In an off-season where many fans of the Detroit Tigers have been just short of begging for interesting news, we’ve just received close to the worst possible. The club issued a press release this afternoon stating that designated hitter Victor Martinez suffered an injury to his left knee last week during off-season conditioning; as reported by Chris Iott, his right foot slipped while doing side-to-side movements and his left knee buckled as a result. He had an MRI done yesterday which revealed a torn ACL for which surgery is expected to be needed. If this remains the verdict after re-evaluation by Dr. Richard Stedman next week, Martinez will very likely be lost for the 2012 season.
This throws a huge wrench in general manager Dave Dombrowski’s plans for preparing the Tigers to make a run at a World Series title this year. Detroit now lacks adequate lineup protection for slugger Miguel Cabrera, who benefited greatly from the addition of Martinez last season.
As our own John Parent mentioned, the Tigers will probably get some or all of the $13 million owed to Martinez back from insurance. Lynn Henning reports that they will probably get about half, or $6.5 million.
It’s not far-fetched to assume that this catastrophic loss makes the Tigers the leading candidates to acquire the services of Cuban defector Yoennis Cespedes, around whom much speculation has centered this winter.
Some have suggested that the club should now make a run at a deal with Prince Fielder, but that outcome is astronomically implausible. Fielder has said he is not interested in signing as a DH and the Tigers continue to refuse to move Cabrera back across the infield to his old position.
Though there are a number of options available on the free agent market, and the team could also cook up a trade for a DH or an outfielder, like Cespedes, to push Delmon Young to the DH role, whoever the Tigers find to fill the glaring void they now have in the middle of their lineup will never be able to replace Martinez, a clubhouse leader and one of the most important players on the Tigers’ 2011 division championship squad. He will be sorely missed.