Detroit Tigers: Miguel Cabrera unsure of future following 2022 season

Retirement is sounding like more of a realistic possibility following the 2022 season for Miguel Cabrera, according to multiple reports out of Comerica Park on Thursday.

Cabrera, who is 39 years old, is currently dealing with a knee injury and, according to Detroit head coach AJ Hinch, is “not doing well.”

Said Cabrera: “I gotta talk to my agent. I gotta talk to the GM. I gotta talk to everybody. Right now, we don’t know. We focus about today… and see what happens.”

He still has one fully guaranteed season left on his contract, which was signed in 2015. He’s set to make $32 million in 2023 with vesting options in 2024 and 2025. Were he to decide to call an end to his legendary career, it’s possible he and the Tigers could work out some sort of settlement. Should his retirement be deemed medically necessary, it’s perhaps not impossible that the Tigers’ insurance could come into play. For now, let’s just say it’s a complicated subject.

Manager AJ Hinch stated on Wednesday that Cabrera will get more planned rest days across the final handful of weeks during the 2022 season, though the team doesn’t think the injury is “going to get a ton better.”

According to Bally Sports Detroit’s Johnny Kane, Cabrera will play “every other day” down the stretch. An IL stint is currently not being considered.

One possibility that Cabrera and Hinch have discussed is playing less than a full season. His primary goal is to not be a detriment to the franchise he’s played with since 2008. The Tigers have not achieved a winning record since 2016 nor made the postseason since 2014.

In fact, this isn’t the first time that Cabrera has spoken about his post-playing days. He talked in April with the Venezuelan press about wanting to stay with the organization in some role following his retirement.

“I hope I can achieve (a title) in these two years that I have left, if not, as an assistant, a coach, whatever. I would like to spend more time with this team that has such a bright future.”

The 19-year veteran began the 2022 campaign on a surprising note, hitting .308 with a .720 OPS through 69 games. His power stroke was all but gone — he had only 10 extra-base hits in the span — but he was still putting the ball in play with consistent authority.

That is no longer the case. Since his three-hit day on June 21 in Boston, Cabrera is hitting .216 with three extra-base hits in 32 games. His OPS has dropped to .553 and his SLG is under .261. He’s been worth negative-1.5 rWAR since 2017.

His Baseball Savant page is even more damning. He’s in the bottom half of the league in expected weighted on base, barrel percentage, whiff percentage, expected batting average, strikeout percentage, chase rate, hard hit percentage, expected slugging and walk rate. Unsurprisingly, he’s in the first percentile in sprint speed.

Cabrera’s injury history is extensive. He’s battled injuries to his back (twice), calf, biceps (four times), knee (thrice) and hamstrings (twice) in the last five seasons. The sheer amount of injuries have restricted him to strictly DH-ing, playing exactly zero innings in the field at any position so far in 2022 — a number that’s unlikely to change.

Whatever Cabrera decides, there is little left for him to accomplish on a personal level. The slugger reached the 500-career home run mark late in the 2021 season and collected his 3,000th career hit in early 2022. He was named a legacy American League All-Star — alongside Albert Pujols in the National League, who has already committed to retiring following this season.

Entering the 2022 campaign, Cabrera was clearly invigorated by his new teammates and the imminent arrival of Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson. Certainly, he would’ve loved one last chance at October baseball. But as those hopes have receded rapidly, and considering the chronic pain he’s played with for years now, it’s time for the Tigers’ organization and Cabrera and his representatives to have a long talk about his future once the season comes to an end.

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