It was Cabrera's decision. His agent, Fernando Cuza, had prepared a year-by-year list of projected salaries to compare what the Tigers were offering with what Cabrera might be able to earn in free agency. What the list didn't measure was Cabrera's comfort level.
"I feel good here," Cabrera said on Tuesday afternoon. "I feel like it's my home. I have a lot of friends here. It's a great team. I want to stay with a winning team, and it's going to be a winning team."
With that, the Tigers were able to accomplish what they wanted -- and arguably needed -- to do since last December's blockbuster trade: They signed Cabrera to a long-term deal. The eight-year, $152.3 million contract vaults the slugging third baseman into the company of baseball's highest-paid players with the biggest contract ever given to a Detroit player.
The deal includes the $11.3 million salary for 2008 that Cabrera agreed to this winter to avoid arbitration, and adds $141 million over the seven seasons that follow. The inclusion of 2008 makes the total contract value the fourth-largest in baseball history, behind Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Manny Ramirez.
"It's hard for me to fathom those dollars," president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "But I'll also say, when we made the trade in December, you discuss those things [internally] at that time. That's the time when you're really looking at yourself in the mirror. Because if you're not prepared to do it at that point, then don't make the trade. You're not making the deal to only get him for two years. You want him to be part of your organization for a long time."
The Tigers didn't know that Cabrera would be receptive, but they were hopeful. Assistant GM Al Avila had signed Cabrera to the Marlins organization as a teenager out of Venezuela in 1999. More important, they were bringing Cabrera into a Detroit clubhouse that is heavily populated with prominent Venezuelan players.
Yorman Bazardo grew up with Cabrera in the same hometown of Maracay. Carlos Guillen lived in the same town, albeit several years apart. Cabrera idolized Magglio Ordonez, who was born in Caracas, growing up.
Ivan Rodriguez didn't grow up in Venezuela, but he was a Marlins teammate on the 2003 World Series champion. So was Dontrelle Willis, who came over in the same trade. Denny Bautista was a teammate of Cabrera's in the Marlins' farm system.
The comfort level was there, and the Tigers were clearly conscious of the financial commitment it would take. Turning that into a contract agreement was essentially the key to getting a return in December's trade, which sent six players -- including top prospects Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin -- to Florida for Cabrera and Willis.
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