Tigers keeping options open for V-Mart replacements
Much depends on surgery results for DH/1B, along with Miggy's recovery
DETROIT -- The last time Victor Martinez injured his left knee, the Tigers spent $200 million to replace him. That's not likely to happen this time around.
First, Martinez's meniscus tear isn't believed to be quite as severe. Second, the Tigers' options to replace him aren't nearly as strong. Prince Fielder isn't walking through that door.
Until the Tigers get a more definitive diagnosis next week on how long Martinez will need to recover from surgery, they're keeping their options open. As team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski put it Thursday, "I don't know what I need to fill."
"We're going to have to wait to do all of that until Tuesday," Dombrowski said.
For now, manager Brad Ausmus is focused on what he has in camp. And like the open market, nothing is clear.
"Nothing's written in stone," Ausmus said Thursday. "As of right now, the only options I'm looking at are all internal. But, really, a lot depends on Miggy."
That's Miguel Cabrera, who is recovering from surgery to repair a stress fracture in his right foot. Cabrera, too, has a doctor's visit coming up, this one for a follow-up exam in a week and a half that is expected to give him clearance for baseball activity.
If he's cleared, the Tigers expect him to be ready on or near Opening Day. If he's delayed, then Detroit has potentially two huge voids to fill, at least at season's start.
Martinez was expected to be an option at first base if Cabrera wasn't ready. Now, that plan is out.
"I've been mulling it over ever since I talked to Victor," Ausmus said, "just because after talking to him I was concerned. We're still obviously going to have to find someone to play first base."
Catcher Alex Avila, a corner infielder at the University of Alabama who has played some third base during Interleague Play, was already expected to play some at first base in Spring Training as a precaution. He now becomes a realistic option. Two Minor League first basemen, Jordan Lennerton and Aaron Westlake, are also options.
Lennerton, who turns 29 in two weeks, was a Futures Game participant and Triple-A All-Star in 2013 before he struggled last year. The 26-year-old Westlake was a third-round pick in 2011 but struggled to hit last season at Double-A Erie, batting .236 with 15 home runs and 49 RBIs.
If Cabrera is ready at first base, Ausmus said, they can rotate at designated hitter from their crop of outfielders, including J.D. Martinez and Yoenis Cespedes. Rajai Davis was slated to share time in center, but he could play the corners instead.
One intriguing option could be top outfield prospect Steven Moya, who hit 35 home runs at Erie last year. Ausmus, however, downplayed the possibility of changing his track after pegging the Tigers' No. 4 overall prospect for a likely stint at Triple-A Toledo.
"I guess it's a possibility," Ausmus said, "but I don't think it changes dramatically for Steven Moya. If he was a first baseman, maybe it would change."
Moya is a 6-foot-7 right fielder, a pretty good size for a first baseman.
"Don't kid yourself, that crossed my mind," Ausmus joked.