The Detroit Tigers were arguably the American League’s biggest disappointment this year. They beefed up payroll and landed Miguel Cabrera through a key trade only to find their pitching in shambles. Their 74-88 last-place finish was not expected.
Now, as the Tigers dig out from this debacle, the team has a few tough decisions to make. One of them surrounds Magglio Ordoñez. The Tigers’ right fielder is due $18 million in 2009, and the team holds two options for 2010 and 2011. This contract severely limits the team’s financial flexibility, and as MLB Trade Rumors pointed out earlier this week, the Tigers may try to move Ordoñez.
To that end, long-time RAB reader Justin wrote to me this week:
What would it take to trade for Magglio Ordonez? The Tigers need to shed payroll and Magglio is still a very productive right fielder, certainly more so than Bobby Abreu. What about a package of Kennedy, Nady and someone like Marquez for Magglio with the yanks taking on his full salary?
Now, Ordoñez on the surface is certainly an attractive target. He’s always crushed the Yankees both at Yankee Stadium and in either Chicago or Detroit. But this may be another case of A.J. Burnett syndrome where the target looks more appealing than he actually is. Let’s hit the numbers.
Ordoñez is actually six weeks older than the Yanks’ current incumbent right fielder, and their numbers are fairly identical. In 2008, Abreu hit .296/.371/.471 with 20 home runs and Ordoñez hit .317/.376/.494 with 21 home runs. In terms of park effects, Ordoñez’s home splits were significantly better than his road splits (.350/.397/.577 and 13 HR vs. .286/.356/.415 with 8 HR) while Abreu’s numbers display a similar but not quite as dramatic split. Comerica Park did not play any more a role of a pitcher’s park as Yankee Stadium did last year.
Sabermetrically, the two in 2008 were nearly the same as well. Ordoñez’s VORP of 38.3 was a hair higher than Abreu’s 36.1 mark. These trends project over the course of their careers as well, as the two have very similar career lines. The differences then are in the terms of their contracts. Abreu is a free agent at age when teams are looking to shed 35-year-old outfielders; Ordoñez is still under contract at a high price for at least another year and possibly two more after that.
To that end, I’d say pass on Ordoñez. He doesn’t incrementally add much to the Yankee roster that the team couldn’t add by re-signing Abreu. Plus, he’s going to cost, at least for 2009, significantly more than Bobby, and the Tigers will ask for something beyond fiscal relief in a trade. If the Yankees are interested in Ordoñez, they may as well just stick with Abreu for less money, and they wouldn’t have to give up prospects to boot.
Of course, if the Yankees pass on re-signing Abreu and need a warm body in the outfield until Austin Jackson is ready, they could do much, much worse than Ordoñez. But again, I’m loathe to trade away anything valuable by a 35-year-old outfielder set to make $18 million next year. It’s just not worth it.