Victor’s Curmudgeon Causes Tigers to Scramble

BY JOSH WORN

A very merry Tigers Tuesday to everyone. The news that broke this afternoon may have shattered many dreams of World Series rings and nice shiny things for the 2012 Detroit Tigers, but fear not! Sources have confirmed that Little Victor Martinez has donned a uniform, invoking fond memories of Eddie Gaedel circa 1951, and will replace the offensive firepower his father’s lumber provided.

Well, not so fast on the Little Victor front, but it certainly would be more realistic than Prince Fielder signing with Detroit, which scores of even respectful Tigers fans have suggested now that Victor’s legs have failed him in the second year of his $50MM deal?

Why won’t the Tigers sign Prince besides the fact that it’s not financially reasonable?

1)      Baseball players in their primes have pretty big egos. Good luck moving Miguel Cabrera anywhere but first base. Good luck moving Prince Fielder anywhere but first base.

2)      Rumors that Prince and his father, Detroit legend Cecil Fielder, are not on good terms and if he came to Detroit he would undoubtedly be playing in his father’s shadow, at least to start the contract.

That’s it. The Tigers are not adding a 3rd +$20m player.

The fact that Martinez tore his ACL is now behind the Tigers. Suffice it to say, they were lucky enough for an injury like this happen in January while there are still a number of options in the Free Agent or trade pool.

Consider this: As a DH, Martinez was worth 2.9 Wins Above Replacement in 2011. Statistically speaking, the fact that the Tigers won the division by 15 games means that he didn’t impact the outcome of the 2011 season all that much. Reality speaking, his presence behind Miguel Cabrera for 140 games contributed much more than 3 WAR as he protected Miggy from walking over 200 times last year.

Another bat is needed; there isn’t a question of that. It should be a one year deal and shouldn’t cripple them defensively. The reason I say that is because, what happens if Cabrera goes down? Of course, you can say well that’s it, toss the white flag, the season’s done. But, if he goes on the 15 day disabled list for some reason, they no longer have Martinez to back him up there either.

Therefore we take a look at the following names:

Free Agent Options:

1)      Carlos Pena – The player that makes the most sense due to his run producing bat, Pena is looking for around $10m and given the fact that the Tigers will get back $6m from Martinez due to his injury, he would actually cost $4m and give the Tigers a chance to outbid the Yankees for his services.

2)      Casey Kotchman – His power is nothing compared to Pena, or even Guerrero, but he gets on base and he would be a great second bat in the lineup and probably hit .285/.350/.450 if given the at bats. And I would almost rather have him picking throws at first than Miggy…not that I would broadcast that.

3)      Vladimir Guerrero – If Pena isn’t signed, I think Guerrero would make sense from an offensive standpoint. He can’t field, and if you want a comparison, take Delmon Young and chop his legs off. So this is a scary option that can’t play first base….ehhhhhh.

4)      Johnny Damon – We all know what he did a few years ago, and while I wouldn’t be terribly offended if they resign him I would almost rather sign…

5)      Hideki Matsui – He did have a nice second half in Oakland last year. Defensively he is pretty much done and I doubt he could pick it at first either.

6)      Derrek Lee – I’m not a fan of his bat, but if they run out of options, he would be a cheap option and he plays decent first.

7)      Yoenis Cespedes – How could I leave him till last!?! Well, considering that the Tigers need a bat immediately, not in June when he would likely be ready for the Big Leagues, he’s also been in their plans since before V-Mart hurt himself, though I could see Dombrowski making a bigger push now.

Trade Options:

1)      Martin Prado – If he were still available (which I doubt he is now) he could be a great option for second base, toss Raburn into left field and park Young at DH. Defensively this would be the best thing for the Tigers, but unlikely to happen.

2)      Carlos Lee – I haven’t heard too many people suggest Lee, who the Astros’ could be willing to eat some of his contract for a decent prospect. He would be an ideal replacement for V-Mart since he is a DH/1B and will roughly produce the same. I would prefer him even over Carlos Pena, but a trade is obviously much more complicated and then puts into question, who do you give up for a one year player.

3)      Alfonso Soriano – The Matt Garza rumors aside, I wonder if Theo Epstein would dangle Soriano for cheap (meaning, he would pay most of the salary), along with Garza for Turner and Smyly or, gulp, Turner and Castellanos. I think Lee would be MUCH cheaper in terms of the talent they would have to give up, but it’s still a name.

4)      David Wright – Highly doubt this would happen, as the Mets would have to be nuts to trade him now, but then again, the Mets management has quite a few things on their mind and may snap, telling Sandy Alderson to trade everyone for a potpourri of prospects . Would it be fiscally responsible to take on $28MM for the next two years? I think given that the $15MM due this year would be alleviated a bit by Martinez’s contract insurance, and the club option of $13MM is a drop in cost and not an increase, the Tigers shouldn’t be too scared to take it on. But again they get into the cost of talent, and I wonder what the Mets would be asking. Probably the moon.

Bottom line, the Tigers have options. The season is not lost. Martinez was a great thing to look forward to when going to the ballpark, and he will be missed, but Dave Dombrowski is a well respected figure in the baseball cult and will get something done.

In addition to the Martinez news, the Tigers avoided arbitration with three players today. Yesterday I put up single posts each on Porcello and Coke but obviously due to today’s news, the fact that Max Scherzer, Delmon Young and Don Kelly all avoided “the arbiter” as well fell to the back of the hot stove.

Scherzer signed for $3.75MM, Young signed for $6.75MM, and Don Kelly was roped in at $900K for the 2012 season. I like Scherzer’s deal, really like that Young wasn’t more than $7MM and Kelly is….Kelly.

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