The benching of Magglio

The Tigers announced that the slumping and entirely unproductive Magglio Ordonez will be benched indefinitely. I don’t know that means he’s out of the starting lineup, or in a deep freeze. Ordonez has been a harmless groundball machine of late (though he did manage a sac fly last night). The bigger issue though surrounds his plate appearance option for next season.

As has been well documented at this point, Ordonez has an option that vest if either of these criteria are met:

  • 135 starts or 540 PA’s in 2009
  • 270 starts or 1080 PA’s in 2008-9

In 2008 Ordonez amassed 144 starts and 623 plate appearances leaving him 126 starts and 457 plate appearances away from an $18 million option. So far this year he has started 57 of the team’s 65 games and he is at 243 plate appearances meaning he is 69 starts or 214 plate appearances away.

Ordonez has been playing less of late and batting lower in the lineup. Over the team’s last 27 games Ordonez has 22 starts and 92 PA’s or 3.4 PA’s per team game. At that rate going forward Ordonez would pick up 330 more PA’s this season. Avoiding the option would mean limiting his playing time by another third.

There are 97 games left in the season. We’ve discussed why his release is unlikely but there is a small chance the Tigers could limit his plate appearances enough that the option doesn’t vest. Of course, if Ordonez continues to struggle and it means more at-bats for Josh Anderson types that is likely bad news as well.

24 Comments

  1. Kevin in Dallas

    June 18, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    HUGE. Good for DD and JL. Maggs is a professional, I’m sure he’ll take it well, and hopefully, and snap out it.

  2. Mike in CT

    June 18, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    This is way out of leftfield, but anyone else remember who the Venezuelan fans booed Ordonez unmercifully during the WBC for his support of Chavez. Wonder if that sort of thing took a lot out of him, mentally at least.

    • Matt

      June 18, 2009 at 6:51 pm

      Doubt it.

      It’s not like you really have time to think about that stuff when facing down a 95 mph hour fastball.

      The most likely explanation is simply old age combined with a lack of steroids.

      Sad but true.

  3. tigersfan182

    June 18, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    Bring up Willkin Ramirez to play for Maggs and send Kelly Down. He would give a bid of pop and speed, not to mention “younger legs” as Rod would say.

    • Brenden

      June 18, 2009 at 7:29 pm

      I agree, bring up Ramirez. He may just surprise us.

  4. Mat

    June 18, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    I would think a grievance would be filed if the Tigers don’t play him enough to avoid the option. The grievance would have a much better chance of winning if Ordonez’s replacement produces at the level Anderson/Thomas/etc. have. If the Tiger’s want to avoid a big fine they may want to find (read: trade for) a legit OF bat.

    • RPS

      June 18, 2009 at 7:23 pm

      I would have agreed with this a month ago, but the longer the season goes, the easier it gets to make the case that benching a terrible defensive outfielder with a sub-.700 OPS is performance based.

      With the writing on the wall like this, would there be any precedent (would it even be legal?) to an agreement between Magglio and the team to reduce his option next year to, say, $7 mill and agree that it will be picked up? Seems like something like that may be the best way out for both parties. At this point, the Tigers may be willing to take on the Union to avoid the option, and without the option, Magglio makes maybe two million dollars next year.

      • scotsw

        June 19, 2009 at 8:52 am

        I agree that restructuring the contract is in the best interests of both the Tigers and Ordonez. He certainly doesn’t want to face free-agency negotiations based on this year’s body of work, and there seems to me a good chance that Ordonez comes back around to be a productive hitter.

        There is NO WAY the Tigers are going to let his options vest playing this way. That’s not a baseball decision, that’s a business decision. After throwing good money at Robertson, Willis, Bonderman, Sheffield and Guillen for about zero production, I’m sure there’s no appetite for wasting more millions. If money was no factor, you’d ride out Maggs’ slump because he’s played well enough long enough to warrant that.

  5. Anson

    June 18, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    Is this going to be along the lines of “Granderson is our leadoff hitter”?

  6. David

    June 18, 2009 at 7:23 pm

    Good, they are being prudent!

    I’ll preface this by saying – this is stating the obvious but, the only way Ordonez is worth anything to this team is if he is producing.

    Doing this now (with a bit of time) keeps them in good shape in case he decides to start hitting again.

  7. J Ellet Lambie

    June 18, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    Nice work Billfer, you did a great job of laying out the numbers. Everyone has been talking about the 540 PA/135 starts for ’09 but not many people knew the cumulative numbers had him so close already. This move tells me that DD is working on a trade for a corner outfielder, which is good news, unless it’s Adam Dunn.

  8. RPS

    June 18, 2009 at 7:35 pm

    The more stats I look at, the more I think the Tigers could get away with this:

    Magglio: .273/.347/.343 defense = Magglio
    Raburn: .234/.330/.429 defense > Magglio
    Thomas: .237/.315/.412 defense >> Magglio

    Unless the ABs go to Anderson, the RF replacements are as good or slightly better offensively, and much better defensively.

  9. jay

    June 18, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    is granderson starting tonight?

  10. Pingback: Magglio Ordonez benched, but for how long? | Mack Avenue Tigers

  11. jud

    June 18, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    Thank You Tiger brass at least you are trying something and this is a good start benching Maggs….next

  12. Dave111

    June 18, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    We make a lot of jokes at Maggs expense but I’d happliy buy him a drink once a week for the rest of his life in thanks for the ALCS winning homer in 2006.

  13. Coleman

    June 18, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    Maggs has done everything right as far as I can see–there’s no lack of effort, his head seems in the game, he’s managing to work a few more walks than usual to make up for the lack of hitting–he’s just not hitting anything. i don’t think too many fans are enjoying his struggles…

  14. mhideg@hotmail.com

    June 18, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    I only found 2 games last year he played in but did not start so I have him at 144 Games Started and then 623 PA in 2008. Then for 2009 I have him at 57 games started and 242 PA. So he would need to start 69 more games this year(after the game tonight we have 96 left) or have just 215 more PA for this to kick in. So basically we are going to have to seriously bench him for a long time or release him for that not to happen.

    I think the benching is the first step and then he will get another chance to produce which if he doesn’t I think we will release him. Or we could trade for another RF and argue we got a better player and then release him.

  15. Birdy

    June 19, 2009 at 6:21 am

    I’d like you to revisit the “his release is unlikely” topic. Even the article you link to says that Glavine would likely have a difficult time winning his grievance, as teams generally don’t have to prove much in these cases. I don’t know if anyone has this information available, but maybe the language of the contract could give some clues. If it mentions injuries specifically being the determining factor whether he gets the necessary PA’s, which I think is highly unlikely, then maybe he would have a case.
    From the limited research I’ve done, I think that Ordoñez would also have a hard time winning a grievance case, which of course leads me to think the Tigers are much more likely to release him, sooner than later.

  16. Jerry the Tiger Fan

    June 19, 2009 at 9:28 am

    Good point Birdy. The Tigers are in good shape to win any grievance that Maggs or his agent might file if the Tigers release him. He isn’t producing….period. If Maggs was producing at 2007 levels and then the Tigers suddenly sat him they would be screwed. However, that is not the case and hopefully DD will not cave to any Player’s Union/agent pressure. Maggs is old and well past his prime. He doesn’t deserve the $30 mill over the next two years.

    • JB61973

      June 19, 2009 at 11:39 am

      What about the other players ont he team and other free agents? I mean, I would guess that other guys on the team think that they still have a better chance to win with Magglio than they do with Don kelly or Ryan Raburn playing. The players already know that Willis was brought in because of money and if you now sit a player to avoid his contract htat is the completely wrong message to send to the current players and future free agents. This is a delicate situation for the Tigers and i think they need to be careful how they handle it.

  17. Craig

    June 19, 2009 at 9:32 am

    I’ll admit I’m a bit of a numbers Geek.

    Looking at what Magglio has already done this year and combined with last years number, the plate appearances are a much bigger concern than Games started. Magglio averages about 4.2 PA’s per game, and must have less that 69 starts and less than 215 PA’s, however is Magglio starts 69 games we can project that to 289 PA’s way over the number that guarentees is option. Basically Magglio needs to start less than 50 games which would be 210 PA’s, but that means absolutely no pinch hitting. The numbers are still going to be a challenge to meet, Magglio would have to play equivelent to the amount of time that Clete Thomas has played this year, and Clete is not currently on the team nor did he start the season with the club, meaning that in order for this to work to the Tigers advantage and avoid the option, Magglio will still need either an extended stay on the DL or to be released.

  18. cib

    June 19, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    I’m with Dave111, that feeling never goes away! And I am pretty certain that part of Magglio’s slump is the distraction of his wife’s illness. Nobody is hitting that great and I regret seeing him singled out in this manner.

  19. Kathy

    June 19, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    It may be a combination of several things. However, knowing how Maggs is a family man, his wife’s illness must be killing him.