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

15 Replies to “Wounded Tiger”

  1. Hold it for a sec…
    First: I hope that the guy is alright
    Second: I don’t think that the Tigers are pursuing any pitchers (especially starters, they are full to the rim with Brim)
    Third: They can rotate at the DH spot and they might sign someone (and not sure about their roster situation, but you cannot put players on the 60-day -or any day- DL list before play starts)

  2. Obviously, we hope he’s alright. Nobody “wished” harm on Martinez. But I don’t think we have to apologize for taking a look at what it could mean for the competitiveness of the defending division champions.

    And as I pointed out, there have been several rumors about the Tigers upgrading their rotation. Do you seriously think they wouldn’t like to improve on Doug Fister or Jacob Turner? It’s not like Scherzer or Porcello are exactly future aces, either.

    Sure they can rotate their DH spot. I just don’t think that’s likely to happen. I’d bet money they’ll sign a bat before Spring Training.

  3. I always hate to see any player hit with a serious injury. I hope he recovers from surgery and returns to being effective again.

    Like you, I expect the Tigers to sign a DH to a one-year contract to fill the hole, and right now there are still several guys available for them to sign.

    It appears the Tigers are like the Twins’ front office and pretty close to the vest with their plans. It would not surprise me if they signed another starting pitcher as well, but they may be waiting for the market to be more favorable.

  4. I’m by no means happy that V Mart has such a serious injury, and I hope he comes back at full strength. But I also hope that takes place next season.
    Just as other teams were almost certainly licking their chops in 2011 as Twins players dropped one by one, I think us Twins fans can take just a moment to acknowledge that this injury is a big blow to our toughest competition in the Central.

  5. The Tiggers still have Miggy and Miggy licks his chops whenever he sees a pitcher with a TC on his cap. The Tiggers are still 20 games better than the Twinks.

  6. Okay, I really have nothing intelligent to say about Martinez other than it makes the division look pretty interesting.

    But having scaled Mount St. Helens this fall (nothing like Kilimanjaro, for sure, but nothing to sneeze at, I trained for a year), I’m just gonna note that anyone who’s done any serious hiking knows that the trip back down is the hard part, so you just go ahead and knock on wood there, JC, until we know that those ballplayers climbing for Jesus and charity and whatnot have landed back on flat earth. It still makes my thighs hurt to think about that trip down. I just about called in sick for work two days later because I wasn’t sure my ass was ready to sit on for a few hours.

    Okay, back on topic. Sorry about the diversion there.

  7. I’ve never done more than a few hikes up comparatively small hills in Colorado when I used to spend some time out there during the summer as a teenager, so your St Helens effort gets a lot of respect in this corner, lisa.

    I can’t imagine the kind of effort that those ballplayers had to exert to accomplish what they did and I certainly didn’t intend to make light of the effort necessary to get back down safely. I’ve actually been Googling them to try to catch updates on their return, but after a lot of attention to their reaching the peak about 3 days ago, I haven’t seen anything at all since then.

    Here’s to hoping they return to their families and their teams safely and that their efforts bring the hoped-for attention to the charity they are associated with.

  8. Uh oh. Looks like the Tigers managed to fill Martinez’ shoes pretty well. Sounds like Fielder will play first, and Cabrera will DH this year. That’s about as good of a 3-4 punch as you can find.

  9. The Tigers certainly did replace Martinez well. But, before Twins fans go jump off of bridges, let’s think about this a bit further.

    How many more wins is Fielder worth for the Tigers over and above what they would have been projected to get with Martinez?

    Before you answer that, consider also that if Martinez had stayed healthy, the Tigers would have had money to upgrade the back end of their rotation.

    So the real question is… how much better off are the Tigers, really, than they were two weeks ago before Martinez got hurt? Would you rather have Martinez AND Jackson (who certainly would have been available for half what they’re laying out for Fielder) or Fielder with the Tigers existing rotation?

    It’s certainly not a GOOD thing for the Twins in 2012 that Fielder is in Detroit, but I don’t see it as the Apocolypse, either… and it almost certainly ties the Tigers’ hands for years to come. They are rolling the dice, absolutely, but it just seems like a questionable decision for the mid-long term. After all, Martinez is on their books for a few more years, right?

  10. Agreed, JC. My first impression is that I think the Tigers made themselves a better team for the near future, and Fielder certainly is a great player that has been dependable to date. But the nice thing about baseball is that 1 player doesn’t make or break a team.

  11. I agree, AW. My sense is that they looked around at the rest of the AL Central and decided that they have a wide open path to the Division title, with little competition, so they should go for broke to get that World Series this year. It may just work. too. But Fielder wasn’t enough to get the Brewers to the WS, even with Braun in the same line up. And if Verlander doesn’t have a 3rd straight Superman-like season, that rotation is beatable. They’re the best team in the Division, on paper, by a long shot. But they aren’t immune to injuries and performance lapses.

  12. Big Fat Prince gives the Tiggers five more wins in 2012. Plus Big Fat Prince feasts on Twins pitching. I suggest Gardy institute the back-to-back intentional walks when Miggy and Big Fat Prince come to bat 3rd & 4th in the lineup.

  13. Parker from OTB tweeted that Fielder’s WAR, over and above Martinez’s, over the past 3 years averaged about +1.6. That doesn’t take in to account WAR the Tigers may lose by not upgrading the back of their rotation.

    For that additional one and a half wins, the Tigers are paying over $36 million (Martinez’s salary + Fielder’s)… and that doesn’t even begin to take in to account the risk of paying that kind of money to Fielder for 9 years.

    Five additional wins? Not likely. But hey, why let anything get in the way of another opportunity to lash out, right?

    A year ago, people were certain that the WhiteSox had brought in the power bat they needed to leave the rest of the division behind. How did that work out?

  14. I would hardly call my comments “lashing out.” If honest opinion comments are not welcome here then perhaps I’m not either. You disappoint me JC.

  15. Your comments, as well as everyone else’s, are always welcome here, mark.

    But the hyperbole of “5 additional wins,” in combination with a whole slew of tweets from others that came out on the heels of the Fielder announcement, had me shaking my head.

    Look, there are things about the decisions being made by the front office that I’m not terribly supportive of, either, but I feel that some folks almost can’t wait to find a way to react to every post or every piece of news that comes out in a manner that… well… lashes out… at the Twins and that kind of gets a bit old.

    That’s how I interpreted your “5 games” comment. If that’s not how it was intended, I apologize.