LAKELAND, Fla. - When the Tigers took the field Friday morning for their pregame stretch, Torii Hunter yelled out, "Dinner's on Miggy!"
For the next decade.
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With two years and $44 million remaining on Miguel Cabrera's current deal, Detroit shocked the baseball world Thursday night by tacking on an additional eight seasons at $248 million to bring the Tigers' total investment in the reigning two-time MVP to $292 million.
Everyone agrees that Cabrera, who won the Triple Crown in 2012, is a phenomenal talent. The question for general manager Dave Dombrowski at Friday's news conference was not so much about the staggering salary but the timing. Why now?
"My experiences told me if you are in a spot that you have a star player," Dombrowski said, "you're much better off to sign them with two years left on their contract than one. I realize that a lot of other people may think other ways. But for me, when you get to that one year away, that lure of free agency becomes very large for a player.
"Secondly, they get a lot of additional pressure on themselves to test the market. Perhaps if you had something to observe on the player, I could understand that. I don't think we need to observe Miguel's abilities at this point. I think he's the best player in the game of baseball."
Cabrera, 30, has won the American League batting title the past three seasons and already has 1,995 hits. Last season, his .442 on-base percentage and .636 slugging percentage led the AL. Cabrera was second in home runs (44) and RBIs (137).
The Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw has a greater average annual salary of $30.7 million after his recent $215-million extension, but Cabrera's $292-million package is the most lucrative haul in baseball history.
"It's a big responsibility," Cabrera said. "You've got to do whatever you can to do everything right. You're going to be an example and you've got to go out there and do your job. Pressure is going to come, but you have to control that."
A year ago, almost to the day, Justin Verlander became the highest-paid pitcher at the time when he signed a seven-year, $180-million extension with the Tigers. After hearing about Cabrera's record deal Friday, Verlander couldn't have been happier.
"If he stays healthy," Verlander said, "I don't see any reason why he can't be the best hitter of all time."