Word of the deal was first reported by CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, who suggested the two sides were close to a seven-year contract worth more than $200 million. The Tigers are expected to officially announce the deal within the next 24 hours, per Morosi, but the team is declining to comment on the reports for now, tweets Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal.
After the two years and $44 million that's left on Cabrera's current deal expires, he will be the highest-paid player in baseball in terms of average annual value. The $31 million AAV will beat Clayton Kershaw's previous record of $30.7 million, which was reached when the Dodgers signed him to a seven-year, $215 million extension this offseason. When Cabrera's extension is all said and done, he will have earned more than $400 million over a 16-year period, which averages out to more than $25 million per season.
That's a lot of dough for any team to hand out, but it poses an interesting circumstance for the Tigers in particular. Detroit has not worked out a deal with 2013 American League Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, who becomes a free-agent after this season, but shelled out a record amount of money for Cabrera. That leaves the team with roughly $90 million committed to four players -- Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Ian Kinsler and Anibal Sanchez -- in 2016 and 2017, putting them in a rough position if young pitchers Drew Smyly and Robbie Ray don't pan out in the rotation.
Kinsler and Sanchez will be off the books after 2017 and Verlander two years later, but the Tigers will be paying Cabrera through 2023. That's a concern because at that point, he'll be 40 years old and likely won't be providing much value at the plate, let alone in the field, where he might not play much even three or four years from now.
These sorts of mega deals don't often work out, although there's been only two comparable cases. Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez received a 10-year, $275 million extension in 2008 after completing eight seasons of his previous 10-year, $252 million deal. While A-Rod has remained an above-average hitter in every season since signing the extension, his production has dipped tremendously. He might have been worth $27.5 million per season while posting a 150 OPS+ annually, but that doesn't look like the case after consecutive 111 OPS+ campaigns.
Of course, there are well-known circumstances that make it difficult to mention Rodriguez and Cabrera in the same sentence. Thus, the only other player who falls under a similar category is Angels first baseman Albert Pujols. After playing out a seven-year, $100 million contract with the Cardinals, Pujols signed a 10-year, $240 million deal with Los Angeles before the 2012 season. So far, the results haven't been great; Pujols' OPS+ of 148 during his last year in St. Louis dropped to 116 in 2013.
Injuries have been a factor for Pujols, but like Cabrera, he was about as healthy as possible into his early 30s, so it's hard to say that the Tigers star will continue to avoid the injury bug. A move to first base will help, but he's not exactly the poster boy for conditioning, and at some point, that could begin to take its toll.
On the flip side resides the theory -- and it's a good one -- that any sort of worrying will be all for naught. Yes, $31 million per year is a lot of money. However, it's not like there's a shortage of that in baseball these days. There is more money to be made -- and, with lucrative TV contracts, merchandising, revenue sharing and everything else, more ways to make it -- than ever before.
The Tigers might have to get creative in 2016 when so much of their payroll will be tied up with so few players, but it's hardly believable that they'll be hamstrung because of it.