Miguel Cabrera’s contract a problem

Sometimes I have trouble living up to my Dutch heritage. When I have money in my pocket, I’m inclined to spend it. Money burns a hole in my pocket. Sure, the fact that I’m broke and kind of, sort of an adult now limits this tendency, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s there. Apparently Mike Ilitch has the same tendency as me. The 84-year-old owner of two of the most successful franchises in professional sports just acted like a kid who just received his first allowance. By dealing out a 10-year, $292 million contract extension, Ilitch has likely put the Tigers’ future in jeopardy, and not for any discernible reason. This won’t be a very long explanation, because it’s pretty easy to explain why this is a horrible decision for the franchise.

Cabrera is great. Cabrera’s the best hitter on the planet. If I had to pick a nearly 31-year-old defensive liability to give $292 million over 10 years, I’d pick him. But taking a look at the other deals worth anywhere near that much over the past 10 years is a horror show: Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Howard, Mark Teixeira, Albert Pujols, Carl Crawford and Josh Hamilton. These deals make up six out of the nine worst contracts in the league, according to Grantland’s Jonah Keri. To be fair, Cabrera is better than all six of these players were when they received their extensions. Cabrera will likely be worth around $30 million a year for a couple more years, but there’s no way that will continue when he’s pushing 40 and still being paid like he is the best player on Earth.

To make matters worse, Cabrera was not even going to be a free agent until after next season! The Tigers had two more years of Cabrera for $22 million a year. After that, they had the opportunity to either extend his contract or let somebody else overpay him. Instead, they extended his contract now. Not only did they forfeit the right to cut ties with Cabrera in late 2016, they also missed the chance to have contract-year Miguel Cabrera (one who plays with the knowledge he’s playing for a new contract) on their team in 2016. That is no small thing. The Tigers had every chance to handle this like normal people and just let the rest of Cabrera’s contract play out, but they went out of their way to hurt themselves eight or 10 years down the road.

One more example: the last time a team chose to extend an aging superstar slugger who was a liability on the defensive end’s contract so early was Philly with Ryan Howard in 2010. The Phillies are a complete disaster this year — the Howard contract is one of the league’s biggest jokes, and it will be years before the franchise is relevant. I’m not saying that is the only way this can end for the Tigers, but it is hard to be optimistic at all when the team will owe over $55 million to Cabrera and Justin Verlander in 2023. Yeah, that’s right, 2023.

So yes, the fact that the Tigers’ front office made this deal is troubling to say the least. Tigers fans can take solace in the fact that this deal won’t come back to haunt them for a little while yet. So sit back, enjoy the 2014 season, and hopefully this whole extension was just a bad dream.