Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 6/8/13
DETROIT It has to happen. The Detroit Tigers have the most-valued commodity in baseball, Miguel Cabrera, under contract through 2015. Cabrera is only 30, and the day will come when the club begins the process of locking him up for the majority or entirety of his playing career. According to a report by ESPN.coms Jayson Stark, that time could be now. Stark wrote in his column: One friend of Cabrera told (me) that there have been enough informal conversations that both sides expect a deal to get done, and possibly sooner than later. I asked Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski if this report is accurate. We always keep our contract negotiations private, Dombrowski wrote in an e-mail. We feel this is the best way to do that. Cabrera was surprised by the report that he's negotiating with the Tigers through informal conversations to extend the length of the eight-year, 152.3 million deal that he signed before the 2008 season. No, Cabrera said. There is nothing going on. I dont know why he (Stark) would say that. After Saturdays 6-4 win over the Cleveland Indians, I asked Cabera if he would ever want to negotiate a contract extension during a season. No, he said. It doesnt make any sense to do that. I also asked Dombrowski if the Tigers have a hard-and-fast rule about negotiating with one of their own players during the regular season. We do not have any specific policies in regards to negotiating contracts during the season, Dombrowski wrote. However, we normally prefer not to do that with any player unless it is completely necessary. "We prefer for focus to be on the field and not on contract negotiations during the season. With Cabrera signed through 2015, there is nothing completely necessary about negotiating with the reigning Triple Crown winner at this juncture. So it appears that going to the negotiating table right now with Cabrera wouldn't be initiated by the Tigers. But if Cabrera and his agents approached Dombrowski, what would you do in his shoes? I would say, Definitely. Lets talk. There are exceptions to every rule, and the club would surely go along with anything Cabrera wanted to explore. But Cabrera, although expressing his love for playing in Detroit on numerous occasions, said that he isn't interested in doing that right now. He's focusing on his primary goal: winning the World Series and becoming the first to win the Triple Crown in consecutive seasons. Hes leading the American League with a .368 batting average and 67 RBIs, and is in the hunt for the homer title with 17. Dombrowski , at the end of spring training, signed pitcher Justin Verlander to a seven-year deal worth 180 million, which could vest to eight years at 202 million. That locked up Verlander, whose contract had been set to expire after the 2014 season, until he's at least 36. Following that example of taking care of business two years before free agency, a Cabrera extension would make sense during the upcoming offseason or spring training. Cabrera is making 21 million this year and is on the books for 22 million in both 2014 and 2015. Stark reported that he spoke with anonymous executives who speculated an addition of three years at 90 million or five years at 140 million to Cabreras current contract. That would make for 134 million over the next five years or 184 million over the next seven. All pure speculation. What would you pay Miguel Cabrera to keep him in Detroit long-term? The bar for long-term deals was set by Alex Rodriguez, who is currently scheduled to get 275 million over 10 years from the New York Yankees through his 42nd birthday in 2017. The high bar for contracts was reinforced by the 10-year, 240 million Albert Pujols will get from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim through 2021, when he turns 41. The A-Rod deal has been a disaster for the Yankees, and the Pujols contract is looking like another mistake as his production continues dropping. Club executives might be wising up to paying that kind of money to the games best players into their 40s. Locking up Cabrera until hes 36 or 37, however, makes perfect sense. Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder will be 36 when his nine-year, 214 million deal expires in 2020. Signing Cabrera through that same season would take him to his 37th birthday. That length makes sense for both the Tigers and Cabrera when they do get to the negotiating table whenever that might be. Dombrowski and owner Mike Ilitch, if successful, would then have their crown jewels Cabrera, Fielder and Verlander locked up until the next decade.
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