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Johnny Damon, Carlos Pena among options for replacing Tigers' Victor Martinez

So we've reviewed the cost, statistically anyway, of the Tigers' likely losing Victor Martinez for all of 2012. I've posited that he could probably have been expected to bat about a 300 average, with a .360 OBP and .450 or so slugging average. Now the question arises: How do the Tigers make up for that?

Popular suggestions I've read so far, listed in no particular order:

  • Prince Fielder
  • Casey Kotchman
  • Carlos Pena
  • Vladimir Guerrero
  • Yoenis Cespedes
  • Carlos Lee
  • J.D. Drew
  • Alfonso Soriano
  • Johnny Damon
  • Manny Ramirez
  • Magglio Ordonez
  • Carlos Guillen
And I'm sure there's more. I'm not going to dive into detailed accounts of every player. In fact, I like the format others have used today, so I'm just going to do the same and place the players into a couple of categories.

Not going to happen:

Fielder and Ramirez. We've detailed this in the past. Fielder has issues with his father, and his father just happened to hit a lot of home runs in Detroit as a real fan favorite in the first half of the '90s. On top of that, he'd like a multi-year deal worth 9 figures and requires a long-term commitment and possibly the movement of Miguel Cabrera to third base. This is not going to happen. The Tigers have a DH for years to come. They need a player for 2011, and 2011 alone. And what's with this Ramirez stuff? No.

Thanks for playing, but no

Look, I love what Ordonez and Guillen meant to the organization in the past, too, but they are not even going to get close to filling the hole left by Martinez, and no one would even suggest their names if they had spent their careers in, say, Baltimore.

Cespedes gets his own line

I do not view Cespedes is a replacement for Martinez. I'd like to sign him anyway, but I think viewing him as a replacement and expecting the world from him to begin with would be a grave mistake. There's a lot of ifs and buts that come up. If he hits like Clay Davenport expects and plays in the outfield while Delmon Young DHs, that would be wonderful. But he hasn't played ball outside Cuba and should best be allowed time to adapt to professional baseball and get work in at the minor leagues.

Interesting trade possibilities

Names that have come up as trade possibilities are Soriano and Kotchman. Soriano undoubtedly had a down year in 2011, but could generally be expected to hit .250 with a .310 OBP and near .475 slugging. Even then, he's not going to reach Martinez's level of contribution, but at least he can play above-average in the outfield. Plus he's going to cost a lot in terms of dollar commitment -- which is why he's probably available. Carlos Lee is a player's Jason Beck suggested. Lee hasn't hit well in a couple of years -- you have to go back to 2008. And he doesn't run well. But maybe -- maybe -- put him in the middle of a productive lineup on a playoff team during a contract year and the 35-year-old re-awakens. It's not a bad idea, but depends on the asking price.

The real possibilities

I think Kotchman, Pena, Damon, Drew and Guerrero fit in here.

After looking closer at Guerrero's career arc and recent season, I rank him last among the group. However, a bounce back from last season in Baltimore could make for a valuable player at the plate -- though not on the basepaths. Although he still hits well, one worry would be the low OBPs he's had in recent years -- including .317 last season despite a .290 average.

Kotchman is interesting. If he could repeat his 2011 figures (.306, .378, .402), there really wouldn't be much drop-off from Martinez. Of course, given his career history -- you have to go back to 2007 to find a comparable year -- believing he'll repeat 2011 seems outlandish.

There's J.D. Drew. He suffered through a real let down in 2011, with injuries and questions about his commitment. The past two seasons he has suffered from below-average BABIP, while his batting average fell from .255 to .222. The OBP, buoyed by a nice walk rate, fell, too. Plus the power dropped off last year. But again, if Drew bounces back, the results could be interesting. Bill James Online projected a .252 / .360 / .415 line. That's about the same on-base percentage as I'd expect from Martinez, but less power. However, Drew could play in the outfield and bump Delmon Young to DH. So I like this idea. He does strike out a lot, though.

Then, you have Damon. He's already played in Detroit once. His average and OBP have dropped a bit over the last few years, but he's still a .265/.345/.410 guy. (Plus my mom would like this idea, because she still hasn't stopped wearing her Damon T-jersey.)

Finally, the man of the hour has been Carlos Pena. The once-Tiger who people apparently see through the prism of his former Tiger years is a good possibility. Pena still strikes out a lot. He also walks like mad. When he's not doing either of those, he hits a home run. Three outcome player, truly. Last year his batting average was an awful .222 but with a .357 OBP and .462 slugging. Against right-handers, he had a .388 OPS and .504 slugging. That's a guy who can be pretty valuable. Find a way to couple him with Delmon Young (.338 OBP, .431 slugging vs. left-handers) or Ryan Raburn (.321, .486) and you've got a decent platoon from a power stand point.


The problem with several of these possibilities is that you just don't know what you're going to get. You're hoping for a bounce back from a veteran player. A few of them rely on you getting the continued performance from a player who had a good 2011. One of them asks you to hope for the best from a guy who hasn't played baseball in the United States. There's a lot of lottery tickets out there. The best case is probably the more consistent guy like Pena who strikes out a lot.

On the whole, I would guess going with a consistent guy who gets you much of the way there would be the best way to go. My pet picks are Damon and Pena. I believe either would get the Tigers about 66% of the way to Martinez's production. At that point, you might only be talking about a win difference. Lee and Drew would probably be on my second level. Kotchman and Guerrero the third. And yes, I still want Cespedes.