Shake-ups Continue in Tiger Town

Magglio Ordonez may be nearing the end of the line in Detroit. The former batting champion has lost his starting job, at least for now.

Prior to last night’s game in St. Louis, a 6-3 Tigers victory, manager Jim Leyland announced that Maggs would not play, but did not elaborate on low long his benching would last. This could be the first step towards the door for the Tigers’ beloved right fielder.

In addition to the Ordonez situation, the team announced that AA right hander Alfredo Figaro would make the jump to Detroit and will start Saturday versus Milwaukee, with much maligned Dontrelle Willis hitting the DL with an anxiety disorder for the second time this season.

Figaro has pitched well in Erie this season, and gets the call over Mud Hens’ lefty Luke French, who was also in line for a call-up. The guess here is that Figaro will get an extended look in the fifth starter spot in Detroit, as he is considered one of the organization’s better pitching prospects. Regardless of his performance on Saturday, expect him to make several turns through the rotation. It’s time to see what the kid can do.

Ordonez, on the other hand, is likely nearing the end of his days in Detroit. The once feared slugger has managed only two home runs this season, and frequently seems content to loop soft singles the other way. His average is a respectable .273, but well off the pace that his track record demands. His extra base power has all but completely vanished, and he carries a .690 OPS this season.

Another issue with Ordonez has become his contract. If he were to reach 135 games started this season, his 2010 option will automatically vest, locking him in for $18million next season. His production has not warranted a spot on this team, and it certainly does not warrant paying him that kind of money next year.

There had been much speculation before the season that the Tigers might release Magglio prior to his option vesting, and that certainly would have drawn the ire (and possibly a grievance) of the player’s union. Ordonez hasn’t done much to help the Tigers on the field this year, but his below average performance has probably allowed the team to cut him now and make a viable argument that the decision is based solely on performance.

The simple fact is that the Tigers could easily get the kind of production Magglio has given them from a much younger and cheaper player. In limited at-bats this season, Ryan Raburn, who replaced Ordonez in the starting lineup, and Clete Thomas (currently in AAA) have put up OPS’s of .731 and .727 respectively. While those are not great numbers, they are significantly better than Ordonez.

The argument to release Magglio is growing stronger. Now is the time to do so.

UPDATE (3:29pm): Lee is reporting that Dusty Ryan is on his way to Detroit. No word on who might be moved out, but I think it’s safe to assume it will be Sardinha. With Laird having caught the past four games, look for Ryan to be in the lineup tonight versus Milwaukee.

Tags: Alfredo Figaro Clete Thomas Dane Sardinha Dontrelle Willis Dusty Ryan Magglio Ordonez Ryan Raburn

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