Miguel Cabrera was, for a long time, the best hitter in baseball. Heck, you could argue as recently as last year he was still a top five hitter in the game, slashing .316/.393/.563 with a 152 wRC+.
Now, Cabrera is 34, has just been diagnosed with two herniated discs in his back, and will wrap up a season in which he’s hit .249/.329/.399 with a 91 wRC+. Yes, Miguel Cabrera has been 9% worse than league average this year.
Why am I saying these things and what does it have to do with the Cubs? Well, it doesn’t really have much of anything to do with the Cubs, specifically. I just found that background on Cabrera interesting in the context of his remaining contract after 2017: six years, $184 million.
That jumped out at me because the $184 million is the same amount the Cubs guaranteed to Jason Heyward two offseasons ago on an eight-year deal that marked the largest contract in team history.
Through two disappointing seasons, Heyward – whose deal includes opt-outs that are highly unlikely to be exercised – now has six years left on his deal, like Cabrera, but has only (heh, “only”) $134 million remaining.
Over those six years, the Cubs will pay about $50 million less for Heyward than the Tigers will pay for Cabrera, and I also think he might be the guy you’d rather have, too. At age 28 and with significant defensive value (and no back injury), Heyward is arguably the better bet on the WAR front in those next six years, even if he has to transition to part-time duty. Cabrera, who has been worth -0.1 WAR this season, is going to have to resume being a monster with the bat if he’s going to generate much value as the Tigers’ probable DH in the coming years. Heyward could still conceivably return to being a positive offensive player, as he was for six years before coming to the Cubs.
This is not a post about comparing these two extremely disparate players. They could not be more different. (Were I comparing them, I’d point out that Heyward hasn’t been much better this season, hitting just .259/.325/.382 (86 wRC+), and being worth 0.9 WAR.)
Instead, I just thought it was an interesting look at two remaining six-year contracts that both fall into the “oof” category when considering what value they may or may not have before they expire.
In other words, if you think Heyward’s contract looks particularly bad right now (and it does), at least you can always look to Detroit and see one that looks much, much worse.