Tigers Facing Decision Over Magglio Ordonez’s Playing Time

August 11, 2009 – 12:03 pm by Ryan Phillips

Magglio Ordonez

Now this is what you call a rough decision.

The Detroit Tigers are currently in first place in the American League Central by three games over the Chicago White Sox. The ChiSox just added former NL Cy Young winner Jake Peavy and Alex Rios to their roster and seem poised to make a late season assault on Detroit’s lead. It seems the Tigers will need their best lineup on the field for the remainder of the season to stave off Chicago’s charge. The problem is, that may not be in the franchise’s best interest.

If Tigers slugger Magglio Ordonez gets 100 more plate appearances this season, it triggers a vesting option that owes him $18 million next year. If he doesn’t hit that mark, Detroit can decline his contract option and let him become a free agent.

Ordonez’s numbers have been fairly awful this season. He’s currently hitting .273 with six home runs, 35 RBI, an on-base percentage of .336 and he’s slugging .382. Those stats are far below what’s expected of someone currently making over $18 million for this season.

It seems like an obvious choice that the Tigers should sit him as much as possible so they don’t have to eat that contract next season, right? Well, as fate would have it, Ordonez has started to hit. He was 3-for-4 on Monday, and is hitting .357 thus far in August, with a .357 OBP and a .464 slugging percentage.

So what should the Tigers do? If they don’t play Ordonez to ensure that his contract lapses, and they fail to make the playoffs, how will they explain that to their fans? On the flip side, if they do play him, end up owing him the $18 million and then can’t go out and spend money in the offseason to improve the club, they’ll have to explain that to the fans as well.

If I was Detroit’s management, I’d say screw it and not play him. With the $30 million mistake that was Dontrelle Willis’ contract, the Tigers can’t afford to have another huge hole on their roster. Let’s not forget that Jeremy Bonderman has also made $14.38 million for essentially nothing this season. Considering that, Detroit could definitely use a hefty dose of salary relief.

When you throw in the fact that Ordonez is an ardent supporter of American-hating Venezuelan asshole dictator President Hugo Chavez, the decision should be easy. Seriously, paying $18 million to a rapidly declining, dictator-loving, communist outfielder who’s hated by his own countrymen would be a PR nightmare.

This will certainly be something to watch over the final six weeks of the season, especially if the White Sox tighten up the race in the AL Central.

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