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.
The White Sox have reportedly picked up first baseman Yonder Alonso from the Indians, according to Stadium. The return for Alonso is expected to be nothing more flashy than a “fringe prospect,” though the minutiae of the deal is still pending a formal announcement from both teams.
Alonso, 31, inked a two-year deal with the Indians during the 2017 offseason. His first campaign with the club yielded a modest .250/.317/.421 batting line, 23 home runs, .738 OPS and 0.7 fWAR in 574 PA. The real boon for the White Sox may not be a passable veteran bat, however, but something more intangible — like Alonso’s clout with his brother-in-law and highly-coveted free agent slugger, Manny Machado.
While Alonso’s 2018 output represented a significant decline from the career-best numbers he posted in 2017, he’s still a solid contributor at the plate and, more importantly, slated to remain under team control for the next two years with just $8 million owed in 2019 and a $9 million option in 2020. As MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince notes, the $17 million the Indians just erased from their payroll should give them enough room to accommodate the contracts for right-handers Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber — a bonus regardless of what they happen to get in the trade.