The Detroit Tigers are going to need a new DH for the 2012 season. That much can be stated at this point. Without Victor Martinez, who will miss the season with a torn ACL, the Tigers are looking at the likes of Ryan Raburn, Andy Dirks and Don Kelly as the six feet to fill his two shoes.
Frankly, that's a plan that simply won't work. Or at least it shouldn't work, and teams are generally best served by doing things that they can reasonably expect to work. But who can the Tigers really add to make a significant upgrade? They can't go and add a bunch of lottery tickets, because the versatility of guys like Raburn and Kelly is the big reason that they're on the roster. They certainly aren't on the roster to be big boppers, which is unfortunately what Detroit needs right now.
And that has me thinking, "Who else could the Tigers go after?"
Because personally, I don't think that getting someone like Johnny Damon or Derrek Lee would be much of an upgrade, and I would be surprised if Carlos Pena can't find a decent job at first base elsewhere. But we're talking about finding a defensively-challenged hitter... every week, it seems like someone is complaining about one of these players, but this is essentially the kind of player that Detroit could use right now. Here are a few suggestions from my mind on potentially available guys that could help Detroit:
This one would probably require the Tigers to give up a decent amount of legitimate young talent, but the upside here would be huge. His performance in the majors has been a mixed bag, particularly after a brutal 49-game stint in 2011, but he's always hit well in the minors and his pedigree is top-notch. He's seemingly been falling out of favor in Toronto, where the Blue Jays are expected to use Eric Thames as their primary left fielder, and then he could replace Delmon Young in left field for 2013.
He hasn't played since 2010, but that may only serve to decrease the amount of talent that the Tigers would need to give up in a trade. Morales was an impact bat in 2009 and he's still only 28, so there are many reasons to believe that he can still be a quality player if he's healthy. In LA, Morales is somewhat superfluous at this point with other 1B/DH options like Albert Pujols, Mark Trumbo and Bobby Abreu around.
The Oakland Athletics are reportedly shopping Allen after acquiring numerous other outfield options over the winter, such as Seth Smith, Josh Reddick, Coco Crisp and Collin Cowgill. With the team looking pretty settled at first base with Daric Barton, Chris Carter and Kila Ka'aihue, there just isn't much room on Oakland's roster for a player like Allen. There would be in Detroit, though, where Allen could finally get some consistent playing time. Over 253 Triple-A games, Allen has hit .286/.401/.555 with 59 home runs.
The Washington Nationals keep saying that they're content going into 2012 with LaRoche as their starting first baseman, but it doesn't really seem like that many people believe them. Or at least, not as long as Prince Fielder is still passing through the plains of free agency. LaRoche could have a better OBP, but he'll give you roughly 25 homers annually, which would constitute an upgrade. Washington would presumably eat some of the $9 million owed to him.
Yeah, Houston would need to eat a bunch of salary. But they probably would do just that to get rid of Lee, who could still be a pretty useful hitter as he showed in 2011. The Astros still can try Brett Wallace again at first base, and they're surely aware that Lee is gone after 2012 anyways. Houston could save a few million and the Tigers could get a pretty decent DH bat in Lee.
This guy is good enough to play everyday. He's got a career line of .290/.339/.503 in 343 plate appearances, and he's versatile enough that the Tigers wouldn't be limited to using him solely as a DH. He's only 27 and he's under team control long-term, too, so this wouldn't be a rental like many of the other options I've listed. And in St. Louis, he's simply a bench bat at this point with Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran and David Freese on the corners, although they may like his presence as depth.