The 2023 campaign is the last guaranteed season of the ten-year extension Miguel Cabrera inked with the Tigers during 2014 spring training. It’s also increasingly looking like it will be the final year of Cabrera’s glittering career.
Speaking to MLB.com’s Christina De Nicola, the 12-time All-Star hinted that he’s targeting retirement late next year. “I think it will be my last year‘ Cabrera said. “It feels a little strange saying that. … I think it’s time to say goodbye to baseball.”
Cabrera shied away from the unflinching declaration of resignation Albert Pujols and Jadier Molina last year, but it is the second year in a row that he has hinted that the completion of his contract could coincide with the end of his career. Last August, Cabrera told ESPN that he was likely to step down after the 2023 campaign. Noting at the time that he would surpass 20 years of MLB service by the end of the 2023 season, he suggested that that milestone — coupled with ongoing pain in his right knee — would likely see him entering the to retire. He will earn a salary of $32 million next year and receive an $8 million buyout at the end of the season for a vesting option through 2024, leaving the Tigers still on the hook for $40 million.
A two-time MVP winner, Cabrera turns 40 in April. He will be playing his 16th season at Detroit and told De Nicola he hopes to continue working in the organization with younger players after his playing career ends. For the 2023 campaign, he stated that his primary personal goal was to stay healthy. He missed last season a few weeks late with a bicep strain but appeared in 112 games and had 433 plate appearances.
Cabrera is coming off the worst year of his career after posting a .254/.305/.317 in just five home runs. He hasn’t spent any time defending and that sort of performance from a designated hitter is certainly not ideal. How many at-bats the Tigers can afford to Cabrera if he continues to fight offensively is a question for baseball operations president Scott Harris and skipper AJ Hinch, but the four-time hitting champion said he’s on board with every decision Hinch makes in it was consider.
Hinch hinted late in the season that he expects Cabrera to be on the roster in 2023 (link via The Detroit News’ Chris McCosky). He’s been an average or below-average hitter for four straight years, but his legacy in Tigers history is unquestionable. Cabrera has had seven top-ten MVP finishes in Detroit, including a five-year stretch of consecutive top-five finishes from 2009 to 2013. Despite his recent struggles, he has held a .306 since landing with the Tigers in the 2007-08 offseason /.383/.517 line.
Even with a likely reduced workload next season, the Venezuelan native will have a chance to continue climbing the all-time leaderboards. He is in 25th place with 3088 hits and will definitely pass Ichiro (3089), David Winfield (3110) and Alex Rodriguez (3115) if healthy. With this year’s 101 hits he would pass Tony Gwynn, Robin Young, Paul Waner, George Brett, Adrian Beltre and Cal Ripken Jr. at No. 16. Cabrera ranks No. 27 with 507 career home runs, and even part-time work could overtake him Gary Sheffield (509), Mel Ott (511), Eddie Mathews and Ernie Banks (512 per piece) to 23.