Torn ACL likely ends Victor Martinez’s 2012 season before it even begins

Ian Casselberry

A relatively quiet offseason for the Detroit Tigers just got noisy.

But for all the wrong reasons.

It was announced on Tuesday that designated hitter Victor Martinez tore the ACL in his left knee during a workout last week and will likely miss the entire 2012 season.

Martinez, 33, originally thought he'd strained the knee, but an MRI exam on Monday revealed the tear. He will re-evaluated next week to determine whether surgery is necessary. But Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski acknowledged that the chances of Martinez avoiding surgery and being able to play this season are very poor.

According to head trainer Danny Rand, Martinez suffered the injury while going through agility drills. His right foot slipped, causing all of his weight to come down on that left knee. Martinez strained the same knee last season while running the bases. Did that leave him more vulnerable to this type of injury?

Martinez was the Tigers' best hitter not named Miguel Cabrera last season, hitting .330/.380/.470 with 12 home runs and 103 RBIs. His .850 OPS was third on the team, while that .330 batting average was the sixth-highest in the majors.

Obviously, this is a huge blow to a Tigers lineup that scored the fourth-most runs (787) in the big leagues, despite having few hitters who could reliably get on base and arguably needed to add another bat even before Martinez got hurt.

The question now becomes how the Tigers replace Martinez in their batting order. (Signing Martinez's son, Victor Jose, probably isn't an option as he's only 6 years old.)

Detroit has been mentioned as one of the teams in pursuit of Cuban outfielder Yoennis Cespedes. Signing him would allow the Tigers to play Delmon Young at DH, where he's arguably better suited anyway.

But if there's a bright side to this development (and really, it's small consolation), it's that many DH-type of hitters are still available on the free-agent market.

None of them will likely be able to replace Martinez's production, but Detroit should still be able to find someone to bat behind Cabrera. (That is, if the Tigers don't decide to put Alex Avila or Jhonny Peralta in the lineup's No. 5 spot.)

Vladimir Guerrero, Casey Kotchman and Hideki Matsui are among the players that could help the Tigers out in the short-term. Carlos Pena and Johnny Damon are both former Tigers who could return to the team for a second tour. Perhaps a trade for someone like Carlos Lee, Alfonso Soriano or Bobby Abreu is a possibility.

Or for those Tigers fans living in fantasy land, maybe Dombrowski can check with Scott Boras and see if Prince Fielder really is willing to take a one-year deal and try the free agent market again next year.

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