According to a report from Matthew B. Mowery of the Oakland Press, Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera has told a Venezuelan newspaper that he is willing to move back to first base. Here is the original tweet, in Spanish.
Cabrera: "Ya yo le dije a los Tigres que quería jugar en primera"— ElUniversal Deportes (@EUDeporte) November 27, 2013
English Translation: I've already told the Tigers I want to play first
Tigers President and General Manager Dave Dombrowski had stopped short of saying that Cabrera would be moved back to his former position, where he was more efficient than Prince Fielder had been over the past two seasons. Dombrowski was quoted by Mowery:
"I think when you look at Miguel, and think of him in the future, you think of him at some point needing to go back over there to first base. The difficulty would be, as you look past a couple of years, if we’re in a position where we could ever extend him, it would be a position where neither Prince nor Miguel liked to DH on a consistent basis. They’re willing to go over there for a day or two, but they don’t really like doing that, so if you’re going to move forward with both of them on your club, the only way to really do that — if neither one of them want to DH — is to have Prince at first and Miguel at third. So it does create the flexibility (now)."
Both Fielder and Cabrera struggled defensively this past season. Fielder posted a minus-13 defensive runs saved (DRS) and a negative UZR at first, while Cabrera was minus-18 DRS or minus-16.8 UZR at third. Both were worst in the league defensively among full-time players at their respective positions. Cabrera was hobbled by injuries for much of the second half of the season, but was also minus-4 DRS in 2012. Cabrera was slightly below average defensively at first, but better than Fielder.
The change back to first base has been taken as a foregone conclusion by many observers. The main obstacle would have been the fact that Cabrera was very vocal about wanting to play third base at the time that Fielder was acquired.
The task for Dombrowski now is to replace the offense lost by not having Fielder's bat in the lineup. As of today, Tigers top prospect Nick Castellanos would appear to have the inside track on the third base job, but there are three months left before spring training games begin. Dombrowski could acquire a third baseman, an outfielder, or even another first baseman by that time. At this point, we should be surprised by nothing.