The 2023 campaign is the final guaranteed season of the ten-year extension Miguel Cabrera inked with the Tigers during 2014 Spring Training. It also increasingly looks as if it’ll be the last year of Cabrera’s illustrious career.
Speaking with Christina De Nicola of MLB.com, the 12-time All-Star indicated he’s leaning towards retirement at the end of next year. “I think it’s going to be my last year,” Cabrera said. “It feels a little weird to say that. … I think it’s time to say goodbye to baseball.”
Cabrera shied away from the unwavering retirement declaration Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina made last year, but it’s the second consecutive year in which he’s suggested the conclusion of his contract could coincide with the end of his career. Last August, Cabrera told ESPN he was likely to step away after the 2023 campaign. He noted at the time he’d surpass 20 years of MLB service time by the end of the 2023 season and suggested that milestone — coupled with continued pain in his right knee — would likely lead him to retire at that point. He’ll make $32MM in salary next year and collect an $8MM buyout on a 2024 vesting option at the end of the season, leaving the Tigers still on the hook for $40MM.
A two-time MVP winner, Cabrera turns 40 in April. He’ll be playing his 16th season in Detroit and told De Nicola he hopes to remain involved with the organization working with younger players after the end of his playing career. As for the 2023 campaign, he indicated his primary personal goal was to remain healthy. He missed a couple weeks late this past season with a biceps strain but appeared in 112 games and tallied 433 plate appearances.
Cabrera is coming off the worst year of his career, having posted a .254/.305/.317 showing with only five home runs. He didn’t log any time on defense, and that kind of production from a designated hitter certainly isn’t ideal. How many at-bats the Tigers can afford Cabrera if he continues to struggle offensively is a question for president of baseball operations Scott Harris and skipper A.J. Hinch, but the four-time batting champion indicated he was on board with whatever decision Hinch makes in that regard.
Hinch suggested late in the season he expects Cabrera to be on the roster in 2023 (link via Chris McCosky of the Detroit News). He’s been an average or below-average hitter four years running, but there’s no question of his legacy in Tigers history. Cabrera had seven top ten MVP finishes in Detroit, including a five-year stretch of consecutive top five placements from 2009-13. Despite his recent struggles, he owns a .306/.383/.517 line since landing with the Tigers over the 2007-08 offseason.
Even with a likely reduced workload next season, the Venezuela native will get a chance to continue climbing the all-time leaderboards. He ranks 25th with 3088 hits, and he’s certain to pass Ichiro (3089), Dave Winfield (3110) and Alex Rodriguez (3115) if healthy. Matching this year’s 101 hits would push him past Tony Gwynn, Robin Yount, Paul Waner, George Brett, Adrián Beltré and Cal Ripken Jr. into 16th place. Cabrera ranks 27th with 507 career home runs, and even part-time work could get him past Gary Sheffield (509), Mel Ott (511), Eddie Mathews and Ernie Banks (512 apiece) to 23rd.