The mystery-kneed right fielder is on the verge of signing with Detroit for an estimated $75m/5yr, according to Newsday.
It's assumed that the contract will be voidable if Ordonez has a recurrence of his knee injury - similar to the deal they gave Ivan Rodriguez a year ago. That's the good news. The bad news is that Dombrowski is about to shell out $15m a year for a guy whose three-year peak saw him hit .314/.383/.558 in a hitter's environment. Terrific numbers to be sure, but they're coming from a corner outfielder who's on the wrong side of 30.
Let's look at a few projections:
PECOTA: .298/.365/.515 (in Chicago)
Bill James: .309/.367/.534 (in Chicago)
ZiPS: .313/.378/.544 (in Chicago)
Marcel: .305/.370/.534 (in Chicago)
I mentioned yesterday that projections are essentially nothing more than educated guesses, but when so many of them agree on a certain player, then I think they're a little more reliable. Although PECOTA is a bit more pessimistic than the others, the four systems predict that Ordonez will see a slight decline from his peak years. From a 31 year old, that doesn't really come as a surprise.
Of course, look at what's in parentheses after each projection - "in Chicago." US Celluar is a hitter-friendly park that plays particularly well for right-handed batters (like Ordonez), surrendering 37% more home runs than the league-average. Magglio's taken advantage of this over his career. Look at his splits since arriving in the Majors in 1997:
The power difference is incredible. Ordonez's ISO (SLG - BA) increases by 26% when he's hitting in Chicago - on the road, he packs as much pop as Jermaine Dye. Another way to look at it is that the splits are similar to the pre- and post-injury versions of Shawn Green: no significant difference in the ability to hit for average or get on base, but the power that made him a superstar is missing.
This alone should have raised some eyebrows in the Detroit front office. To make things worse, despite moving the fences in a little bit, Comerica was still a home run graveyard. The stadium decreased homers by 14%; 16% for right-handed hitters. It had a similar effect on doubles (although it had a neutral effect on batting average). The quick and short of the story is that playing half his games in Detroit will have a significant reducing effect on Ordonez's power.
So what we have, then, is a 31 year old corner outfielder coming off an unprecedented knee injury, set to leave the beneficial environment of US Celluar Field for Comerica Park, where his power from the right side of the plate will be dramatically reduced. For this package, the Tigers will be giving out a larger contract than the one Vladimir Guerrero received a year ago as a 27 year old with a much better performance track record.
Magglio Ordonez comes with such prominent red flags that I just can't believe anyone in their right mind would be willing to shell out such a commitment. It won't be long before Dombrowski is hoping for an injury so that he can void the contract, because otherwise, this deal looks like a future albatross.