Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera has been diagnosed with two herniated discs in his back after undergoing an MRI on Sunday. Outgoing Tigers manager Brad Ausmus revealed the news to reporters following Detroit’s Sunday afternoon loss to the Twins.
Ausmus said that Cabrera may play again over the season’s final week, and surgery isn’t believed to be an option as Cabrera looks to alleviate the pain that has plagued him all season.
The diagnosis certainly sheds some light on why Cabrera, 34, has had a career-worst season in 2017. The likely future Hall of Famer and former AL Triple Crown winner has posted career lows in batting average (.249), slugging percentage (.329), OPS (.728), and RBI (60) while posting a career-worst -0.8 WAR as calculated by Baseball Reference.
Cabrera, a veteran of 15 big-league seasons, is owed $184 million from 2018-23, and he has two team options for $30 million in 2024-25. The Tigers can buy out those options for $8 million each, though they vest if he finishes in the top 10 in MVP voting the year prior — a possibility that seems unlikely considering he’ll be in his age 40 and 41 seasons at that point.
Cabrera has 10-and-5 vested veteran protection, so the Tigers can’t trade him without his consent. While he’s one of the greatest hitters of his era and is just a year removed from being an All-Star and receiving AL MVP votes, the Tigers would likely have a very difficult time finding a taker for him this winter even if he agreed to a deal — a possibility that Detroit would certainly welcome, considering that they’re in the middle of a full-scale rebuild and have dealt most of their other expensive veterans over the past two months.