Magglio Ordonez‘s bat was just too good to keep off the field in 2008 and 2009. Normally, that wouldn’t be a bad thing, but Ordonez’s 1141 plate appearances during that stretch forced the 2010 Tigers to commit $18 million dollars to the aging outfielder. Ordonez had a good 2010, posting a .375 wOBA, but a fractured right ankle limited him to only 365 plate appearances and therefore a 2.5 WAR – again, solid, but nowhere near $18 million dollars of value.
Although it’s feasible that Ordonez could have kept the Tigers in the race – they were only 2.5 back of Chicago and 1.5 behind Minnesota at the time of the injury – the Tigers will at least avoid a second, $15 million vesting option in 2011. Ordonez’s 365 PAs to end the season easily dodged the 540 PA threshold which would have vested the option.
The Tigers still could exercise the option on their own, but there’s no way to rationalize paying a soon-to-be 36 year old slugger coming off a major injury at a 3.5-4 WAR price. Ordonez is therefore certain to hit the free agent market, where a player of his caliber – 6.6 WAR in the last three seasons – will inevitably be coveted somewhere around the league.
Ordonez’s suitors in the NL figure to be limited due to his lack of defensive value, but there should be an AL team willing to add another bat like Ordonez given the pathetic state of the DH position. Not a single team put up a better mark than Ordonez’s .375 wOBA, and only the Orioles (Luke Scott), Red Sox (David Ortiz), Twins (Jim Thome), and Rangers (Vladimir Guerrero) equaled or bettered Ordonez’s +21 run offensive projection from CHONE.
There are three players on last year’s free agent market that strike me as similar to Ordonez: Bobby Abreu, Vladimir Guerrero, and Hideki Matsui. If teams still feel that Ordonez is a legitimate right fielder – a possibility given his -7 DRS since 2008 – Abreu’s two year, $19 million deal makes a lot of sense. If he’s relegated to a DH role – a stronger possibility in my opinion, given the injury and a -15 UZR/-19 TZ since 2008 – perhaps a one year, incentive laden deal like those of Guerrero and Matsui will be all the market has for him. If CHONE’s projected value of Ordonez is on, he should look for a roughly $10 million AAV on a new contract in the field and slightly less as a primary DH.
Among teams with ideas of contention, the White Sox and Rays could take a look at Ordonez, and perhaps the Tigers could bring him back on a cheaper deal. Seattle would be a short term fit too, but they likely won’t be competing in 2011 and Ordonez probably doesn’t project as much of a long term investment, unless he’s a trade chip. Unless a team has a log jam at DH and COF, it would be hard to criticize them for bringing Ordonez on board, and at the right price, he could be the bat that vaults a team into the playoffs.
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