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?