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.