With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Tigers squad each day this week. Today's topic: How's your star?DETROIT -- The Tigers entertained trade interest about many of their star players this offseason, but they never came close to anything serious
With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Tigers squad each day this week. Today's topic: How's your star?
DETROIT -- The Tigers entertained trade interest about many of their star players this offseason, but they never came close to anything serious on Jose Cabrera, and for good reason.
With seven years and $212 million remaining, his contract is nearly untradeable in this day and age. More important, there's no way the Tigers could get enough in return to replace what he means to them.
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Even as the Tigers look to get younger and financially leaner, Cabrera is their unquestioned star. He's an older star, and with his 34th birthday coming up in April and several injuries in his history, he's at the point where his most productive seasons are most likely in the past. But after 38 home runs, 108 RBIs and a .956 OPS, even an aging Cabrera is a hitter worthy of fear.
Though Ian Kinsler led Tigers position players in Wins Above Replacement last season, the Tigers are still Cabrera's team after nine years in Detroit. Their offense runs through him; their batting order is constructed to send him to the plate with as many RBI opportunities as possible. That won't change any time soon.
In 2016, Cabrera fell short of an American League batting title for just the second time in the last six years, settling for fourth. His .563 slugging percentage trailed only that of David Ortiz among AL hitters, and his OPS trailed just Ortiz's and AL MVP Michael Trout. He ranked in the top six in on-base percentage, total bases, RBIs, Runs Created and Win Probability Added.
And yet, when manager Brad Ausmus and hitting coach Lloyd McClendon need an example of a productive hitter shortening his swing with two strikes and giving up power for contact, they can look to Cabrera.
"If Miguel Cabrera can do it, everybody can do it," McClendon said.
Cabrera remains the most dangerous opposite-field hitter in baseball, sending half his home runs from center field to right. As his power eventually begins to wane, that seemingly effortless flick to right field will keep him a productive hitter for a long time, as it did for fellow Venezuelan Magglio Ordonez.
Cabrera's talent, work ethic and instincts will keep him productive as long as his body allows. As he ages, his health looms as potentially his toughest opponent. He had neither a stint on the disabled list nor an offseason surgery in 2016 for the first time since his Triple Crown season of 2012, yet he admitted at season's end that his right ankle bothered him for much of the stretch run. He was able to strengthen the ankle without going under the knife, and said last month he feels good.
"Hopefully, it doesn't bother me during the season," Cabrera said. "Hopefully, I can be healthy."
And if he's healthy, he remains the star of stars in the Tigers' lineup.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.