Paul Wezner, Executive Editor
To me, this decision comes down to a simple question; are the Tigers planning on making Miguel Cabrera a Tiger for life? If so, that means they're making a heavy investment in his future (any extension would again run in the nine figures), and should protect that investment by putting him in the least defensive strenuous position possible, and that's first base (with the occasional day at designated hitter, having the flexibility to flip with Victor Martinez). If however they're not sold on Cabrera long term for whatever reason, then the Tigers should be keeping him at third base, and looking to acquire a first baseman to maximize the team's productivity in 2014. Cabrera is below average at third base, but the defensive improvement gained through adding Jose Iglesias to the left side of the infield helps mitigate that, and the team is much more likely to find a highly productive offensive player at first base than they are at third or in left field. Moving Cabrera to first obviously signifies an interest in protecting him, especially after the myriad of injuries suffered in 2013, so let's just hope that the move is signifying a decision to protect a long-term investment for the organization.
Mark Anderson, Director of Scouting
If the Tigers are purely focused on stabilizing Cabrera's future, then moving him off third base is probably a wise move. If they are actually concerned with fielding the best possible team in 2014, then they may be better served to see how the offseason develops. While Miguel Cabrera is below-average at third base, he is not such a defensive liability as to warrant being forced off the position just because first base is now open in Detroit. The Tigers have an opportunity to get creative this offseason. With the departure of Prince Fielder, the Tigers now have the opportunity to pursue a first baseman, third baseman, or designated hitter (moving Victor Martinez to first base), in addition to the possible pursuit of a left fielder. That opens the pool of potential acquisitions considerably and allows the Tigers to seek the best deal for improving the club next year. Championship caliber teams rarely encounter such flexibility on the heals of an ALCS berth and with another deep playoff run squarely in their sights. The Tigers decision to move Cabrera to first base might be the best move long-term, but I think they are better off penciling him in at third base for now and seeing how the offseason evolves and what other talent they could acquire.
James Chipman, Senior Correspondent
According to Venezuelan newspaper El Universal, Miguel Cabrera wants to move back across the diamond to first base. And why shouldn't he? According to UZR (ultimate zone rating), Cabrera ranked 20th and dead last amongst qualified third baseman last season; almost 17 runs worse than an average mark of zero.
However, during his tenure at first base--a span of four seasons--Cabrera routinely posted a semi-passable rough average of -2.2 UZR per season. While Miggy won't be winning any Gold Gloves in the near future at first base, it's a considerable upgrade over the recently departed Prince Fielder who averaged -5.2 UZR during his Tigers tenure at first base.
Plain and simple: With newly acquired second baseman Ian Kinsler and defensive wizard Jose Iglesias up the middle, moving Cabrera away from third base drastically improves the infield defense. Rusty from a hiatus in the outfield, and a tick below average at best with the glove, slotting the highly touted bat of prospect Nick Castellanos in at the hot corner, and shifting Cabrera to first base appears to be the Tigers best move.
At least of course for the time being.
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