Torii Hunter was obviously THE of..."/> Torii Hunter was obviously THE of..."/>

Detroit Tigers Free Agent Target: Magglio Ordonez


Signing Torii Hunter was obviously THE offseason move the Tigers wanted to make, but Dave Dombrowski mentioned interest in bringing in a right-handed bat to platoon in left field with Andy Dirks. From Jason Beck’s MLBlog:

"“My instinct,” Dombrowski continued, “is that we would add somebody that could hit from the right-hand side that, if [Nick Castellanos and Avisail Garcia] don’t make it, could go out there and play with Dirks. But we’ll wait and see.”"

September 27, 2011; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers right fielder Magglio Ordonez (30) hits a two RBI single during the first inning against the Cleveland Indians at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

In all likelihood this means a guy that has made a career out of being a platoon bat – someone like Jeff Baker was supposed to be – or an aging veteran role player that could still be a plus bat versus left-handers. In either case the Tigers are probably only looking to spend something like $2 or $3 million for a guy that would be making 40-50 starts and providing something in the neighborhood of a half to one WAR in total value.

But the Tigers could go a third route and see if a former superstar and fan favorite still had the fire burning in his belly. Magglio Ordonez officially announced his retirement in late May last season when he realized the major league contract offer that he was waiting for simply wasn’t coming. He wanted to play and he kept himself in shape to play, but he apparently received only minor league offers.

Magglio battled injury and general ineffectiveness in 2011 and finished the season with a disappointing .634 OPS, but he still managed a .292/.331/.385 slash line against southpaws. His power was non-existent, and the .716 OPS isn’t going to win any awards among outfielders, but that line isn’t going to kill the team at all. Heck, the organization gave Delmon Young and his .707 OPS over 600 plate appearances at designated hitter (and in the five-slot, no less).

And that was Ordonez at his worst. We could say that the decline was expected for his age (and we wouldn’t be wrong) – he was 37 in 2011 and would be 39 in 2013 – but the two years before when his home run power fell off initially he was still smashing lefties (a .937 OPS in 2009 and a 1.171 OPS in 2010). What if the time off and occasional use would allow him to return even somewhat to that type of platoon hitter?

The risks, of course, are big: he’s old, he hasn’t played in over a year, and his medical file is thick. The questions are equally big: does he even want to play ball right now, would he accept a platoon role, and would he require a guaranteed contract to come to spring training? The nostalgia here is probably getting in the way of rational thought, but I think it would be great if the Tigers gave him a call and worked something out.

There are almost certainly too many issues and roadblocks for something to materialize here – and I’ll admit to this being more than 99.9% fantasy – but allow me a few moments to dream about long flowing locks and opposite-field singles.