It’s no stretch to say that the next week to 10 days could determine what role – if any – Magglio Ordonez will have with the Tigers for the rest of this year.
Even if he hits, the possibility remains that he could be dealt to a team with a greater need at designated hitter than the Tigers currently have.
Ordonez, 37, is returning from the disabled list today, and he won’t have the luxury of easing back into the lineup. The Detroit roster has five other outfielders, and the team has played well without him – 16-12 since his last major-league appearance on May 10.
Ordonez’s task is simple: He needs to prove that he can still produce runs, and he must do so while demonstrating that he can play serviceable defense in right field.
As much as the Tigers might like to use Ordonez’s bat without worrying about his below-average glove, he can’t be their primary designated hitter. That job belongs to Victor Martinez, who has excelled in the role. Martinez needs to be the DH rather than the everyday catcher, because Alex Avila is playing at an All-Star level behind the plate.
The Tigers have the best starting rotation ERA in the American League Central. At spacious Comerica Park, it will take a strong outfield defense to keep it that way. The likes of Andy Dirks and Casper Wells are much more adept than Ordonez in the corner outfield spots. So, Ordonez will need to produce runs in order for manager Jim Leyland to justify having his glove in the outfield.
Ordonez won’t be easy to trade. As a 10-and-5 player, he has full no-trade rights. He is earning $10 million this season on a one-year deal, so the Tigers would probably need to swap one burdensome contract for another. But a number of contenders – including the Angels, Mariners and Yankees – are getting below-average production from their DHs.
Seattle, in particular, has the worst OPS in the league against left-handed pitching. Ordonez has a career .942 OPS against lefties.
-- Jon Paul Morosi