Tigers will still contend

This is the time of the year I really get the itch for baseball season to begin.

As the snow falls, the wind howls and the temperatures dip, I look to read every possible story on the Detroit Tigers. Spring training news reassures me warmer weather is on the way, eventually.

This week I have not enjoyed reading those articles on the Tigers. My heart nearly stopped earlier this week — not because I received my season ticket renewal — but because of the loss of designated hitter Victor Martinez.

Martinez was fabulous in his first year in a Tigers uniform hitting .330 with 12 home runs and 103 RBIs. He provided protection in the lineup for Miguel Cabrera and was a lock to drive in a key run with runners in scoring position.

With the development of Alex Avila, Jhonny Peralta’s outstanding season and Martinez’s contributions the Tigers were able to manufacture the runs they were unable to in 2010.

With that being said, not having Martinez will have an effect on this team in 2012. How could it not?

Of the remaining free agents with the ability to produce none have done so consistently for a few years, at least not the way Martinez is capable of and should have.

And no Prince Fielder is not coming to Detroit. As Fielder’s potential homes continue to dry up it is natural to think Detroit could be the place. Very unlikely.

The Tigers are not going to sign a first-baseman only (could be a DH) with Cabrera under contract through 2015 and Martinez through 2014. Martinez will be back next year and then what?

I suppose that would be a nice problem to have, but I one I don’t think will happen.

That leaves players like Vladimir Guerrero, Carlos Pena, Johnny Damon and Casey Kotchman among others. The Tigers don’t have an option in the minors that can produce the way Martinez did.

I wouldn’t mind seeing the Tigers pick up Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes. It will cost a lot of money, but his defense and offensive potential would help.

The Tigers will rely on their pitching even more now. They have one of the best rotations in the league and that is without a set No. 5 starter.

As long as offensive production remains the same from returning players and Austin Jackson returns to his 2010 form the Tigers will be fine.

Unfortunately, the New York Yankees improved with a trade for Michael Pineda, the Los Angeles Angels improved with the signings of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson and the Texas Rangers stayed steady with the signing of Yu Darvish.

Even though the American League will be better this year than last, the AL Central will not. The Tigers could still win the division. Once that happens anything can happen in the playoffs.Tigers will still contend

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