Tigers’ options without Victor Martinez

I wrote all about Victor Martinez’s injury on the site, followed by an article chronicling some of the Tigers’ options on replacing him. But I figured I’d go over some of the options here in a more organized form — because, basically, the options break down into a few categories.

The crazy idea: Sign Prince Fielder (at all costs)

There’s a category for free-agent hitters, and then there’s a category for Fielder all by himself. He’s one of the best hitters in baseball, and he’s the guy who got left stranded without a lifeboat this winter once Albert Pujols signed. After all, there were too many first basemen on the market for this offseason when the big-market teams had their guys already. But other than Pujols, nobody hits like Fielder, a classic power hitter with low strikeout totals and a good average.

By no means would agent Scott Boras wish ill upon Martinez, but for him, Detroit is a blessing. With the market stagnant on Fielder between Washington and Texas, there’s suddenly a team with a desperate need for offense at a position (DH) where Fielder can fit. And no agent uses a team with a desperate need like Boras, who has a talent for negotiating directly with an owner and bypassing the front office. If the Tigers do end up signing Fielder, there’s a good chance it’ll involve Boras negotating straight with Mike Ilitch and appealing to his competitive nature like he did two years ago with Johnny Damon.

But there are a few significant reasons why the Tigers wouldn’t be a fit, no matter how desperate they look. Boras is rumored to be looking for a long-term deal for Fielder, along the lines of Pujols’ 10-year deal, and that’s just not going to come from Detroit. They can’t shuffle guys around to make room for everybody in the lineup once Martinez comes back next season (Dombrowski ruled out any idea of shifting Miguel Cabrera to third base), so any first baseman the Tigers might sign (and there are a slew of them out there) would have to be a short-term deal. Fielder would have to want to sign short-term and bounce back on the market maybe next winter, when the Dodgers might have an owner looking for a franchise player.

Then, of course, there’s the Cecil factor, as mentioned before. The relationship between father and son is not particularly strong after some bad history, and if Prince Fielder were to come to Detroit, it’s hard to imagine the comparisons to Cecil not coming up, whether from media or from fans. I have no information how big of a factor that might be, if at all. But it’s hard to dispute, playing in Detroit would be different than playing somewhere else, or anywhere else.

The less crazy idea: Sign Yoenis Cespedes (at all costs)

By every indication, this was a goal a while ago. Now, Martinez’s injury puts a lot more urgency on it. Even if the five-tool Cuban outfielder isn’t ready to start the season in the big leagues, there’s a good chance he wouldn’t be far off. Whenever Cespedes arrives in the big leagues, Delmon Young can shift to designated hitter, with Cespedes taking over in left field. Simple, right?

Two other factors come into play. First, it’s difficult to envision Cespedes hitting behind Miguel Cabrera in the order. More realistic is the idea of Cespedes batting somewhere else, with a more experienced hitter (maybe Young, despite his free swinging ways) moving behind Cabrera.

Second, of course, is the large list of suitors Cespedes has. The Marlins are widely expected to make a huge push to sign him, lured by the potential of a Cuban star in the South Florida market that could change the course of the franchise. Then suddenly, Cespedes told an AP reporter in the Dominican Republic that the Cubs have shown the most interest. Even if the Tigers want to pay the most money, will it matter?

The rental idea: Sign another free agent to a one-year deal

The one silver lining about Martinez’s injury, as I wrote earlier, is that it leaves an opening at DH, rather than at a specialty position like shortstop or catcher. Even this late in the offseason, the market is full of hitters who can fill the role. They all have flaws, but the vast majority have their strengths as well, experience among them.

Carlos Pena is a pure power option. Casey Kotchman is more of an all-around hitter who had an underrated season in Tampa Bay. Both are left-handed hitters. Vladimir Guerrero has a right-handed bat, but still a quick one with enough to turn on a fastball and send it somewhere for a quality hit. Derrek Lee is another right-handed hitter who got his first everyday job with the Marlins under Dave Dombrowski and Jim Leyland in 1998, and still has some power left. Hideki Matsui is a classic left-handed hitter with a solid track record of run production, even with Oakland’s miserable offense last year. Johnny Damon is another left-handed hitter with a history in Detroit, though not really a fifth hitter. Raul Ibanez has a slowing bat with his 40th birthday coming up in June, but still has left-handed power. J.D. Drew remains a respectable left-handed hitter with power when he’s healthy. Magglio Ordonez is still out there, though he has to convince clubs he’ll be ready for Opening Day. Another former Tiger, Cody Ross, is still available, though he’s coming off a subpar year in San Francisco.

That pretty much covers the list. None of them will come anywhere close to matching the production or intimidation of Martinez, but there are some productive bats in there.

The trade route: Acquire an expensive bat from somebody looking for salary relief

The Astros have Carlos Lee entering the final year of his lucrative deal, and an express desire to shed payroll and quicken the youth movement. The Cubs have a really bad contract with Alfonso Soriano, three more years at $18 million each, and a strong motivation to move him, especially if they sign Yoenis Cespedes. The Angels have more hitters than they have spots, which could make Bobby Abreu expendable with $9 million in his final year. Get the picture?

The Tigers have been mindful of their finances this winter, knowing arbitration raises were going to bump up the payroll before a potential Cespedes pursuit. But assuming insurance covers part of Victor Martinez’s $13 million salary this year, they’ll have the financial wiggle room to pay a replacement — an extra $6.5 million if insurance covers even half of Martinez’s salary.

Carlos Lee, a right-handed hitter, draws positive reviews. One National League scout says he could drive in 100 runs on a good team. Plus, he’ll be in a contract year. He would have to waive his no-trade rights to go anywhere, but some believe he’d do that for a chance to win.

The other trade route: Give up top talent for a good young player

Here’s where the road goes off somewhere, because there aren’t many obvious candidates left. The Angels, again, could have an extra bat, but Kendrys Morales or Mark Trumbo would command a high price, since the Halos are planning on hanging onto them going into camp. Reports suggest the Braves have decided to hang onto Martin Prado, who can play left field or second base. David Wright’s price isn’t getting any lower from the Mets regardless.

Any prospect-type trade would almost surely cost the Tigers at least one of their top pitching prospects, possible Jacob Turner. The problem is that if the Tigers trade Turner, in a way, they swap one void for another. Detroit has other young pitchers, but none as highly regarded as Turner. It would be a major leap of faith that some combination of Duane Below, Adam Wilk, Drew Smyly and/or Andy Oliver could fill the role. Or, it would be a void that the Tigers would have to fill with one of the remaining free-agent starters and hope for the best.

20 Comments

Im still sold on picking up the speedy yoenis cespedis and shifting young to dh and batting boesch ahead of cabby. If thats just not feasible i do like the fearocity of cody ross. Hits well and playoff experience with production at that level. Matsui also brings a reliable bat with a heads up baseball style. Im not a vlad guerrero fan and think their would be fit issues here.

While nobody likes injuries of this kind DD will need to look at this as an opportunity. The article chronicles many options but it ignores the farm. I realize experience and reputation are irreplaceable in the world of MLB when trying to field a WS caliber team. However, I would consider as a Tiger fan that DD and Leyland will do what is the right and include all team needs, including the obvious infield and outfield holes. We need our farm to step up sometimes and this may be one of those times.

Thanks for making my head spin Jason! So glad this isn’t up to me to figure out. All are interesting ideas, especially Maggs. I of course would love him here again but what happens if he gets hurt again and then we have 2 dh’s hurt. I know anyone can get hurt at any time, some guys though are more prone than others.

Someone mentioned Thome around the water cooler, but I don’t see him able to fulfill the full time dh.

Tiger Girl Thome signed with Philli early in free agency, he isnt an option. I frankly am not crazy about any of it. Cespedes while early at bats in the Dominican is well not doing well so far. Pena while he has power strikes out all the time and runs into one very so often, same with Cody Ross. Damon while I like him, not for that job. Matsui and Vlad are long in the tooth and well there production is diminished. I don’t know, I am just upset, there is really no one who can come close to filling his shoes. Fielder is probably the only one but he isn’t coming here. I guess Cespedes is the best idea, but it’s a risk and again not the one to hit behind Cabrera.

Some of Delmon’s weakest career numbers come hitting 5th. Just putting that out there.
Who hits behind Cabrera is of supreme importance. I don’t care who doesn’t believe in “protection” and any sabremetrics people who think losing Victor is worth only 3 or 4 games need to get back in the real world.
I don’t count on Cespedes helping anybody in 2012.
There is no good answer to this, other than the crazy idea. Good luck, Dave.

Mr, D will have to look at all options & offers put before him. We have to have someone who can protect Miguel whether they are already on the current roster or not. Carlos could DH but he get injuries even running from base to base….still a good hitter from both sides. Johnny Damon would probably love to come back for a year as DH and he’s a great clubhouse guy. Mr. D’s phone is probably ringing off the hook.
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Still, I am just sick about Victor. How can you replace a guy like that? It just changes everything. I can’t think about the future because I’m still mourning the loss of Victor. This was gonna be our year. It might still happen, but right now it feels like a dark cloud hanging over it,

As for Cespedes, I sure hope they know what they are doing. He’s rusty…..very rusty and is having trouble seeing the ball. He might never be able to see it in MLB for all we know.

Cespedes is, and always was, a bad idea. guy has not track record – and it’s not looking like he can hit at the MLB level anyways.

Yes, it is a sad time in Tigertown with the injury news about VMart. The best comment I read was about the farm. Hopefully Victor will be 100% in 2013. We need a prospect to step up and show they are going to be a star. Andy Dirks is a year older with some solid experience. I have heard it mentioned on here that some players on this team had great years. I will miss Victor but let’s win with pitching and defense! Go Tigers 2012!

I hope they are not tempted to go after Carlos Pena. He is pretty much a LHB Inge in the lineup and is due to experience a sudden decline in power IMO.
I tend to agree with the trade scenario as a solution. The FA option is dicey. Vlad, Abreau maybe. You don’t want a high strikeout guy added to this lineup.

No Abreau please! I couldn’t stand having to watch that guy everyday! What a tool he is!

idk about that, he can steal you 20 bases and hits nearly a .400 OBP (.353 last year). Guy could LEAD OFF or hit behind Miggy.

i suspect they’ll sign someone off the free agent list, preferably an OF for the extra position versatility. if they sign a guy like Pena or Kotchman, these are guys who reportedly are better fielders than Cabrera. would they or Cabrera accept being DH? this is a problem to be addressed if they sign another 1B.
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instead of going for a middle of the order hitter, they could look for a #1 or #2 hitter to take Victor’s ABs. use an internal option to hit behind Cabrera. as roster stands now, Young-Cabrera-Boesch-Peralta-Avila makes most sense to me. a L-R-L alignment after Cabrera would make it difficult for opposing managers to get the matchups they want without using up some of their pen.
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one other issue is about Delmon in LF. was surprised recently to find out the guy is only 26. pretty youthful for being plugged into a DH role. wonder how well he would accept that.

I don’t know why Pena is being mentioned, other than the fact that he’s unsigned. Carlos is a good guy but he’s the last player we need right now.
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We don’t necessarily need a DH, but if that’s the way it goes, I’d recommend Vlad or Damon. Both have done the job, and that’s another consideration since Victor became an excellent DH, which is a rare commodity. Vlad could hit behind Cabrera and drive in some runs. JL would have to buy into using Damon at leadoff, otherwise Johnny D has no value for us. His OBP remains top rate, but only in the 1-hole. Not sure Jim would go there.
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Seems to me, however, that we need a position player, seeing as how we still have two infield platoons. That would free up the DH spot for rotation, which is not the worst way to go.

Help Wanted: LHB to use “short” RF. With raw power enough to hit 15+ HRs in 81 road games (72 if he will play DH) like Magglio did in 2006. And wise ( experienced or patient ) enough to shorten his swing to proffit on the huge outfield at CoPa where once in a while , during the summer , a line drive can go over the wall but a line bewteen to outfileder allow the kinds of I-Rodrigez to hit a 3B.
280 avg is good enough as soon he is clutch.


Dirks would mean adding someone to bat 4th or 5th and play 3b. Only Wrights fits that profile . Ramirez and Beltran are out of consideration.

Angels want to clear OF space for their hotshot prospect, Mike Trout. How ’bout trading for Gold Glove CF Peter Bourjos? It would give us two of the best young outfielders in the game, and Bourjos is better equipped than Jackson to handle batting leadoff. Move A-Jax to left (and probably batting 9th), Boesch in right, Delmon DH. Order could be something like:
1. Bourjos
2. Peralta
3. Boesch
4. Cabrera
5. Young
6. Avila

The Tigers could even go for a package deal with the Angels, and obtain 3B Alberto Callaspo and MIF Maicer Izturis. Both of them could be available, and both hit better than Inge, Raburn (when cold) and Santiago.

Wow that would be cool but i feel like we’d have to give up a TON just for bourjos…
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that, and a) peralta isn’t fast enough to bat in front of Miggy and b) delmon is too free swinging to bat behind miggy.

How about a trade of Oliver and Crosby to the Miami Marlins for Logan Morrison? Morrison fell out of favor with Marlins management last year due to excessive Tweeting and got demoted mid-season. They will need to open a hole in the OF if they get Cespedes and seem like they might deal him if receiving talent back. Tigers would get a lefty stick with plate discipline in LF with 4 – 5 years of organizational control.

UpNorth and Chad have got this about right I think. Not that we need to do exactly as they suggest, just that it opens up options we may have not thought we needed addressing due to V-Mart’s skillset. Also, arn’t you glad we wern’t depending upon him for backup at catcher like we were last year? Thank you Gerald Laird. People who get upset at this type of thing (injuries) are not used to facing realities that need to be overcome, not just met. Improve yourself man…don’t be a victum about it. Who said we cannot become a stronger team because this problem.

“what doesn’t kill you…………………..

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