Recapping the 2012 third base position means looking back over the fantastic season Miguel Cabrera had. He made the All-Star team, won the Silver Slugger and AL MVP. He also made history, becoming the first player since 1967 to win the Triple Crown. What was more impressive was the fact that he did all of it after moving back to third base, a position he hadn’t played since 2008. Many questioned how the move back to third base would impact Cabrera offensively and he answered those with arguably the best season of his career, leading the AL in average, home runs and RBI’s, but seeing his OPS fall below 1.000, a level he had surpassed each of the prior two years.
Deeper Dive: Cabrera's Defense
There was a big debate entering the 2012 season on just how well Cabrera would transition back to third base. The last time Cabrera played third base was 2008 and his time there ended after he committed five errors in 14 games. How you rate his 2012 defensive performance takes into account two different aspects. From an advanced fielding perspective Cabrera struggled, posting a -15.8 RngR and -10.0 UZR. Also, he posted a total defensive runs saved of -4. However when looking more at the “routine play” perspective Cabrera was actually pretty good. His overall fielding percentage of .966 was good for third in the American League. He led the league in games played at third base and committed just 13 errors on the season. It’s hard to make a claim that Cabrera was good at the hot corner, but it’s also not unreasonable to suggest he was at least serviceable.
There is no question that Cabrera will be the everyday third baseman for the Tigers in 2013 and no reason to expect anything less than another MVP-caliber season from him as he is in the heart of his prime. Since his first full season in 2004, Cabrera has averaged 158 games per season, so barring an injury fans can expect to see him every day.
Should Cabrera need a day off, the most likely replacements would be Ramon Santiago, Danny Worth or Omar Infante sliding over from second base. If the Tigers should need a third baseman for an extended period of time, the Tigers could be left in an interesting situation. Would they look to Nick Castellanos to take over if he's ready, given that he offers more offensively than either Santiago or Worth? Hard to say.
Cabrera’s current contract runs through the 2015 season. If the Tigers resign him, they will hopefully take into account that he will likely finish out that contract at a position other than third base.