The Problem With Magglio

Contractual ethics are always fun to discuss. Whether they be service time (Dave will cover that) or based on incentives. The philosophy of handing out playing time incentives is pretty simple. The only way the player can earn the money (or added option year, new car, whatever the two agreed on) is to play well, stay healthy, or have a manager who hates his owner. It seems like losing on a playing time incentive is impossible for a time. Either the player earns the money and the added benefit, or you simply don’t play him. Simple right?

It is, except when the player is 35-years-old, doesn’t really fit anymore, and shows signs of slowing down. Oh, and the option is for 18 million. The problem here is that Magglio Ordonez isn’t a bad player, per se, but the idea of paying him next year when he turns 36 is, well … on a 1-10 scale of unattractiveness, the proposition ranks as “cat”.

So Jim Leyland has 50 games to juggle Ordonez’ playing time just enough in order to prevent the option from vesting. Ordonez’ has 990 plate appearances since 2008, the clause needs 1,080 during 2008 and 2009 to kick in; Ordonez’ also has 231 starts and the clause requires 270. 50 games, 90 plate appearances or 39 starts to avoid.

To avoid having a grievance filed on behalf of Ordonez, the Tigers need an excuse to prove they are only sitting Ordonez because his performance is detrimental to the team’s success. Thankfully for them, they have an excuse built in. Ordonez is hitting quite poor against right-handed pitchers. His line .253/.322/.339 this year with two home runs – and yes, we should always use multiple year data, but if grievances are anything like free agency compensation rankings, arbitration, or awards, or anything else in baseball determined by stats, the only thing that matters is batting average, home runs, and runs batted during this season – while Ordonez’ teammates, Clete Thomas and Marcus Thames, are batting .253 (with more home runs) and .252 (with more home runs). Ergo, both are more productive and should be playing over Ordonez.

Unless the American League Central plans to force the Tigers hand by intentionally starting southpaws against them*, the Tigers can make it known they only wish to give Ordonez plate appearances against lefties. Theoretically ending any hope of 39 starts or 90 plate appearances. Of course, there’s always the question as to whether the Tigers should worry more about the playoffs than the money, but, that’s for another day.

*The Tigers play the Royals nine more times. How amusing would it be to see the Royals send out random minor league lefty after random minor league lefty to force the Tigers hands? I mean, they may have to call on guys out of baseball, like Bruce Chen but still.

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16 Responses to “The Problem With Magglio”

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  1. Michael says:

    “…on a 1-10 scale of unattractiveness, the proposition ranks as ‘cat.'”

    Aside from putting the punctuation outside the quotes as opposed to inside, that as very funny. Is “cat” really that low on the scale?

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  2. JTE says:

    At this point, his playing time would have to be cut so dramatically that it will be difficult to keep him from the PA threshold without it looking all kinds of skunky. They announced that Mags was going to be sitting most of the time quite a while ago and didn’t follow through and now they’re stuck. Being in the postseason race doesn’t help them out either. If they sit him and then miss the playoffs, even if his being out of the lineup isn’t the cause of it, they will still get roasted in the press and by many fans of the team as though it was.

    I think he is with the Tigers, getting paid $18M next season.

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  3. brett says:

    I don’t know how they screwed this one up, but you’re right, Leyland has played him to the point that it will look terribly obvious if/when they try to shut him down over the last month. I don’t see how they can get away with it.

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    • walkoffblast says:

      As someone who has been following the Magglio contract situation all season the Tigers are not above trying obvious unjustified measures to cause him to miss the option. Will they for sure do it again with the race for the playoffs so close? That is the interesting question. I do not think they will yet but if they slip a little further they may have to try and avoid the disaster of both missing the playoffs and the option kicking in.

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  4. archilochusColubris says:

    I seemed to get the impression from the article that both the PA and GS thresholds were needed for the option to vest. The PA one is near-impossible for the Tigers to dodge at this point, but couldn’t they avoid the GS one within reason?

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  5. Chris in Dallas says:

    Now it’s more difficult to sit him as he’s actually been hitting the ball decently over the last month or so (.306/.342/.528). Considering his track record in a Tigers uniform, it’s kind of hard to keep him out of the lineup if you think he’s finally figured out the cause of his season long suckiness, particularly with a tenuous 2 game lead in the division. And there’s the possibility that Mike Illitch said “screw it, I’ll pay the $18 million – just win”.

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  6. aweb says:

    No idea why, if Ordonez is struggling, it would be a concern to their playoff hopes whether they play him or not. It’s possible he’s turned it around somewhat, but if there are better options, especially against RHP, then sitting him is not only the fiscally prudent choice, but the best for winning games as well. Unless sitting a long-time Tiger would throw the clubhouse off, or something like that. Players want the best shot at winning too, probably far, far more than management does (who concern themselves with profit) – it shouldn’t be a hard sell for a good manager to make to his team.

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  7. Nate says:

    They could always go old school and pull a Tonya Harding…

    PS: Mags is starting today against a righty… maybe they just decided to eat the money.

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  8. JS says:

    Well, he’s starting today and Thames isn’t. And Boston has a righty on the mound…

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  9. Mike Rogers says:

    The Tigers have been playing him regularly, against RH and LH the last couple of weeks. And, with as terrible as he’s been, it’d be a VERY hard case, in my opinion, for the Union to prove it was based on contractual obligations. The facts are that he’s not been good this year and not helping the team win games in the midst of a division title race. I think it’d be thrown out rather quickly, actually.

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  10. Dave in DC says:

    You statheads always overthink things.
    Maggs post-all star game OPS: .870
    Maggs august OPS: .949

    The Tigers are in a tight playof race. They are going to play their best players in an effort to win, which is why you play the game.

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  11. TJ says:

    yea ive been on magglio countdown the past 2-3 months and what ive seen the past 3 weeks hes gonna meet his contract easily, sad to say but a small hot streak is gonna cost the tigers about 18mil in improvements in the offseason, but honestly jim leyland is a very incompetant manager, so is their hitting coach lloyd mcclendon, leyland has no clue what direction he wants to take the team in one week we are a team who bunts 4 times a game for verious reasons, including suicide sqeezes, the next we can only score by getting it over the fence, also sac bunts but what can you do when your manager predates the pyramids, he aslo shows bizare loyalties to horrible players such as ryan rayburn who has to have the worst ball catching skills of any outfielder i have ever seen (hes droped like 5 easy fly balls from a backup role this season) and mcclendon only knows how to teach an upper cut swing, but the tigers broadcasters defend these two relentlessly which prevents many tigers fans from relizing how bad these guys are.

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