There’s been a popular refrain that the Tigers will trade Magglio Ordonez this offseason. The thinking is that a)Magglio is a pretty good player and b)the Tigers would free up salary and c)the Tigers could get prospects to fill needs or even just replenish the farm system. While tenet A is true, parts B and C unfortunately are near mutually exclusive.
Ordonez is certainly a good player. He has a .380 wOBA this season which is a little more than 2 wins above average. Defensively it depends who you ask. He’s either a little below average or average-ish. In the interest of pumping up his value, we’ll call him an average fielder.
We’ll come back to value in a minute. But for now we’ll focus on his contract. Ordonez has one more guaranteed year on his deal at $18 million for 2009. There are then 2 club options – sort of. They are club options that can also vest due to playing time. If Ordonez makes 135 starts next year or 540 plate appearances the two options years become guaranteed at $15 million per. Or, if he has 1080 plate appearances between 08 and 09 they vest.
Ordonez is at 555 PA’s this year and will likely finish right around 600 for the season. Meaning he’ll only need 480 PA’s next year. Presumably a team isn’t going to trade for a player with the hope he gets injured, let’s assume that Ordonez plays a full year and his real remaining contract is 3 years and $48 million.
Ordonez will be 35 next year, so his contract extends through his age 37 season. Would you sign a 35 year old above average corner outfielder to a 3 year, $48 million deal?
To answer this, we can turn to a methodology that we tapped in the offseason to evaluate free agent deals. If we deem Ordonez to be a 2 win above average player (which is reasonable since his current season is close to his career numbers) that makes him 4 wins above replacement level. We penalize him a half win for aging and another half win for being a corner outfielder (he’d get bonus points for playing short or center or catcher) making him 3 wins above replacement. Using this table, that would a 3 year deal worth $35.9 million. Now that was last year, so if we add on 10% inflation it brings a 3 year deal to $40 million-ish.
So Magglio’s deal isn’t particularly attractive one if you were signing him as a free agent. So why would a team give up any prospects of value (or even not of value) to acquire him and his salary? The Tigers could send some money along with the deal, but then they are paying a handsome sum for prospects, plus they would be losing production in right field. And as much as we may like Matt Joyce, Ordonez is a solid bet to put up better numbers. Plus I don’t see the Tigers abandoning contention in 2009. The moves that have been made the last 2 years have been to give the Tigers a 2-3 year window to compete. Next year will not be a rebuilding year – at least not out of spring training.
I just don’t see a scenario where it makes sense for the Tigers to move Ordonez (unless another team is really dumb).