January 25, 2012
Cabrera, Ilitch open door to Fielder
By QMI Agency
That Miguel Cabrera, what a Prince of a guy.
Ditto for Detroit Tigers owner Mike Ilitch.
They made it possible for the Tigers to sign free-agent Prince Fielder when the odds seemed just about nil.
Fielder, a power-hitting first baseman, didn't seem to be a proper fit with the Tigers: They already had a slugging first sacker in Cabrera; and they already had two stars -- Cabrera and pitcher Justin Verlander -- making $20 million a season on a team payroll that seemed strained to its limit.
With a key member of the batting order, designated hitter Victor Martinez, out for the 2012 season with an injured left knee, options seemed limited for the Tigers to contend again in the American League.
But Ilitch wants to win a World Series and, at 82, he can be forgiven if he is a tad impatient. He gave the go-ahead to sign Fielder, 27, to a nine-year, $214-million contract Tuesday -- a deal the Tigers won't confirm until Fielder passes his physical -- giving the team another big bat in the middle of the order.
Cabrera, who knocked in 461 runs the past four seasons playing first base for the Tigers, volunteered to change positions to make room at first base for Fielder, who had 446 RBI the past four years with Milwaukee.
Cabrera will move across the diamond to third base, the 28-year-old told Venezuelan newspaper Lider en Deportes.
He said he and the Tigers brass talked about it last week.
"Return to third base, that is my natural position," Cabrera said. "Fielder's arrival will benefit us."
AGENT HAS TIGER TIES
Tigers owner Ilitch has a history with Scott Boras, baseball's most renowned agent.
In 2004, Ivan Rodriguez, a highly regarded catcher, signed a four-year deal to join a Detroit team that had just lost 119 games. Outfielder Magglio Ordonez was signed the next off-season, signing a six-year deal.
Both of those deals were put together late in the off-season amid a dwindling market.
Now, Detroit has signed Fielder to the fourth most lucrative contract in MLB history, surpassed only by Alex Rodriguez's two deals with the New York Yankees and Albert Pujols' contract with the Los Angeles Angels.
The Tigers spoke with Boras in the aftermath of Martinez's injury, but didn't see a reason for a long-term commitment. General manager Dave Dombrowski repeatedly played down the chances.
"Realistically, it's probably not a good fit," he said. "We anticipate Victor Martinez coming back in 2013 and playing at the level he was at last season."
That's when Ilitch apparently stepped in.