In the media session I mentioned earlier, Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski touched on many items in his off-season agenda. Notably, Dombrowski said that he has informed free agents Gerald Laird, Johnny Damon, and Jeremy Bonderman that he will not be trying to re-sign them. He also has informed Magglio Ordonez‘s agent, Scott Boras, that the $15 million club option on the right fielder will not be exercised, but that he is open to bringing Ordonez back at a lower salary.
Ordonez had a terrible first half in 2009, but finished with a flurry to get his average back up to .310 by the end of the year. Still, his nine homer and 50 RBI showed to many what appeared to be the end of a great career. Ordonez rebounded in a big way in 2010, batting .303 with 12 homers and 59 RBI in 83 games before being lost for the season due to a broken ankle in late July.
Dombrowski is right to decline the option, that much is a no-brainer, but he is also right to pursue Ordonez on the open market. For what it’s worth, Magglio has said, according to Miguel Cabrera, that he would like to remain with Detroit. The Tigers will be looking for a middle-of-the-order type hitter to hit behind Cabrera and having Ordonez slotted into the three hole would make for a vaunted attack. My guess is that Ordonez will be seeking two years and the Tigers will probably like to keep it to a one-year commitment. Perhaps a contract with a vesting option would work for both sides.
If Ordonez wants to stay and the Tigers want him back, a deal will probably be reached. Because Boras is involved, however, this won’t happen quickly. Expect the Magglio Watch to drag out until after the New Year.
As for the rest of the free agents, Dombrowski left the door slightly ajar in regard to Bonderman. There is no shot that Damon or Laird will be back. Bonderman could return to Detroit if he hasn’t agreed to a deal by the time camp opens next year, as the feeling is the Tigers would offer a minor league contract with a Spring Training invite to the right hander. I would seriously doubt we ever get to that point.
Laird will be easy to replace. Dombrowski stated that the team will target a right handed backup catcher in free agency this winter to complement Alex Avila, who will be the number one guy next year. Damon’s DH role will be filled by adding a run-producer (someone like Adam Dunn, perhaps), to hit behind Cabrera. He said they are not opposed to having a full-time DH, if the fit is right.
That’s a departure from the past, where the Tigers have tried to keep the DH slot open to use as a “day off” for some of the regulars. Ideally, they would be looking for someone who can also play the outfield, but they won’t preclude themselves from getting the bat they need if that hitter is a liability in the field.
Dombrowski also said that they wouldn’t be in the market for the top-tier free agent pitchers, but they would seek to add a starter. Phil Coke is being penciled into the 2011 rotation along with Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Rick Porcello. Armando Galarraga will compete for the final spot, along with a younger arm or two and whomever the Tigers bring in from outside the organization.
Moving Coke into the starting staff will create a void at the back-end of the bullpen. Dombrowski will target veteran relief arms this winter and I figure that they will need at least one lefty. Even if you think Daniel Schlereth is ready, and I’m not sure he is, you’d like to have a veteran left hander out there as well.