Miguel Cabrera was never great in the field, but he is aiming to play first base more in 2021.
At his peak, Miguel Cabrera was one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball. A bad contract has kept him with the Detroit Tigers through their rebuild, and he’s still due $94 million over the next three years.
With his erosion at the plate (.250/.329/.417 slash-line, 10 home runs in 57 games last season), Cabrera has played less in the field. He did not play any first base last year, over his apparent pleas to play in the field, and he only played 26 games there in 2019. He hasn’t played first base since June 26, 2019. But that may be about to change.
A.J. Hinch wants Miguel Cabrera to play first base?
Last month, according to Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press, Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said he’d like Cabrera to play more first base.
“I’d like him to play first base, certainly part of the games,” Hinch said. “Freeing up the DH is important. Keeping Miggy on the field and keeping him healthy is going to be the priority. We got to make sure he is healthy and can handle the first base position in a certain amount of games per week.”
Cabrera struggled to stay healthy from 2017-2019, including just 38 games in 2018. He played in all but the season finale for the Tigers last year, of course strictly as a DH.
For his part, Cabrera is getting some work in at first base this offseason.
Cabrera has ongoing knee and back issues that he acknowledges, along with other issues related to past injuries. But if he can take some games at first base, the position flexibility Jeimer Candelario and Niko Goodrum offer may make the Tigers a better team. At least that’s what Hinch thinks.
“It makes our team better,” Hinch said. “It allows me to move Candy around a little bit and Niko around a little bit and get Miggy on the field, playing baseball the way he’s always played. He’s always been engaged on both sides of the field, so the more first base he can play and stay healthy, the better our team will be.
Hinch’s hopeful comments in December regarding Cabrera playing first base mean little even now, and they may mean nothing by Opening Day. From his end the spirit is willing, but Cabrera will erode what value his bat still provides with the increased injury risk of playing first base. Which says it all as the future Hall of Famer continues to fade into the sunset.