Detroit’s status as the AL Central favorites has taken a big hit before the Tigers even arrived at spring training, as designated hitter/catcher Victor Martinez suffered a torn ACL in his left knee during offseason conditioning.
No decision has been yet made regarding surgery, but if Martinez needs to go under the knife he’d likely miss the entire 2012 season.
Alex Avila is entrenched as the Tigers’ starting catcher and Martinez was unlikely to be more than an emergency option behind the plate anyway, so certainly replacing a designated hitter is much easier than replacing a catcher. He hit .330 with 12 homers, 40 doubles, and an .850 OPS in 145 games last season and is a career .303 hitter with an .840 OPS.
Some potential fill-in options include Carlos Pena, Derrek Lee, Casey Kotchman, Johnny Damon, and Hideki Matsui, but it’s unclear how much room the Tigers have in their payroll–or what their insurance situation is like–and Martinez is under contract for $13 million this season, $13 million in 2013, and $12 million in 2014.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals and first baseman Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension. However, Hosmer also indicated that he will head into free agency if a deal is not consummated by Opening Day.
Hosmer, 27, avoided arbitration with the Royals last month, agreeing to a $12.25 million salary for the 2017 season. He is one of four key Royals players who can become a free agent after the season along with Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. If Hosmer does reach free agency, he would arguably be the top free agent first baseman.
Hosmer finished the past season hitting .266/.328/.433 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI while making his first All-Star team.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.
According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.
Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.