|Ordonez’s future with Tigers|
Written by Daniel Paulling (Contact & Archive) on May 13, 2009
Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press brings up an interesting point concerning Magglio Ordonez. The right fielder has been awful to start the season, and if he reaches a certain number of plate appearances, big options for future seasons will fall into place.
It may be too early to bench or release Ordoñez , but it's not too early to wonder about him. Here are some of Ordoñez's numbers entering the Tigers' game in Minnesota Tuesday night: .241 batting average, 108 at-bats, three extra-base hits, sixth in the batting order, 35 years old. I mean, the numbers could be worse. His cholesterol level could be 500. But those numbers are disturbing.
It's not too early to ask questions. And with Ordoñez in 2009, the biggest question is this: Will he stay in the lineup?
It is a $30-million question.
At the end of this season, the Tigers will either pick up an $18-million option on Ordoñez or pay him a $3-million buyout. The Free Press Math Department tells me that's a $15-million difference. Then there is another $15-million option for 2011.
I doubt the Tigers want to pay Ordoñez $30 million when he is 36 and 37 years old. Manager Jim Leyland has already dropped him in the lineup and started to remove him for defensive purposes. You don't do that if a guy is worth $15 million a year.
But getting out of this contract is like getting out of the little island of Manhattan at rush hour: It seems like it should be easy, but it isn't. Ordoñez's agent, Scott "I know you hate me, but give me an hour and I'll get you to pay me to hate me" Boras, negotiated trigger clauses into this deal. If Ordoñez has 135 starts or 540 plate appearances this season, his 2010 option becomes guaranteed. And if he has 270 starts or 1,080 plate appearances between this season and next, his 2011 option becomes guaranteed.
Ordoñez averaged 649 plate appearances over the last three years. In other words, if Ordoñez is healthy and the Tigers don't want to pay him next year, they will have to bench or cut him this year.
With the way the economy is shaping up, Detroit probably isn't in the best position to spend big money on underperforming players. Ordonez fits into that category. He has gradually declined, both offensively and defensively, since being signed from the Chicago White Sox. And he's not getting any younger.
So, should the Tigers cut Ordonez now and save big money over the next few seasons? It's certainly makes sense when you consider Ordonez is likely to continue declining.
But there's always a downside. Should the Tigers make the wise financial situation and cut Ordonez, potential free agents are going to see how he was treated and think twice about signing contracts with vesting options. Are they, too, going to get cut before vesting big options? If they think the answer is yes, why bother signing with the Tigers?
It's kind of a darned if you do and darned if you don't situation for Detroit.