Victor Martinez is liking done for the 2012 season before spring training has even begun.
The Detroit Tigers DH reportedly tore his ACL while he was working on his offseason conditioning. It is unknown at this point if surgery will be required, but it is likely.
What do the Tigers do to replace Martinez?
V-Mart was a big part of the Tigers' success last year batting .330, with 40 doubles, 12 home runs and 103 RBI. The big benefit he provided to the Tigers' lineup was protection for Miguel Cabrera who led the league in batting.
As I type this, Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski is holding a conference call with the media about the team's plans. If the Tigers decide to make no changes to their roster, there are two players who will see increased playing time as a result of Martinez's injury: Andy Dirks and Ryan Raburn.
Dirks, barring a Yoennis Cespedes signing, has the inside track to becoming Detroit's fourth outfielder. With Martinez out, the Tigers will rotate several players through the DH spot and while Dirks might not get a lot of at bats at DH, the Tigers could use him to upgrade their defense in left field while playing Delmon Young at DH.
In this scenario Dirks would most likely slide into the number two spot, with Brennan Boesch batting third, Cabrera fourth and Young fifth. Young and Boesch could also be flipped so the lineup is more balanced between righties and lefties.
Ryan Raburn could also get some at-bats as the DH. Raburn is a notoriously slow starter, so his production will have to warrant him getting time at DH. Currently, he is scheduled to split some time at second base with Ramon Santiago and potentially play a few games in the outfield.
Between Dirks and Raburn, I believe Dirks is the more attractive option to get more playing time, as he provides a significant upgrade defensively, while he allows Young's dynamic bat to remain in the lineup. Also, Dirks is a good top-of-the-order bat, and while Young can't quite protect Cabrera as well as Martinez did, he can come the closest of any other Tiger.
The Tigers could also examine their minor league teams and free-agency.
In the minors, the two players who stick out are Ryan Strieby and Clete Thomas.
If the Tigers go the route of having Young get the majority of DH at-bats, Thomas could make the team as an extra outfielder. Thomas brings speed, defense and a bit of power.
Strieby has struggled with injuries, but appeared to be over them at the end of last season. Strieby has power, but outside of 2009 in AA, he hasn't been a high batting average guy. Additionally, a knock against Strieby is that besides DH, his only other position is first base, which is already occupied in Detroit.
On the free-agent market, there are several well known names who are still looking for work, such as Johnny Damon, Vladimir Guerrero and Hideki Matsui.
Guerrero is the best hitter of the three right now, batting .290 last year, with 13 home runs, 30 doubles and 63 RBI. While he doesn't have the speed he once did, Guerrero is a solid hitter who could take advantage of the RBI opportunities batting behind Cabrera.
The other free-agent this could affect, of course, isn't an official free-agent yet.
Yoennis Cespedes, is still waiting for his residency to be finalized, and for the MLB to declare him a free-agent. Detroit now has a place on their major league roster for the multi-tool prospect.
Cespedes has begun to play some winter ball in the Dominican Republic, and so far he hasn't fared too well. That being said, he still appears to have the ability to help the Tigers defensively in left and provide speed at the top of the order.
I think the Tigers want Cespedes, and they will be willing to fork over the cash to sign him. How he plays during spring training will determine the fates of Andy Dirks, Ryan Strieby and Clete Thomas.
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