Watching Victor Martinez is getting to be very painful. The 2014 AL MVP runner-up is tottering on two wobbly knees. Every time he swings hard, it looks like he might be in danger of falling over.
He hasn’t completely recovered from off-season knee surgery, and it’s difficult to see him continuing to struggle for the Detroit Tigers. His average has plummeted to the low 200s, his slugging percentage is lower than some pitchers. He has one extra-base hit all season. He can’t run the bases at all. This is like watching a master portrait artist working with crayons. It’s sad.
The strategy for VMart’s recovery is borderline lunatic: keep playing him until his legs get better. How does that constitute intelligent rehabilitation?
It’s time to give the man a rest. The Tigers need a healthy Martinez in the middle of their lineup. And he’s demonstrably not getting any healthier playing every day.
Is Victor on his last legs? Probably not. And most likely he’s not going to get completely healthy this season in any event. But running him out there daily—even in the limited role of DH—is counterproductive. Giving him as much time off as he needs will benefit the Tigers in the long run. The season is young. The Tigers will be there at the end of it, along with the Royals. That’s when they’ll need a healthier Martinez the most.
It’s time to put VMart on the DL—and leave him there a month or two at the least. In fact, sad to say, this move would not just be an act of mercy. It’s a necessity. VMart is a very weak spot in the middle of the order right now, and he’s hurting the club quite a bit.
It’s not like they don’t have other options, either. J.D. Martinez would be a better DH than a corner outfielder. He’s perfectly capable of filling the designated hitter role on the majority of days.
Daniel Fields is tearing up Triple A pitching in Toledo, batting well over .300 with an OPS over 1.000. Why not promote him? Or, if the bosses want him to get more seasoning, they have the option of Tyler Collins—or even top prospect Stephen Moya. But Moya is struggling now to get back on track after recovering from plantar fasciitis, and they can wait on him.
Fields—or Collins—would give the Tigers another outfield option, allowing JD to DH most days. Fields can play center field when Anthony Gose rests, and Rajai Davis could move to a corner. Moya, Fields, and Collins are all left-handed bats, so any of them would help balance the Tigers’ lineup.
With this outfield flexibility, Brad Ausmus could also use the DH spot to occasionally rest Yoenis Cespedes or another regular, shuffling personnel to best match up with the opposing pitcher and in the process keep his everyday players fresh. Nick Castellanos, for one, could certainly take some turns at DH. And, of course, Miggy could too—and maybe give JD an opportunity to learn first base (probably his eventual defensive destination).
Without VMart for however long it takes for him to get back to the hitter he is, the cleanup spot in the lineup could be filled by the other Martinez—though personally I would prefer seeing Cespedes moved up there (JD is too inconsistent ). In any event, the way Victor is struggling, whatever Ausmus decides to do with his lineups isn’t going to make the offense any weaker than it is now, with the equivalent of a weak-hitting utility infielder batting behind Cabrera. As the Royals did over the weekend, opposing pitchers will just keep walking Miggy.
I’d rather not see VMart until after the All-Star break than see him keep struggling so much and cratering the Tigers’ offense. I’m sure he doesn’t want to sit down—but it’s the manager’s job to do what’s best for the team, and having Victor continue to make unproductive outs in the cleanup spot is decidedly not that.
While we’re talking lineups, it’s time to put Jose Iglesias in the leadoff spot; he’s a marvel. I envision this:
JD Martinez, dh