Miguel Cabrera agreed to a contract Thursday that will make him the highest-paid Major League Baseball player in the game’s history, shocking baseball executives and leading to an outcry that has condemned the 10-year, $292 million deal awarded to their slugging third baseman by the Detroit Tigers as an appalling disaster.
The previous record was a $275 million, 10-year deal signed by the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez. ESPN business reporter Darren Rovell calculated that Cabrera will earn almost $50,000 for every at-bat over the next 10 years.
Miguel Cabrera will earn $49,423 PER AT BAT over the next decade. Median annual income of a household in Michigan: $48,471.
— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) March 27, 2014
The amount of money Miguel Cabrera will make for every time he steps to the plate is almost twice the $26,955 median household income for families in the city of Detroit.
Miguel Cabrera Stats Show He Is Game’s Best Hitter
No one questions Cabrera’s abilities as a hitter. Even Barry Bonds has called him, “by far the absolute best,” and the Tigers’ own Hall of Famer Al Kaline believes that Cabrera would already qualify for enshrinement in the Hall if he never played another game.
High praise for the 30-year-old Miguel Cabrera, but he’s earned it, winning the American League Most Valuable Player award in each of the last two seasons, winning the 2012 Triple Crown — leading the league in batting average, home runs and RBIs, a feat last accomplished in 1967 — and leading the AL in on-base percentage and slugging percentage as well as batting average in 2013. Cabrera pounded 44 home runs in both 2013 and 2012 and has 365 in his 11-year career.
Tigers GM Dombrowski Admits Deal Is A Risky One
But as good as the Venezuelan-born Miguel Cabrera has been, he will be 41 by the final year of the deal that pays him an annual average of more than $29 million over the next decade. Without the use of steroids, it is extremely rare for hitters to maintain a high level of output into their late 30s and early 40s. But Cabrera will still be consuming a huge chunk of the Detroit payroll during his declining years — just as Alex Rodriguez has done with the Yankees.
Even Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski acknowledged that the record-breaking deal was a gamble.
“When you’re talking about the best player in the game, sure, you feel a little uncertain,” said Dombrowski Thursday. “To get a deal done, you need to take that chance. I’ll take the chance on him.”
But Miguel Cabrera still has two years to play on his current contract before the new extension even kicks in. The Tigers will pay him the $44 million owed for 2014 and 2015, then another $248 million for the following eight seasons.
Deal Shocks Baseball World, Widely Condemned
“Executives around baseball have the highest regard for Miguel Cabrera,” said ESPN baseball correspondent Buster Olney. “But they are appalled that the Tigers gave him an eight-year extension.”
The execs, Olney said, do not understand why Detroit did not wait until after next season to discuss a Cabrera extension, because the superstar would not be a free agent for one more season after that. They also took note, according to Olney, that Cabrera — a mediocre fielder — will likely spend a large part of his remaining careers as a designated hitter.
The game’s best designated hitter, Boston’s David Ortiz, will make just over half of Cabrera’s new salary under Ortiz’s own new deal.
Sports Illustrated columnist Michael Rosenberg blasted the contract as “disastrous,” but analyst Keith Law of the baseball consulting firm Scouts Inc. was even more blunt with his view on the Miguel Cabrera deal.
“The Tigers might as well just light much of the $292 million they’re giving to Cabrera on fire,” Law wrote. “Or invest it in downtown Detroit real estate.”