Options to Replace Martinez

With this week's news that Victor Martinez tore his ACL and could be done for the season, the Tigers will need to find a replacement for him sometime between now and Opening Day. With a limited free agent pool, and the Tigers with limited trade pieces, TigsTown looks into five possible options that the Tigers could pursue to fill the designated hitter hole.

Had the injury happened a month ago, there likely could have been other free agent options pursued, before the market was drying up. However, players like Josh Willingham and Carlos Beltran signed before the injury occurred (and likely would have required a multi-year deal anyway), and the Tigers weren't moving fast enough to try and make a run at Carlos Pena, who could have been a perfect fit given his left-handed bat.

Also, while much has been reported about insurance covering Martinez's contract, the Tigers have not (and will not) release any information on whether or not the contract is insured, and if so, how much. So while we can certainly speculate, there's much that isn't known about how much money is freed up via the insurance.

So given where things stand now, here are five options, in order of preference, for the Tigers.

Option #1: Sign Yoenis Cespedes

Cespedes is still waiting to be granted free agent status, but when it does happen, the Tigers will need to come in with the best offer possible. The team was already in the middle of the pursuit, but with the loss of Martinez, adding Cespedes to the club becomes all the more important. At 26 years of age, he's an athletic outfielder with good speed and very good power, and would fit in perfectly in Comerica's left field. He may still need some Triple-A seasoning, but the Tigers would likely be able to get by for a month or so if that was deemed necessary.

Cespedes allows the Tigers to shift Delmon Young to DH, where his defense won't be a liability, and add a young, high potential player to the roster for the long term (given the sort of contract he will command). If general manager Dave Dombrowski can find a way to out-bid the likes of the Florida Marlins and the Chicago Cubs, the loss to the club shouldn't be extreme, and would set the Tigers up well for future seasons as well.

Option #2: Trade for Carlos Lee

The Astros are in obvious rebuilding mode at this point, and while Lee is one of the few productive players the team has, they're not going to compete in 2012, and could use Lee to help begin to restock the farm system while also freeing up money to other avenues. Lee could help the Tigers in the outfield or at DH, and was still a very productive offensive player in 2011, with an oWAR of 2.7, nearly matching V-Mart's 3.1.

The organization won't give up a ton for him, but a pair of solid prospects along with splitting the near $20 million he's supposed to get should serve both sides well.

Option #3: Sign Johnny Damon

The former Tiger despite being 38 still had a productive 2011 campaign with Tampa Bay, where he hit .261 and posted an OPS+ of 110. His oWAR was also a respectable 2.6, just half a game difference than what Martinez gave the Tigers. While he's still primarily a designated hitter, he could also play the outfield in a pinch.

There could be some demand for his services, but given he made $8 million in 2010, and only just over $5 million in 2011, he should be able to be had for a reasonable price tag.

Option #4: Trade for Bobby Abreu

Given the moves by the Los Angeles Angels this off-season, there likely isn't a place for Abreu in the club's everyday lineup. He'll turn 38 in March, so he's no longer at the age where he's a high productivity player like when many Tigers fans clamored to sign him five years ago, however, he's a left-handed hitter, capable of playing a corner outfield spot, and still has some speed left in his wheels, having swiped 21 bases last year.

The power though was way down, which might mean he'd be a better fit for the Tigers in the number two slot, as opposed to the number five slot the Tigers are trying to replace. With a $9 million price tag for 2012 and limited options, the Tigers could likely make a move for him and either eat the salary and give up very little, or have the Angels take on some of it, while losing a mid-level prospect. Having two below average options in an outfield spot isn't ideal, but having strong bats is.

Option #5: Re-sign Magglio Ordonez

Guessing at least a few people likely spit their morning coffee at their screen when they read that, but before you immediately say no to the suggestion, hear it out. It's no secret that Ordonez had a very rough 2011 campaign with the Tigers, posting his worst career average and his lowest isolated power rate since he became a regular big league player.

However, the free agent alternatives beyond Ordonez aren't overly attractive, either. Hideki Matsui also posted an OPS under .700, while a player like Cody Ross is still seeking a two-year deal.

With Ordonez, you get a player looking for a rebound season, someone who has been with the organization since 2005, and would be an easy clubhouse fit. If he continues to struggle productivity wise, then by June, you will be on the market for a hitter again, but at that point in time, there might be other options out there. And still, there's no guarantee the other alternatives would out-produce him given similar ages and declining productivity. Ordonez is by no means the ideal candidate, but for a one-year, incentive-laden deal, the Tigers could do worse.

One Sleeper Pick: Sign Casey Kotchman

There's some serious risk with going after Kotchman for any solid money given two very poor years prior to his resurgence in 2011. He's also a first baseman only meaning the Tigers would need to rely on Delmon Young in left. But Kotchman hit over .300 for Tampa with an oWAR that mirrored Martinez's. He's also a left-handed hitter and will play the season at just 29, again fitting the bill for some power from the left side of the plate while having far less risk of having a decline due to aging.


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