DETROIT — Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera agreed Friday to a baseball-record $292 million, 10-year contract Friday with the Detroit Tigers.
Cabrera was due $44 million over the final two years of his $152.3 million, eight-year contract. The new agreement, announced Friday at a news conference in Lakeland, Fla., incorporates that money and adds $248 million over the following eight years.
Cabrera takes over baseball’s highest-paying contract from Alex Rodriguez, who agreed to a $252 million, 10-year deal with Texas that started in 2001, was traded to the Yankees after three seasons and then signed a $275 million, 10-year deal with New York in December 2006.
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Cabrera’s average of $29.2 million is second only to the $30,714,286 that Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw averages under his $215 million, seven-year deal in January.
Cabrera will make $43,195 per plate appearance under the deal, based on his yearly average of 676 plate appearances during six seasons with the Tigers. That’s higher than the average U.S. yearly wage of $42,498 in 2012, according to the Social Security Administration.
The new deal includes $30 million options for 2024 and 2025 that would become guaranteed if Cabrera finishes among the top 10 in MVP voting in the previous season.
The Tigers and owner Mike Ilitch, who desperately wants to win a World Series, close spring training showing their fans they are willing to pay what it takes to keep great players in today’s market.
The franchise offered right-hander Max Scherzer $144 million over six years this month, but the AL Cy Young Award winner turned it down, likely setting himself up to become a free agent after the World Series. Detroit dealt Prince Fielder and his $214 million contract in November to Texas — less than two years after giving it to him — for second baseman Ian Kinsler, are sending $30 million to the Rangers as part of the swap.
Clearly, the Tigers want Cabrera to end his career in the Motor City.
Cabrera, who turns 31 on April 18, has been voted AL MVP in each of the last two seasons. He is the first player to win the award in consecutive seasons since Frank Thomas two decades ago.
The Venezuelan slugger won the Triple Crown in 2012 — becoming the first player to lead either league in batting average, homers and RBIs since 1967, when Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski pulled off the feat.
Cabrera followed that startling year with another strong season despite struggling to stay healthy. He led the majors with a .348 average last year, and his 44 homers and 137 RBIs were both second to Baltimore’s Chris Davis.
Cabrera was limited to 148 games last season — after playing 161 in each of the previous two years — because of a sore back and left hip flexor, a strained lower abdomen, shin trouble and a groin tear that led to offseason surgery.
The eight-time All-Star has appeared to be healthy during spring training. And injuries seem to be the only thing that can stop Cabrera.
He has a .321 career average with 365 homers and 1,260 RBIs, numbers that rank him with the greatest sluggers in the history of the game. He has played six seasons in Detroit after spending his first five with the Marlins.
"He’s got an unbelievable stroke," Hall of Famer Al Kaline, who works in the Tigers’ front office, once said. "It’s so effortless the way he gets through the zone so easily."
The Tigers have won three straight AL Central titles in part because Cabrera has led the league with averages of .348, .330 and .344. He has led the league in homers and RBIs twice.
As a 20-year-old rookie in 2003, Cabrera helped the Marlins win the World Series. The cash-strapped franchise traded him to Detroit in an eight-player deal after the 2007 season because it couldn’t afford to pay him $20-plus million over the following two seasons, or even more when he was to become a free agent after the 2009 season.
Detroit kept Cabrera off the free-agent market once before, when they gave him that $152.3 million deal in 2008.
The Tigers have moved Cabrera back to first base to replace Fielder after he played third base the previous two seasons. Former manager Jim Leyland has said Cabrera is talented enough to become a complete player.
"Hopefully someday when he goes to Cooperstown, people won’t just say he was one hell of a hitter," Leyland once said.
The Tigers appear confident that Cabrera’s off-the-field problems are behind him.
He pleaded no contest to drunken driving after being arrested in February 2011 in Florida. Charges of resisting an officer without violence and having an open container in a vehicle were dropped.
Near the end of the 2009 season, when Detroit was trying to win its first division title in more than two decades, Cabrera got into a fight with his wife that became public knowledge. He had a bruised and cut face the following morning when general manager Dave Dombrowski picked him up at a police station.