Miguel Cabrera Likely to Play Third Base, Prince Fielder First Base for Tigers

The Detroit Tigers shocked the baseball world by stepping in to sign Prince Fielder Tuesday. The deal is as hefty as the bulky first baseman — 9 years for $214 million, according to reports. The terms of the contract, as well as the structure of the Tigers’ current roster, makes the signing a surprise.

Detroit already has Miguel Cabrera signed for four more years with $86 million remaining on his contract. He played outfield and third base for the Marlins, but has played first base almost exclusively for the Tigers. Cabrera reportedly told a Venezuelan newspaper he expects to play third base to accommodate Prince, and a few other reporters confirmed those plans.

On top of Cabrera and Prince manning the corners, the Tigers will have Victor Martinez back after next season. Martinez’s torn ACL, which took him out for the season, is probably the reason the Tigers jumped into the Fielder contract talks. Victor is set to make $25 million from 2013-14 and he was already DHing most of the time with Alex Avila catching. If Miggy can’t work at third base, the Tigers will have three sluggers with only two positions to play them in a few years. I suppose they will wait for that time to come before worrying.

The good news for Tigers fans is that they will have one of the strongest power lineups in baseball. The bad news is they may have more sluggers than they have positions on the field. Oh yeah, they also have Prince signed until his 36. Hopefully for their sake there is an opt out clause.

Tigers Could Play Miguel Cabrera at Third if they Reach World Series

Tigers manager Jim Leyland isn’t predicting his team will reach the World Series this year, he’s just preparing for a best-case scenario. On Wednesday, Leyland had first baseman Miguel Cabrera take ground balls at third before the team’s game against Kansas City. The reasoning behind the move is pretty simple: Leyland wants to put his best offensive lineup on the field even when they lose the DH in a National League park.

Detroit’s regular lineup features Alex Avila at catcher, Cabrera at first, and Victor Martinez DHing. Those three players have been Detroit’s best hitters this year.

Unfortunately, during interleague play games they would routinely lose one of those hitters. Often times Avila would catch, and either Cabrera or Victor would play first or sit out. Martinez caught a few games to keep both his and Cabrera’s bats in the lineup. They even played Avila at third once to keep the offense stacked.

Moving Cabrera to third for a few games may seem strange, but it actually makes sense. You may recall that Miggy played third and left field when he was first called up by the Marlins in 2003. He even played two full seasons at the hot corner in ’05 and ’06, and the Tigers played him there for 14 games in 2008. He may seem content as an immobile first baseman these days, but once upon a time he was a butcher at third and in the outfield. Detroit fans should only wish to see a repeat of those days in the coming weeks.

Miguel Cabrera Avoided Alcohol During Tigers’ Celebration

Friday was a joyous day for the Detroit Tigers who celebrated winning their first division title since 1987. Champagne was flying, alcohol was consumed, and there was plenty of hugging and back slapping between the players. But one player who did not partake in the celebration was Miguel Cabrera. The Tigers first baseman sat by himself, according to MLive.com, holding a bottle of water in his hand.

Cabrera, you may recall, has battled with alcohol abuse the past few years. In 2009, he infamously went out drinking while the Tigers were battling for the division and he got into a major fight with his wife. He showed up to the team’s game with fresh cuts and bruises on his face. Then in February, Cabrera made a fool of himself during a DUI arrest and the video made him look even worse.

The troubled first baseman pledged to clean up his life and it appears as if he’s taken that vow seriously.

Even though the Tigers ordered non-alcoholic champagne for Cabrera, he opted not to partake. Perhaps he’s learned that avoiding alcohol entirely is the safest approach. Maybe he knows the Tigers will have much more celebrating to do this season so this was no time to go crazy.

Cabrera has been one of the most valuable players for the Tigers this season. Maybe Detroit will consider doing what the Rangers did for Josh Hamilton last season in a similar situation. After all, you win as a team so you should want to celebrate as a team, right?

Jim Leyland Accepts Fan Second-Guessing About Removing Porcello from Shutout

Tigers manager Jim Leyland is an outspoken character who is unafraid to voice his opinion. Last week he said interleague play was flawed, he’s argued against instant replay, and he steadfastly believed that Miguel Cabrera’s alcohol problems wouldn’t affect his play. Now he’s ranting against the fans who call into sports talk radio shows to hear their own voice.

Leyland was asked by WXYT host Jeff Riger about the criticism he’s received for removing Rick Porcello from Sunday’s game after eight innings. Porcello had a one-hit shutout going and had only thrown 84 pitches, but Leyland decided to put in closer Jose Valverde to pitch the ninth. Pitching complete game shutouts are special accomplishments for pitchers, and that’s why some fans were upset. Leyland made it clear he doesn’t care about the criticism. Here’s what he said in response:

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MLB Hot Stove Analysis: Victor Martinez, Aubrey Huff

The Detroit Tigers are said to be close to signing free agent catcher Victor Martinez to a four-year $50 million deal.  Martinez, 32 in December, is coming off a .302/.351/.493 season for the Red Sox where he hit 20 home runs and drove in 79 runs, hitting in the middle of the Sox lineup.  He will  step in as the Tigers every day catcher for at least the first two years of the deal and perhaps shift to a Jorge Posada-like DH/catcher time share as he gets into the latter part of the deal.

This is a good signing for the Tigers, despite the long-term commitment, because they believe they have a two or three-year window of opportunity to win now, led by a core consisting of Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander.   Martinez has earned rave reviews throughout his career for his leadership and work ethic in Cleveland and Boston and will be a great addition to their club house.

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Gerald Laird Succeeds at Pissing Off Armando Galarraga

It’s so ironic how Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galaragga was unfazed by Jim Joyce’s blown call that ruined his perfect game yet something so simple as teammate Gerald Laird’s words pissed him off. Apparently Galaragga was not on the same page as catcher Alex Avila during his first inning of work on Sunday against the White Sox. Galaragga approached Avila in the dugout after the inning and fellow catcher Gerald Laird came to his rescue. Or told Galaragga to shove it. Or something else because whatever it was caused Galaragga to have the same reaction people expected him to have after Joyce’s blown call. Check out this video of Armando Galaragga and Gerald Laird fighting in the Tigers dugout courtesy of Detroit 4 Lyfe:

Laird admitted after the game that he said something he shouldn’t have said but it’s still shocking to see Galarraga get enraged. What happened to that exemplary sportsmanship we all praised? If anything, maybe the Tigers could use the spark. At 57-60, they sure could stand to play with a little fire.

Armando Galarraga Goes After Alex Avila And Gerald Laird In Dugout (video) [Detroit4Lyfe]
Battling Tigers rally past White Sox [Detroit Free Press]
Video Credit: YouTube user BobBiscigliano

Tigers Injuries Assisted in No-Hitter

This season in baseball has already been termed the “Year of the Pitcher” for excellent reason. Edwin Jackson and Ubaldo Jimenez both have thrown no-hitters, Roy Halladay and Dallas Braden tossed perfect games, and Armando Galarraga had a 28 out perfect game. Matt Garza joined the party by no-hitting the Tigers on Monday night, becoming the fifth pitcher of the season to complete the task. While I do not want to diminish Garza’s accomplishment, I would like to point out that several recent injuries to the Detroit Tigers offense eased Garza’s burden.

In the span of a week, the Tigers lost third baseman Brandon Inge, right fielder Magglio Ordonez, and second baseman Carlos Guillen to injuries. Inge broken his hand getting hit by a pitch last Monday, Ordonez broken his ankle sliding into home on Saturday, and Guillen strained his calf on Saturday. The Tigers still had triple crown contender Miguel Cabrera batting cleanup on Monday, rookie of the Year candidate Brennan Boesch batting fifth, Johnny Damon hitting third, and Austin Jackson leading off, but the lineup was certainly less challenging than when healthy. The Tigers had a rookie without a hit in his career in the lineup, as well as three other hitters batting .206 or worse.

Matt Garza is an above average pitcher with good stuff who threw six scoreless innings two starts prior to the no-hitter. He was one of the best pitchers in baseball in April and he helped pitch the Rays to the World Series in 2008. He’s always had the type of stuff to throw a no-hitter, but there’s no doubt that the recent injuries in Detroit resulted in the Tigers running out a weakened lineup. Rather than this being a commentary on Garza’s outing, maybe this is more of an indication of how the final two months of the season will go for the injury-depleted Tigers.

Photo Credit: AP/Mike Carlson