The Detroit Tigers had a problem.
Their No. 3 hitter, Victor Martinez, tore his ACL over the winter and the 12-month rehab meant the Tigers would be without one of their best hitters in the 2012 season. Martinez doesn’t have the awesome power of teammate Miguel Cabrera, but V-Mart is highly efficient. His .330 batting average along with 40 doubles, 12 home runs and 103 RBI last year made him a force in the Tigers lineup. But with Martinez sitting out all year, the Tigers needed to find another big bat to help them defend their AL Central championship and move them one step closer to the World Series.
So the Tigers picked up Prince Fielder.
Fielder signed a nine-year, $214 million contract last week with the Tigers. This seems like a great acquisition and in many ways, it is: The Tigers were able to replace V-Mart’s bat in the lineup (and then some), Fielder is only 27 while V-Mart is 33 and the signing makes the Tigers the odds-on favorite to repeat as AL Central Champs and even has some in the media talking about a trip to the World Series.
All those things are great, but what happens when Victor Martinez comes back in 2013?
With the emergence of Alex Avila at catcher, Victor Martinez handled the DH duties most of the year and at his age (he’ll be 34, coming off a torn ACL) the Tigers won’t want to risk having V-Mart play anywhere in the field. That leaves Cabrera or Fielder to play first base. Cabrera will probably have to move to third base, a position he played for the Florida Marlins from 2003-07, but that was a very different looking Miguel Cabrera. (This was him in 2007, this is him now.) The Cabrera that we see nowadays would be a defensive liability at third base. He’s not as laterally quick as he used to be and his accuracy could be worse after not throwing for the better part of four years.
If Cabrera is not ready to play third base, what do the Tigers do if they don’t want to take Fielder or Cabrera out of the lineup? Are they really going to sit down a player who is a career .303 hitter with a $13 million contract?
And if Cabrera does play third and he struggles, the money that the Tigers are paying these Big Three plus Verlander will make it difficult to find much help at the hot corner.
This year will bring lots of home run blasts and fun, but the next season will bring a lot of questions.