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Miggy next in line for 3,000-hit club

MLB.com @beckjason

KANSAS CITY -- Albert Pujols became the 32nd member of MLB's 3,000-hit club Friday night, and Miguel Cabrera is seemingly next up on the list. Barring something completely unexpected, he's going to get there. But it's going to take a while, whether he stays healthy or not.

Despite concerns about Cabrera's big contract amidst the Tigers' rebuilding project, the flip side is that it all but ensures he'll be hitting milestones in a Tigers uniform, which was part of the motivation behind the deal when the late Mike Ilitch agreed to it in 2014.

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KANSAS CITY -- Albert Pujols became the 32nd member of MLB's 3,000-hit club Friday night, and Miguel Cabrera is seemingly next up on the list. Barring something completely unexpected, he's going to get there. But it's going to take a while, whether he stays healthy or not.

Despite concerns about Cabrera's big contract amidst the Tigers' rebuilding project, the flip side is that it all but ensures he'll be hitting milestones in a Tigers uniform, which was part of the motivation behind the deal when the late Mike Ilitch agreed to it in 2014.

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"We want [Cabrera] to be a Detroit Tiger when he goes into the Hall of Fame, and whatever records may be set along the way," then-general manager Dave Dombrowski said when the deal was announced four years ago. "It's very important to [Ilitch], so of course he's very involved."

As long as Cabrera doesn't abruptly retire, he has a legitmate chance to join Pujols in both the 3,000-hit and 500-homer clubs. Cabrera might not be the next to join the latter, considering he and Adrian Beltre have been jockeying for position behind Pujols among the active home run leaders. Cabrera entered Saturday with 465 home runs, two ahead of Beltre, after they entered the season tied at 462. Beltre entered the 3,000-hit club last year.

By contrast, Cabrera is by far the closest to 3,000 hits among active players who aren't yet there. His 2,666 career hits put him more than 250 hits up on Robinson Cano.

Cabrera's hot start at the plate rekindled speculation over when he might threaten the 3,000-hit mark. He was batting .323 (30-for-93) before going on the 10-day DL Friday with a right hamstring strain. He had just 117 hits last year while batting just .249 amidst back issues, but when Cabrera is hitting at his normal clip, the hits can pile up quickly. Even in 2015, when he played just 119 games, he posted 145 hits while hitting .338 to win his fourth batting title.

A strong summer this year and a torrid season in 2019 -- when an open DH slot gives the Tigers a chance to keep Cabrera healthier -- could put him near the 3,000-hit threshold down the stretch next year. It's more likely, however, that he reaches the mark in 2020, when he'll turn 37 years old in April of that year.

Unless Cabrera is traded, which seems unlikely given his substantial contract, he'd be the first player to reach the 3,000-hit mark in a Tiger uniform since Al Kaline in 1974. The only other Detroit player in the club is Ty Cobb.

Cabrera has said more than once this year that he's motivated by winning, not by legacy. Still, with the Tigers looking at their window to win in the long term, Cabrera's milestones will become a bigger topic as he gets closer to them, whether he wants to think about it or not.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, Miguel Cabrera