This Is Why The Cabrera Contract Timing Was A Mistake

Clip art illustration of a Cartoon Tiger with a Missing Tooth

During last offseason, I recommended that the Tigers not sign Miguel Cabrera to an extension because the cost of doing so would never be higher. Then when the Tigers signed Cabrera to an 8 year extension worth $248 million plus another two years and $61 million in options (for a total commitment of up to 12 years, $353 million from the start of this year), I expanded on two points. First, keeping Cabrera long term might be smart, but signing him at the time they did was foolish. Second, I don’t care if the team wastes money as long as they are willing to throw more money at the team indefinitely.

This won’t be a long post, but it’s a more detailed point than I can make on Twitter. This season is the exact reason why the Tigers shouldn’t have extended Cabrera last Spring.

Cabrera was coming off a major injury and surgery to repair it. Cabrera was two years away from free agency. Cabrera was coming off a career year. Cabrera was 31. Cabrera was not willing to take a discount at this time.

These things are all true. I’m not arguing Cabrera’s talents and I’m certainly not arguing that his 2014 performance is the new normal, but his 2014 season is exactly why they should have waited. Cabrera is hitting 139 wRC+ and is going to post the lowest mark in wRC+ and WAR since 2008. He’s still recovering and it’s affecting him big time. He’s not having a bad year, he’s just having a bad year for a superstar.

That’s the thing. The Tigers had two more seasons of Cabrera at a heavy discount. The Tigers signed a terrific extension with Cabrera before the 2008 season and it wasn’t going to come due until after the 2015 season. The Tigers had one more year to extend him and then another crack at doing so in free agency. They chose to pay a big price two years early.

The only reason you pay a guy two years early is if he’s giving you a discount and you anticipate the price going up significantly in the future. Cabrera didn’t do that. He basically got full market value (or close to it) for a very long deal with only one team bidding on him. Ask yourselves, if Cabrera hadn’t signed that deal, would he get more this winter?

No way.

He’s having a down season due to injury, but that matters. He couldn’t reasonably ask for as much. The Tigers might have saved $20 million to $40 million on the total price tag. And there was virtually no downside to waiting. Know why? There was no way he was ever going to be better than he was last year. It’s almost not possible.

The Tigers agreed to pay him $30 million per year over the life of his deal. I think that’s a fine number, but they paid way too far into the future at that rate. 6/$180M made sense, but adding two extra guaranteed seasons and two options didn’t. And if they had waited a year, it would have gone down. And even if it didn’t, the price wasn’t going up.

Again, I don’t care if the Illitches have a little extra change in their pockets. That’s not what it’s about. It’s just a matter of making the right choice given the options. Keeping Cabrera is fine, but we’re looking at the exact reason why they should have waited a year. You extend young players, you wait for older guys coming off peak years to reach free agency.

It doesn’t affect the club this year, just food for thought. The Tigers could have kept him around for less had they been more patient.

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One response

  1. BILLIONAIRES enjoying MILLIONAIRE toys neither Ilitch or Cabrera affected either way $20-40MM more/less

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