The Sports Pages: Werth Vs. Ordonez and the Second Base Options


“I always turn to the sports pages first, which records man’s accomplishments. The front page has nothing but man’s failures.”

– Earl Warren

There’s an interesting debate taking place at Bless You Boys this morning. Whom would you rather see patrolling right field for the Tigers in 2011? Kurt only listed two options, and really, that seems to be the direction we’re headed, so did you want Magglio Ordonez back, or would you rather see Jayson Werth out there?

Kurt did a good job of listing the pros and cons of each player, but I’ll focus on just a couple things. The most important, to me anyway, is that Ordonez will cost significantly less money, and significantly fewer years than Werth. Let me be clear, I don’t think that paying Werth $16-17 million per year for the next two years would be a problem for the Tigers. Most of their players are already locked up for at least that long, so you know what kind of budget the Tigers are working with up through 2012. After that, things get a bit murky.

After the 2012 season, Brandon Inge and Jhonny Peralta‘s deals will be up, so money will have to be spent to either re-sign or replace those players. Jose Valverde has one year plus an option left on his deal, so they’ll need to pay a closer as well. You can expect that at least one young arm will join the rotation, so that will save some cash (not much, but some), but Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer will both be up for raises as well by then. And both of those pitchers could get pricey in a hurry.

That said, the window to win a title with the current roster basically intact isn’t a big one. I understand the idea of throwing caution to the wind and making a title push this year or next, when Victor Martinez should still be as productive as he has been. I’m just not sure that Werth is that much of an upgrade over Ordonez to off-set the financial strain that Werth’s contract could put on the organization in 2013 and beyond.

Werth is a better defender than Ordonez, pay no attention to one-year defensive metrics. He has a strong, accurate arm and much better range in right. But Werth has played his productive years in one of the best hitter’s parks in baseball. Going from the tiny Citizens Bank Park to the much more neutral, and expansive, Comerica Park will likely cause his numbers to drop a bit. He also hasn’t played in the American league, so you could expect a slight drop there as well.

Ordonez is a bigger health risk. He’d be 38 during the 2012 season, five years older than Werth, and he’s coming off a broken ankle. Given the level of his production before the injury, I think it’s reasonable to expect that Ordonez could produce similarly for the next two year provided he sees some time at DH every once in a while. I would guess that at most we’re talking about a two-year deal with an option attached, probably so something in the area of $9-10 million per year.

So the question seems to be, would Werth’s production over the next two seasons be a big enough upgrade over Ordonez that it would be worth the risk of financial strain in the years after the 2012 season? If you feel that Werth gives the Tigers a much greater chance to win a World Series in the next two seasons than Ordonez would, then I suppose the answer is yes. If you think, like I do, that Werth will be only a slight upgrade in terms of production, the answer isn’t so clear.

Tigers looking at four second sackers

As Lee Panas at Tiger Tales tells us, the Tigers have many options at second base next season. While most of our time is probably spent pondering the Will Rhymes versus Scott Sizemore debate, Jim Leyland said recently that we shouldn’t forget about Carlos Guillen and Danny Worth, either.

In these four men, questions abound. For Rhymes, we have to wonder if his rookie season success is sustainable. This is a guy that didn’t reach the majors until he was 27 years old. He posted a .350 OBP and played solid, but unspectacular defense at second in 2010 and did so over better than 200 at bats, so while the sample size isn’t large, we are talking about a third of a full season. His minor league numbers show a player with the ability to get on base, but it’s hard to imagine him duplicating his .414 major league slugging percentage. In his six minor league seasons his career slugging line was only .374. So is it a case of the doubles coming because he matured as a hitter, now that he’s reached his prime seasons, or was this a 200 at bat fluke?

Sizemore was supposed to be the man in 2010, but his slow recovery from a broken ankle hampered him and the Tigers pulled the plug in May. When he came back to Detroit late in the year, he played much better. He’s three years younger than Rhymes and is expected to be the more productive hitter. The question becomes whether or not he can make a successful jump to the major leagues. Even if he can, has he shown enough to Leyland to wrestle the at bats away from Rhymes?

Of the four, Worth is the best defender, but at second base, the Tigers don’t seem worried about defense. Worth showed flashes of offensive prowess last year when he was healthy, but even in his minor league career, he’s never been a force at the plate. He would be the longest shot on the board for playing time in 2011. He more likely becomes the heir apparent to Ramon Santiago as the future utility infielder.

Then there’s Guillen. He’s coming off microfracture surgery on his knee, and there is no indication that he’ll be ready for Opening Day. More likely, the oft-injured switch-hitter will be joining the team in May or June. By that time, there may not be at bats available for him if Rhymes and/or Sizemore get off to a hot start. Even if he doesn’t see time at second, Guillen could see starts at third or left field along with occasional DH duty. If the two sophomores struggle early, Guillen provides a quality hitter capable of standing near second base and fielding anything hit right at him.

At this point, Tiger fans had better hope for a successful platoon between Rhymes and Sizemore at second. Anything they get from Guillen should be viewed as gravy.

That’s it today kiddies, make sure you leave a comment to tell us your thoughts on the right field and second base debates.

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