Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Victor Martinez Replacement Options

With the injury to Victor Martinez dealing a blow to the Detroit Tigers lineup, which was fourth in runs scored and third in team batting average, buoyed by Martinez's (103 ribby's and .330 avg.),  the Tigers will begin the scramble for replacement. It will be close to impossible for the Tigers to do so, at least with one player, but the attempt will be made and more than likely completed prior to pitchers and catchers report to Lakeland in February. I want to take I look at the options, by position, give my fix and prognosticate the final end solution that Dombrowski and the Tigers will take.

Free Agency 

The Corners 

Wilson Betemit - 3B - The well traveled and solid career backup has been a Tiger before and it could benefit the Tigers to reacquire the defensively challenged corner utility man. His inability to make the difficult plays at the corners and ability to frustrate a manager, pitcher and fanbase over shadows his ability to hit right handed pitching and hit well, to a .303 clip in 2011 with a .500 slugging percentage. However, its his inability to hit lefties, (.236/.281/.326) leaves him as an obvious platoon type player best suited for just that or a bench role. At his age and defensive shortcomings not dismissed, a bench spot even may be a stretch over Andy Dirks, Brandon Inge and even Clete Thomas, which all are comparable batters and provide more defensive aptitude and versatility. 

Casey Kotchman - 1B/DH - The name that rumor mills are clamoring over as a fill in for most teams is Casey Kotchman. The Rays first baseman free agent sports a solid glove at first, a major league bat, durability and solid at bats against both rights (.313 last season) and lefties (.289). He would not cost alot and could be a solid one year rental. He does however to disappear and his lack of prototypical power from two primary position of power (1B and DH) could lead the Tigers to feel a pinch at times on the offensive side of the ball.

Derrek Lee - 1B/DH - Derrek Lee is like a Casey Kotchman type with more pop, and about 8 years older. He would be about 5 million more and may not heat up until the temperature does. He has seen his the variance between his 1st half/2nd half OPS. go from .865/1.092 in 09', .695/.888 in 10' and  .666/.995 last year. He provides a proven bat but he is not trending very well right now. He also is platoonable against lefties.

Carlos Pena - 1B/DH - We know all about Carlos Pena's exploits first hand from his time in Detroit and that with great Power comes great strikeout responsibility. He will give you great numbers outside of the K's and average, will give you power and rbi's. He also is more expensive, and you guessed it, a black hole versus lefties.

Prince Fielder - 1B/DH -  The sweepstakes has been under way for sometime now and the Tigers could throw a line in the water to see what they get. The numbers and ability is evident, he can hit lefties AND righties, and would only be the largest contract ever signed by the Tigers in their Club's history. Obviously a hole filler, but would seriously empty the pockets of the Tigers.


Vladimir Guerrero - OF/DH - Though his preference will always and forever be the outfield, Guerrero would fit well in  the DH spot. In a lineup that would produce more run scoring possibilities for the aging all star, the rbi numbers could rebound from his career low of 63 with Baltimore, but the power would be nearly gap only in  spacious Comerica Park. I don't think it would be unfair to say he could be a poor man's version of V-MArt, with a .300 average, average pop and run scoring ability. His age and injury history however will be a factor in the scouting of the Impaler, the major determining factor for Tigers management.

Cody Ross - OF - He can provide a substantial upgrade to the Left Field defense and would not be too big of a liability with the bat. He has substantial pop but would be best suited to slide in somewhere in the 7 or 8 holes. His last healthy season saw his splits do well against lefties and righties but a fairly noticeable dip away from home. He could be a solid utility type player two start 80 plus games, but the Tigers bench and AAA have too many players already like this.

Johnny Gomes - OF/DH - A power bat with questionable plate discipline that could do very well in Comerica as his power translates well park to park. His average leaves some to be desire but his fire and ability to galvanize a clubhouse cannot be overstated. He would be a defensive liability but an upgrade on Delmon Young. He could handle both lefties and righties and provide a great sourec of run producing power for the Tigers.

Yoenis Cespedes - OF -You Tube start Yoenis Cespedes is set to become a free agent this week and was already a big target for the Tigers organization. His Dominican League Debut not withstanding, Cespedes is a major talent that can paly in the majors right now. He would be a boon a defense an could settle in nicely in the 5, 6 or 7 hole. He mis pricey, but should be worth the gamble for the right team. But it is still a gamble. Like any prospect, its unknown what you have till he plays a game.

My Choice

If it were me, my first choice would be to trade for a bat. Every available free agent has their marks and could easily see a either a serious drop in production or make the Tigers worse by addition. With Three front line starters in Verlander, Scherzer and Fister, the top three pitching prospects and the rest of the farm should not be off limits to any team if it returns a legitimate piece.
A marginal package could net a Chase Headley, or good one could net a Kendrys Morales and a blockbuster could bring back an Andrew McCutchen, Hanley Ramirez or David Wright while keep the DH role available for next year and locking up a proven MLB talent for at least 4 years. But that is a totally different article.

The Tigers Choice

The Tigers know they have a coach that can make pieces work and I would not be surprised if management add multiple pieces, such as a Pena/Gomes duo, which I think wil be their end result. I also believe that, with the best bat in the system still in A ball (Nick Castellanos) Yoenis Cespedes plus the platoon signing will be the Tigers goal. It remains to be seen, but as the Marlins can attest and the rebuilt Tigers as well, Dave Dombrowksi knows how to fill a hole or two.

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