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.