To say that Tigers first baseman Victor Martinez was an important part of the Tigers lineup last season is an understatement. He was one of the best hitters in the game last season, hitting .335-.409-.565 with 32 home runs (!!), scoring 87 runs and driving in 103 runs. But, he will miss all of spring training after yesterdays announcement that he will have knee surgery next week to repair a torn meniscus.
Martinez missed the 2012 season due to a torn ACL in his left knee, an injury he suffered in January 2012, so this is not the first time he has missed time due to a knee injury. Initial reports indicated he would miss spring training and be out anywhere from 4-8 weeks. But, there is the possibility that he could be out much longer. This from Anthony Fenech, Tigers beat reporter from the Detroit Free Press:
Orthopedic surgeon says if cartilage can be trimmed, 4-6 weeks is rehab time. If cartilage has to be repaired, 12-16 weeks rehab time.— anthony fenech (@anthonyfenech) February 5, 2015
12-16 weeks is 3-4 months, so he may not return till June at the earliest, and there is a chance we don't see him till after the All Star break.
Who will replace VMart at first base for the Tigers? Here is more from Fenech:
"We have guys that we can DH with," Ausmus said. "We have four outfielders on any given day that can DH in J.D. Martinez, (Yoenis) Cespedes, Tyler Collins and even Rajai Davis could DH. You could throw Steven Moya into that group as well."
None of those options are optimal.
Not at first base, where if both Miguel Cabrera - rehabbing from off-season ankle surgery - and Martinez miss the start of the regular season, the team will seemingly have to make some kind of move, and not at designated hitter, where they will sacrifice a position player for the extra hitting spot.
The urgency of those moves, however, won't be known until Martinez's surgery on Tuesday at the earliest, and Cabrera's re-evaluation on Feb. 15 at the latest.
Could the Tigers look to make a trade once they hear, definitively, how long Martinez will be out? I think there is a real chance they do, assuming Martinez is out longer than expected.
Who are the first baseman they could target? Well, they could look into the availability of Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, but he will be difficult to move, unless the Phillies eat most of his contract. Or, they could call the Red Sox and deal for first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig. Craig would be a good fit, assuming he is healthy, as he can play some outfield and DH as well.
We will learn more next Tuesday or Wednesday after the surgery is completed. He will move way down our rankings if he misses more than the report 4-8 weeks.