'Embarrassed' By 2019, Cabrera Making Changes To Last Four More Years

He has a long list of challenges to tackle next season.

Will Burchfield
November 13, 2019 - 11:17 am

© Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

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2019 was supposed to be a comeback season for Miguel Cabrera. 

He said he was ready to channel his old swing. He said he was aiming for 30 home runs. He said he was hoping to "prove people wrong." 

If anything, Cabrera proved his critics right. 

Though he managed to play most days -- a small victory in a lost season -- Cabrera's ailing body turned him into a designated hitter who couldn't really hit. His power vanished altogether. He finished with 12 homers and the lowest slugging percentage (.398) of his career. 

And now we're left to wonder: how will that career end? 

Cabrera will be 37 next April. He has four years and $124 million remaining on his contract. Al Avila and the Tigers expect him to play it out, and Cabrera expects the same of himself. But at this rate, it won't be easy -- and it almost surely won't be pretty. 

Oh, there will likely be milestones in the years ahead, like 500 homers and 3,000 hits. Only six players in baseball history have reached both. Hank Aaron was the first, Albert Pujols was the last. Miguel Cabrera is in line to be the next. However grim, the finish will include flashes of greatness. 

But it will take a remarkable turnaround for this Hall of Fame hitter to truly exit the game in style. In no particular order, Cabrera will have to repair his broken body, reinvent his swing, rediscover his power and reemerge as a threat in the three hole, all while dealing with a creaky right knee that no amount of rehab, surgery or WD-40 can fix. 

So that's Cabrera's focus as he enters 2020. 

"This year was disappointing for him," Avila told Jon Morosi at the GM Meetings this week. "To a certain degree, he was embarrassed . . . He has told me, and his agent, that he wants to last four (more) years.”

Avila said Cabrera has hired a private chef and adjusted his strength and conditioning program. While Cabrera dismisses the critics who say he's out of shape, it's no secret that he needs to shed some weight. He admitted as much in September when he said with a grin, "No more arepas!" His knees can no longer carry a 250-pound frame. 

While the Tigers see Cabrera as a DH at this point, the longtime first baseman wants to reclaim his spot in the field. (Add that to his list of challenges.) It saddened him last year to move to the bench. He believes he can change this in 2020 if his knee cooperates. He believes some rest this winter will make that possible. 

It will be telling what Cabrera looks like when the Tigers show up for spring training. If he's serious about reviving his career, he'll have to start by reshaping his body. This is no longer a matter of maintaining himself. Cabrera's tried that the last few years; it hasn't worked.

This is about changing, so that maybe he can be the same hitter he once was. And maybe he can help the Tigers back to relevance, back to the same team they once were, as he fades into retirement.