Wounded Tiger

So Detroit is going to spend $13 million this season for Victor Martinez NOT to play for them.

Welcome to our world, Tigers.

Victor Martinez (Photo: Tim Heitman-US PRESSWIRE)

Martinez reportedly tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) doing a pretty routine side-to-side workout. It just goes to show how quickly and bizarrely those things can happen.

There’s no rhyme or reason to it. These guys just scaled up Mt. Kilimanjaro, presumably without incident, and Martinez blows out his knee exercising. (I suppose, to be safe, I should have waited until they successfully scaled down the mountain, but certainly if they got up, they certainly have a plan for getting down, right?)

The Tabbies won 95 games in 2011, claiming the AL Central Division by 15 games over the Indians (and 32 games over the Twins) and pretty much everyone who gets paid money to opine about such things has been willing to just hand Detroit a free ticket to the playoffs in 2012. It’s hard to blame them, I suppose, given that none of the Tigers’ division rivals appear intent on spending the money to challenge them for the division title. In fact, some potential challengers are even (ahem) slashing payroll.

While I’m not so crass as to celebrate Martinez’s injury, it’s pretty difficult as a Twins fan to muster up much sympathy for the Tigers organization. Our guys certainly racked up more than their fair share of Disabled List time in 2011, especially among the big contract guys.

But here’s the thing… doesn’t it seem like the Tigers have pretty much sat out this off-season? I know they won the AL Central going away, but if the Rangers came within one pitch of winning the World Series and still feel the need to improve their roster, wouldn’t you think Detroit might think adding more than Octavio Dotel might be necessary? Have they added more than that? (OK I looked it up… they also added Gerald Laird and Ramon Santiago.)

The Tigers’ payroll in 2011 opened the season a little under $106 million and reports have it sitting at close to $109 million for 2012 after they came to terms with their arbitration-eligbile players. (That includes agreeing to pay Delmon Young $6.75 million, by the way. I have to admit I’m glad it’s not the Twins that are ponying up that kind of money for DY. As I Tweeted Tuesday night, I don’t know for sure that Ben Revere is going to be a better starting left fielder than Young, but I’m pretty sure the Twins are glad they have Revere rather than Young at this point.) In any event, you have to figure the Tigers aren’t looking to significantly jack up their payroll number at this point.

I know I’ve read that they were kicking the tires on Mark Buehrle before he signed in Miami and, more recently, may be talking with the Cubs about trading for Matt Garza. An upgrade would make sense because their rotation, after Justin Verlander, really is nothing to brag about (and seriously, how likely can it really be that Verlander would have another season like his 2011?). So it’s possible that they’ve been quietly sniffing around one of the remaining free agent starting pitchers.

But with Martinez likely out for the season, you have to imagine their attention might be shifted toward finding someone to take over Martinez’s DH responsibilities. There certainly is no shortage of DH options still on the market, so in the end, their offense may not the biggest victim of the injury. The biggest victim may be their starting pitching if they have to use remaining payroll budget for a bat instead of rotation help.

So speaking very selfishly, Martinez’s injury may help the Twins in three ways:

  1. Most obviously, he won’t be in Detroit’s line up.
  2. On the off chance the Tigers were in the market for the same starting pitcher(s) the Twins might be talking to, their need to replace Martinez may take them out of contention for pitching.
  3. Finally, that same shift in priorities likely may leave the Tigers’ rotation unfortified.

Most of all, it simply makes Detroit more beatable. And that’s never a bad thing.

And, yes, I really am this desperate for anything resembling good news for the Twins at this point.

– JC