Of all the major stars in baseball, Miguel Cabrera is typically one of the most reticent to speak his mind, at least to the American media. While he’s one of the most expressive, fun-loving players on the field, he generally avoids reporters unless he really has something to say. He had plenty to offer on Saturday. In advance of this week’s Winter Meetings, Cabrera opened up about trade rumors to Venezuelan reporters at his Miggyball charity event in his hometown of Maracay.
Per MLB.com’s Jason Beck, via La Nacional reporter Andriw Sanchez Ruiz, Cabrera confirmed that Tigers’ General Manager, Al Avila, had called him to discuss the possibility of a trade last month. Avila had already publicly made known the fact that he’d contacted most of the Tigers’ veteran stars, including Justin Verlander, Victor Martinez, and Ian Kinsler about the possibility.
In his discussion with Venezuelan media, Cabrera opened up about his feelings on the matter.
Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera told Venezuelan reporters on Saturday that he would like to remain with the club, but he would not stand in the way of a trade if it benefits both sides.
Cabrera said he felt sick over the news, that he likes to play in Detroit and likes the city. He said he hasn't received any calls about specific deals and hopes he doesn't, but if it happens, he hopes to be traded to a good team.
Cabrera’s comments seem a bit disingenuous, though perhaps the translation, or his own modesty, is at issue. As a veteran with 10 years of service time, and five with his current club, Cabrera can’t be traded without his consent. So it’s not as though these are circumstances out of his control. In truth, the Tigers, nor any potential trading partner, have no say in the issue if Cabrera himself declines to be traded. So Cabrera’s comments seem to open up the possibility in a way that none of the other big name Tigers have yet to do.
Of course, willingness to accept a trade to the right team is still a very limited space for Avila to work in. Plenty of potential suitors will simply consider Cabrera’s monster contract, which guarantees him $212 million over the next seven years, with two years of expensive vesting option years beyond that, untenable for their franchise. Certainly Cabrera is unlikely to accept a trade to a team with no short-term hopes of contending. There are no doubt also quality of life issues that would preclude cities to which Cabrera is disinclined to move his family too. So the pool of possible suitors will remain small. Out of that pool, Avila would still have to guarantee the Tigers a worthwhile return.
While the Tigers are looking to trim it’s payroll, simply trading one of the true active locks for the Hall of Fame, still at or very near the height of his powers, simply to save money, is extremely unlikely. Beyond his stellar play on the field, Cabrera is a prestige name in the game and one of its most respected players. His cache extends beyond ticket and merchandise sales, making the Tigers a much more attractive team for Latin American players in particular. A team would have to be dead set on Cabrera to add his salary, and willing to give up high quality prospects in return. As such, a deal still seems highly unlikely to go down.
Jon Heyman of FanRagSports concurs with that assessment.
According to a source close to the situation, there have been no active talks regarding Cabrera. “There’s never been anything close,” the source said.
It remains to be seen if less onerous contracts, such as those held by Verlander, Kinsler or Victor Martinez, will draw the kind of prospect return the Tigers are looking for. And of course there are still rights and no-trade clauses that could impede negotiations for those players. But for the moment anyway, they remain somewhat in play. Miguel Cabrera, on the other hand, seems almost certain to be reporting to Lakeland, Florida, wearing the Olde English D next spring.