Additionally, Heyman reports that Ordonez turned down two-year offers elsewhere to return to Detroit. Loyalty to Tigers owner Mike Ilitch was apparently a factor.
Ordonez was reportedly drawing interest from other teams throughout baseball. The Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers and Philadelphia Phillies all were mentioned as having interest in him over the past few weeks.
But such opportunities dwindled as those teams made other moves. The Red Sox had no need for Ordonez once they signed Carl Crawford. The Phillies spent their available payroll on Cliff Lee. And the Rangers’ preference all along has been to re-sign Vladimir Guerrero.
Even if those teams had interest in Ordonez, however, it was unlikely that he would receive regular playing time. Boston looked at him as a part-time leftfielder and designated hitter. Philadelphia presumably would’ve platooned him in right field (possibly with prospect Domonic Brown. And in Texas, he would’ve taken over Guerrero’s duties as the DH.
The Tigers were the only team offering playing time in the outfield and a regular place in the lineup. Jim Leyland will likely put him back in the No. 3 spot in front of Miguel Cabrera, where he’s batted for most of the past three seasons.
Agreeing to a one-year, $10 million contract is a bit of a surprise, perhaps. The Tigers declined the $15 million option for next year on his previous contract, so they obviously wanted to pay less than that. But on the open market, it seemed like he could fetch something in the $12 million per year range.
However, maybe there were still questions about Ordonez’s health and ability to stay healthy, coming off a broken ankle. Even after holding a workout for teams, maybe prospective suitors weren’t completely convinced. Not to mention that offers may have been lower, given that they didn’t see Ordonez as a full-time player. This gives him a chance to show he’s fully healthy and perhaps try the market again next year.
Before breaking his ankle last July, Ordonez was having a resurgent season for the Tigers. He batted .303/.378/.474 with 12 home runs and 59 RBIs in 365 plate appearances.
Signing before January also seems to go against the usual Scott Boras tactics (creating a market, claiming mystery teams, etc.). When the offseason began, it was easy to imagine that Ordonez could take his free agency into February, as Johnny Damon and Bobby Abreu had over the past couple of years.
But maybe Boras and Ordonez saw a shrinking market and decided to take the best deal out there. And maybe Ordonez just wanted to return to Detroit, where he has a good relationship with the owner and is familiar with the clubhouse (which now has one more fellow Venezuelan in Victor Martinez).
Regardless, it’s a good signing for the Tigers. They needed a rightfielder and a right-handed bat in the lineup. Ordonez fit those needs all along, and he wanted to return to Detroit. This also buys some more time for the Tigers to find out if prospects such as Brennan Boesch and Casper Wells can further develop into full-time major league players.