has an eight RBI lead over Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez, who has 122 on the year. Judge also currently holds a .314 batting average, just a point behind Luiz Arraez of the Minnesota Twins, who sits at .315 as of this writing.

It’s pretty hard to see Ohtani winning the MVP award on a losing team while also trailing in total WAR, so Judge appears to be a lock. If Judge could also complete the first Triple Crown since Miguel Cabrera’s in 2012, that would really be the icing on the cake in a historically great season.

Around the horn

The current crop of top relievers in baseball are built different from all who came before. Ken Rosenthal looks at the eight clubs facing decisions on hiring new managers this offseason. Dan Connolly looks at Baltimore Orioles reliever, Cionel Perez, and his wild journey from defection from Cuba, to time in a Haitian prison, to major league success.

Cody Stavenhagen has a good piece on the frustrations of Matt Manning’s first two big league seasons for The Athletic Detroit. The big right-hander put together a strong second half after a long absence with shoulder trouble, but remains a bit of an enigma who is searching for his ideal mechanics and pitch mix, while still trying to develop the ability to handle the workload. Manning was recently shut down with some minor arm fatigue and we’ll have to see how the offseason plays out for him.

Baseball America previewed the best tools among prospects about to begin Arizona Fall League play next week. The Tigers’ Colt Keith made the list under contact ability, despite missing most of the season with a shoulder injury after a scorching hot start to the season. You’re going to see Keith very high up on the Tigers’ top 30 prospect lists this offseason, guaranteed.

Injuries cut Keith’s season short in 2022, but when he was healthy the Tigers infielder looked on the verge of a breakout. His ability to make hard contact at optimal launch angles is among the best in the league. Over 20% of his balls in play were hit 95-plus mph and between 10-30 degrees of launch angle.

Finally, the Tigers had Flint’s own Clarissa Shields on hand to throw out the first pitch for Saturday’s contest with the Twins. Shields won Olympic gold for Team USA in 2012 and 2016, and is the first boxer to hold all four major titles in two weight classes simultaneously. She brought a small selection of her hardware to the mound.

Baseball is awesome

Congratulations to Matthew Boyd. It’s been a rough two years going from a promising start with the Tigers in 2021, to rehabbing his elbow injury, getting signed by the Giants this spring, and then being traded to the Mariners. However, the Seattle native got healthy just in time to help out down the stretch out of the bullpen. Now, he’ll go to the postseason for the first time with the team he grew up rooting for. As you might expect, he was a complete mess trying to talk about it, and we’re pretty happy for one of the game’s good guys.

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