First off is the complaint, and then I’ll get down to business. I don’t know if we’re really paying for the futility of this team for the past several years, but under no circumstances does Magglio Ordonez warrant this kind of money. Even if 2004 is a fluke, and Ordonez never hits the DL, I doubt if he’ll produce to the point to where he’s “worth” what we’re paying him.
With that said, Detroit doesn’t seem like a popular place. Whether it’s the losing, or the grim reputation of the city, it seems most players demand some sort of premium to come play here. The last couple of years we’ve paid that premium, and I really, really hope it never comes back to haunt us.
So, let’s break down what we’ll be paying him:
2005 – $12 million (includes $6 million signing bonus)
2006 – $15 million
2007 – $12 million
2008 – $15 million
2009 – $18 million
2010 – $3 million (with a team option of $15 milion)
2011 – Team option for $15 million
If Ordonez has 135 starts or 540 plate appearances in 2009, or 270 starts or 1,080 plate appearances combined in 2008 and 2009, then the 2010 option becomes guaranteed at $18 million. If the same set of circumstance occur in 2009 and 2010, then the 2011 option is guaranteed at $15 million.
Ordonez’s best hitting season was 2002. His 38 homers, .320 batting average, and .597 slugging were all career highs. He had an equivalent average of .313, and a WARP1 of 7.5. 2003 was probably his best all around season. For the first time since 1999, he posted a positive fielding runs above average (12) and ended up with a WARP1 of 8.3. Regardless, from 2000 through 2003, he had no worse then a .371 OBP. This is one valuable player.
Bobby Higginson was the closest thing to the Tigers starting right fielder last season. While he seemed to struggle at the plate, he did post a .353 OBP. Unfortunately, it wasn’t for a lot of pop. In 2005, he’ll be five years removed from his career year when he had the likes of Juan Gonzelez, Dean Palmer, and Tony Clark hitting around him. But, he did post a WARP1 of 3.4 last year.
So even with Ordonez’s best year, he’s still barely five wins better then Higginson. Granted Higginson might not be around next year, but is it worth paying $12 million for five more wins.
Of course this isn’t all bad. For the first time since probably Cecil Fielder (I don’t count the one year Juan Gon played in Detroit), the Tigers have a bona fide clean up hitter. Here’s what I project the Tigers “regular” starting lineup to look like:
1) Alex Sanchez CF
2) Carlos Guillen SS
3) Ivan Rodriguez C
4) Magglio Ordonez RF
5) Dmitri Young DH
6) Rondell White LF
7) Carlos Pena 1b
8) Brandon Inge 3b
9) Omar Infante 2b
Now I don’t know about you, but that looks like a pretty solid lineup. Probably the best lineup the Tigers have had since 2000, and possibly ever back to when Sparky was the manager. I know Ordonez and Guillen might not start the first month, but when all these guys are in there, we’re going to have some punch.
Ideally, we trade Rondell White and get some help at third base or pitcher. That would allow Tram to play Higginson or Craig Monroe in leftfield. I like Inge at third, but he’s probably best suited to filling in wherever Tram needs him. Slotting him as a starter at third means we lose some versatility.
And hopefully we also trade Sanchez. I forsee him struggling in the middle of the season, and Curtis Granderson getting the nod to start the last couple of months. Hopefully, he’ll be helping the Tigers in a race for the AL Central.