This whole release Ordonez business

There has been a growing sentiment that the Tigers need to release Magglio Ordonez. Ordonez has a very expensive $18 million option for 2010 that will automatically vest if Ordonez notches 249 more plate appearances this season. He also has a $15 million option for 2011 that vests if he has 270 starts or 1080 plate appearances between 2009 and 2010 (info from Cot’s Contracts). I think it is clear to everyone that Ordonez is a very long shot produce like a “$15 million player.” But if the Tigers cut him, it won’t be as simple as walking away from money owed.

Ken Rosenthal, in an article about a potential grievance that Tom Glavine may file after his release, points out that the CBA prohibits teams from cutting players for financial reasons. Ordonez has been struggling this year and a sub .400 slugging percentage isn’t at all sufficient. But the Tigers would be hard pressed to prove that even at his current numbers, cutting Ordonez wasn’t a financially motivated decision.

When Gary Sheffield was released, he was still going to get his money regardless. There was no financial motivation. With Ordonez there are two things working against the Tigers releasing him for performance based reasons. First, while the slugging percentage is low he does have the 3rd highest on base percentage on the team. The performance isn’t satisfactory or sufficient but he’s also far from a black hole in the lineup. He also has enough of a track record that I think the numbers do improve, probably not to his career levels, but I think they will be better.

Second, there is no argument to be made that his position on the roster is blocking anyone. There isn’t a stud prospect waiting in the wings and he’s not taking at-bats from anyone more deserving. it’s possible Wilkin Ramirez could become that guy, but he sure isn’t there yet.

Cutting Ordonez is the right move on the surface because he won’t perform like a guy who will make $33 million the next two years, but I’m pretty sure the Tigers knew that when they signed him in the first place. They had to pay the Tigers Tax for their years of futility to get Ordonez in the fold. So the Tigers knew they would be in the situation when they inked the deal.

Lastly, if you’re a believer in clubhouse chemistry, how do you think it would play for the other 24 guys to see their organization dump a guy to avoid paying him?


  1. Kathy

    June 7, 2009 at 10:27 am

    Good point, Billfer!

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  3. T Smith

    June 7, 2009 at 10:39 am

    Unless Ordonez slides down to Ortiz-like numbers as he approaches that magic plate apparance number that will guarantee his 2010 option, the Tigers will not release him. The Sheff situation was entirely different.

  4. Kurt

    June 7, 2009 at 11:19 am

    Well said. Plus, if they want to win the division this year, what in the world are they going to replace him with? He may not be worth a boatload of money, but he’s still one of the top 3 bats on the team. Release that and it’s all overwith but the crying.

  5. Zach

    June 7, 2009 at 11:54 am

    I agree completely. I’d love the Tigers to have that $33 million at their disposal the next two winters, but releasing Ordonez would likely cause far more harm from an organizational standpoint than the benefit it may create for slightly better production (and that’s no guarantee.)

    Besides, I think it’s far more likely the Tigers will eventually have to release Guillen instead.

  6. Casey

    June 7, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    Finally, some sense being made!

  7. Coach Jim

    June 7, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    I never considered releasing Maggs. Whoever started this idea has a short-term view in a long-haul game.

  8. rings

    June 7, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    Great post and excellent points, all regarding Ordonez, with your final sentence perhaps the strongest. May I also add two additional numbers?

    .349 & .419

    This is Maggs’ average and OBP over the past month. As bad as the Tigers offense has been, where would it be without him in the middle? This speculation is the product of an ill-informed minority, which jumped on a slow start or his supposed “lack” of XBH, or a couple of newspapers trying to create a controversy. Either way, its nonsense.
    The Tigers knew upon signing him that he’d be in decline by the end of the deal, but I’ll take a guy “declining” with the above numbers any day.
    Every deal isn’t going to be perfect, but by far more important than Maggs – from whom we’re still getting production – is the money wasted on a poor deals for Sheffield, Willis, Mesa, Lyon, Perez, Robertson, Bonderman, etc.

  9. John

    June 7, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    Nice find on the CBA!

  10. sid

    June 7, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    I think a lot of people must have amnesia. Wasn’t it Magglio that recently produced the highest batting average in the majors in years. This guy can hit and he will produce again. Just clear your head of politics Magglio. You are intitled to your own opinion just as others are but I would say just keep it to yourself and concentrate on crushing that ball. That should be enough to put a smile back on your face. Enjoy the rest of the year because better times are coming.

  11. Andrew

    June 7, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    Excellent points, Billfer. Finally a common sense approach to this issue. Kudos!

  12. Chris Y.

    June 7, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    Mr. Henning and Sharp are well know idiots, so I wouldn’t put much stock in their ill-composed drivel. Ordonoz is not experiencing the same downturn as Ortiz, not even close (.197/.288/.308 vs. .280/.362/.354). And with his recent surge, slugging is the only thing left to come back around.

    Bottom line: Big bucks or not, the Tigers need Ordonez. Even if it’s only 3/4 of the whole Ordonez.

    No way the Tigers dump him. No way. It’s far more likely that the DetNews and Freep will close than Ordonez gets cut (not just a bit because of a general unwillingness to pay for the crud that these sports “reporters” pedal). It’s Henning and Sharp, and their industry — for good reason, that are having the Ortiz-like downturn.

    • MacD

      June 7, 2009 at 8:53 pm

      I am so glad to finally hear someone call Henning out. He has an almost supernatural ability to be wrong about everything he says. Let’s leave implausible ideas that lack better solutions (who would they replace him with who would do better?) to the radio waves.

  13. David

    June 7, 2009 at 10:28 pm

    I’m not for cutting Ordonez…yet.

    The slugging is below the OB%, he is on pace for what? upper 60/70rbi? Yes he has done better lately and has hit his patented ground balls through the right side.

    And you are right when you say he is/has been a big part of this team and it would be demoralizing right now for him to be cut.

    If I were DD and co. I would wait it out. For several reasons.

    1) Because it is a lot of $$$, a lot of $$$. And if he is basically a DH who has regressed, he is not worth it.

    2) Because after the 2010 season when he is going on 37 years old (not this season) there are several very interesting possible FA that we could go after.

    I like him a lot, and think he has been a large factor in our team.

    I think he will get on a tear and finish the season at close to career norms. But, if he doesn’t and it looks like he is regressing you got to know when to send him away.

    If he doesn’t hit well this year, and next year is showing signs that this year (assuming he didn’t hit well) wasn’t a fluke then I would make it so he misses the cutoff for PA/Games.

    That is still a long way away though, right now I’d make sure he was in the lineup in some way nearly every day. This whole thing is premature and is better discussed IMO this offseason.

  14. Jerry the Tiger Fan

    June 7, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    Ordonez isn’t producing….period. The Tigers can point to not getting anywhere near the production from Ordonez that they got in earlier years from him, perhaps they could point to other players who have had big contracts and were released by their teams.

    As far as it sending a message to the players, how about produce or you are not going to get paid (assuming they have club option years in their contract) as a message. This is a results-based game and the Tigers don’t need to be on the hook for another $15 for a singles hitter (which is what Ordonez has become)with limited defensive ability. Wilkins Ramirez could produce a better slugging percentage and probably hit somewhere close to Maggs’ .280 this year. Hell, I’d take .255 with an increased SLG percentage (which Ramirez would almost certainly supply). The Tigers don’t owe Maggs anything next year. He has been handsomely rewarded in a financial sense ever since signing with Detroit. Its not as though we’ve been getting a hometown discount from the guy and now that he’s about to get paid we’re letting him go. He’s been paid and he’s earned the money up until this year. Did anyone ever think that maybe the Tigers put the AB/plate appearances option in the contract so that they could protect themselves from paying a guy big money who’s on the decline?

    • David

      June 7, 2009 at 11:54 pm

      You’re right, but I think its wise in this case to hold off judgment on him for a bit, due to his long track record. He is slow, and is a below average/horrible outfielder most of the time, so IF he can’t hit and hit with authority then he isn’t worth it.

      Also June is far and away his best month of the year, with an OPS of nearly 100 points higher than in nearly any other month.

      Basically though you can look at this another way.

      If you play him and let these two OPTIONS vest then you are basically resigning him at age 35 for 2 years and 33mil.

      Also to say he isn’t blocking anyone might be somewhat true in the sense that we don’t have any stud outfielders. But the guys sitting behind him (Thomas, Raburn and Thames) aren’t exactly scrubs either as we saw today.

      Just for a fun experiment lets combine Raburn and Thomas’ stats and see how they stack up against Ordonez – this is nothing to say of arm strength or speed.

      Raburn and Thomas
      157 AB 27 runs 7 doubles 1 triple 7hrs 29rbi 69total bases

      189AB 25 runs 8 doubles 0 triple 2 hrs 21 rbi 67 total bases

      I’m just thinking what would happen if you were able to use that $$ and the Sheff $$$ that comes off the books towards several things

      Joe Mauer? Roy Halladay? another FA? Verlander’s contact, possibly Jackson’s contract etc.

      And like you mentioned with Ramirez we have and/or are likely to have several decent hitting OF who could produce somewhat at maybe 1/50th the cost!!!!!!!!!!!

      Still I’d wait to see if he starts mashing this month, if not then they might want to consider their options.

  15. West Coast Tiger

    June 7, 2009 at 11:30 pm

    This is ridiculous. Magglio will play a key role in this team making the playoffs, and by the way he is hitting 360 the las several weeks. Why not release Miguel. He obviously is not contributing.

  16. West Coast Tiger

    June 7, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    This is ridiculous. Magglio will play a key role in this team making the playoffs, and by the way he is hitting 360 the las several weeks. Why not release Miguel. He obviously is not contributing.

  17. West Coast Tiger

    June 7, 2009 at 11:36 pm

    I think it was the Right decision to send Larrish down. He is struggling against Big league piitching and the K’s have been killing the Tigers. I would imagine we will see him again and hopefully he can work out the hitting in Toledo. He has impressed on Defense especailly his abillity to cover foul territory.

  18. Kevin

    June 8, 2009 at 2:35 am

    I watched the Philly/Dodgers game tonight. Has anyone seen what Juan Pierre is doing in Manny’s absence? What would it take to get him? Even if Maggs doesn’t turn it around, it would be nice to see some clutch hitting. Monroe did it in 2006. We just seem to be missing that “spark” this season. I saw what Clete did today, but the bats went quite the whole week. Maggs should stay!

    • RPS

      June 8, 2009 at 9:32 am

      It would take assuming his terrible contract. No chance. Even if it was doable, don’t be fooled by a hot month. Juan Pierre is still a marginal major leaguer. Remember, Timo Perez can hit .400 for a month.

  19. scotsw

    June 8, 2009 at 9:27 am

    What are the prospects of renegotiating his deal to take a few million off his next two option years in exchange for a third option year?

    I like Maggs a lot, and think he may simply be the victim of a very poorly timed slump, coming as it does in a big option year. I think his wife’s health issues may be weighing on him more than we know, and don’t think you can simply attribute his struggles to insta-aging. So yeah, I’d expect to see him bounce back, possibly significantly.

    • David

      June 8, 2009 at 12:26 pm

      Well right now he is playing slightly better than Polanco. So what is he worth? 5mil/year?

      That’s 1/3 of the 15mil, and about 2/7 of the 18mil.

      Even if he plays a lot better there is good reason to believe that he wont produce like he has in recent years.

      If he shows hes got his stroke back soon then fine, otherwise oh well. Its June and he is hitting like a AA player and you don’t throw 33mil at a 35 year old AA player do you?

      I like seeing kids anyways. Lets keep the team young and injury free please!

      • scotsw

        June 8, 2009 at 5:02 pm

        I think Billfer has already established that they can’t cut him just to avoid vesting his options. So my approach is, maybe he could be persuaded to restructure his contract in such a way that there’s more upside for Maggs if he’s playing well, and more insurance for the Tigers in case he isn’t.

      • billfer

        June 9, 2009 at 5:12 am

        If he shows hes got his stroke back soon then fine, otherwise oh well. Its June and he is hitting like a AA player and you don’t throw 33mil at a 35 year old AA player do you?

        But the Tigers already threw the money at him when they signed him to the contract. Now they’ll have to pay him. You can’t release him to avoid the money because the union would be all over the Tigers.

        • David

          June 9, 2009 at 12:06 pm

          Then why were those two options put in there? As a joke?

          I thought that money isn’t a sure thing. This isn’t a buyout case right? like Sheff’s was and Pudge’s was

          Why just not sit him, and say it was due to a lack of performance(which is the TRUTH) so the options don’t kick in.


          “Detroit has a $15 million option for 2010 with a $3 million buyout and a $15 million option for 2011 with no buyout. In addition, Ordonez’s salary in each of the option years would become guaranteed if he has 135 starts or 540 plate appearances in the previous season or 270 starts or 1,080 plate appearances in the previous two seasons. If his 2010 salary becomes guaranteed under this provision, it would be at $18 million. The 2011 salary would be $15 million.”

          Still they should want to get out of paying him for 2011.

          • Andre in Chi

            June 9, 2009 at 12:55 pm

            The options were primarily a way to insure the Tigers against a recurrence of his knee injury.

            As to sitting him to avoid the options taking effect, you might save some (ok, a lot) money in short term, but as Billfer points out, there really aren’t any MLB-ready prospects in the system that Maggs is blocking.

            In addition, sitting a guy so that clauses don’t vest sends a bad message to potential free-agents around the league. As this post mentions, the Tigers knew they were going to have to throw a lot of money to get a guy like Maggs to come to a team like Detroit (at the time).

            As a comparison, cutting an overwhelmingly under performing Sheffield who seemed clearly on the decline (both physically and statistically) was one thing. Even though the Tigers let him go, they still had to honor the contract. It showed a willingness to win, regardless of cost. Sitting Maggs in order to avoid vesting would send a different message entirely. He hasn’t shown the same proneness to injury or lack of production that Sheff did, and despite the slump is 3rd on the team in OBP. Sitting him would show a willingness to cut cost, regardless of desire to win (who’s a better option than Maggs right now?).

            Asking him to voluntarily restructure is something else, but I think its tacky. Again, we knew we would overpay to get Maggs to come to Detroit, and there’s a good chance that his signing paved the way for a lot of subsequent quality players coming to town who otherwise would not have. I think these remaining years are a fair price to pay.

            I just keep thinking of the scene in “Eight Men Out” where the owner won’t pay his pitcher the win bonus because the guy is one win short after being sat for an entire month for no reason. I don’t like talk of doing something similar to Maggs.

  20. Angie

    June 8, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    I think Billfer’s last point is his strongest. Ordoñez has done good things for this team the past few years. A lot of the Tigers’ promotional activities have revolved around Ordoñez over the past few years, and you see his name on people’s t-shirts a lot. Are some of our long-term players – Cabrera, Granderson, Verlander, for examples – going to want to stay put if they’ve seen the team dump Magglio? Plus, even outside of the Tigers’ clubhouse, I feel like this would greatly impact how willing free agents would be to sign with the Tigers. Good players, especially later in their careers when they know they’re likely to have a downturn similar to Magglio’s, would be really reluctant to sign with us and we would probably have to pay more for them.

    To be fair, Magglio’s had a tough year personally so far. First, there was the whole debacle with his politics and the way the crowds were treating him at the WBC. I feel like that contributed to his slow start. And then there was the health issues with his wife, which would be stressful for anyone. I’m hopeful that things will calm down for him in the second half, and he’ll be to just relax and think about baseball, and then his numbers will improve.

    • David

      June 8, 2009 at 3:40 pm

      Or people are held accountable. Veteran FA players (over 34) usually don’t get signed to long term deals, and have many clauses built into their contract to protect the team from injury/a guy “falling off the table”.

      Cabby isn’t going anywhere – he is signed for a long time. Same with Granderson. I don’t think it would affect Verlander’s decision much either, assuming that money was well spent towards his contract 😉 and the contract of lets say Joe Mauer/other young stud coming here in his prime (which may be or may not be a pipe dream).

      Magglio needs to catch fire soon for his sake and ours, because right now it looks like there is a decision to be made.

      • Angie

        June 8, 2009 at 8:12 pm

        There’s a difference between being held accountable and being trigger happy. Sheffield was cut because he essentially did nothing for two years. Magglio has been worth his contract up until this half of this season. There’s still a lot of baseball to be played this year, so deciding anything in the near future would not be wise.

        And I know that Cabrera, Granderson, and Verlander aren’t going anywhere – it’s not like they can work out a trade themselves 🙂 . But there’s usually a difference in the performance of a player who feels secure and a player who’s looking over his shoulder, wondering if a slow stretch could result in them being cut or unloaded on to a non-contender (obviously, none of these are even close to being cut, but somewhere down the road, they might be more comfortable if their club doesn’t have a history of quickly getting rid of players who have done big things for the organization). Along that line, though, I wouldn’t want to be David Ortiz right now 🙁 .

        And while the power numbers haven’t been there, his average has picked up quite a bit in the past month or so. Hopefully that’s a sign of things to come!

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