What’s Next: Prince Fielder, Manager Searches, and More


First, an apology to those of you who expected to find this column yesterday. As Wally noted with Pick of the Pen last night, we are in the midst of doing a bit of juggling with the staff and our lineup right now. In order to fill an open slot, I chose to move my column to Thursday this week, but next week it will be back on Wednesday. Let’s get into it.

Maggs Eyes Return to Motown

When Tigers outfielder Magglio Ordonez broke his ankle while attempting to score on July 25, it not only ended his season, it assured that Ordonez would not reach playing time triggers that would have automatically kicked in his $15 million option for 2011. Once the season ended, it was a no-brainer that Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski would decline the option, which he did.

But Dombrowski has stated that he is more than open to the idea of negotiating a new contract with Ordonez, but understands that Scott Boras, who represents Magglio, is not fond of getting his players signed quickly. The Tigers would like to get their house in order early, as far as their own free agents go, so they can better prepare for the winter meetings and for making a run at a middle-of-the-order type hitter or two. While Ordonez still fits that description, concerns over his health, and declining performance due to his age, makes a reunion seem unlikely.

Ordonez, speaking to a reporter in his native Venezuela (link here, but it’s in Spanish), said that his ankle is recovering nicely, calling it about 90 percent, and said that he would like to play winter ball, something he hasn’t done since 2002.

He also said the following (from MLB.com’s Jason Beck):

"“I want to stay in Detroit, obviously, I have my friends, my teammates. I know the organization has been very good to me and the fans have treated me great. … I think there is a great chance to stay in Detroit, but let’s see what happens.”"

Ordonez profiles as a Type-A free agent and the Tigers could net a first round pick should they decide to offer arbitration. That scenario seems unlikely given the very real chance that Ordonez would accept and go to a hearing. After earning $18 million per year for the few few seasons, Magglio could be looking at a much bigger payday through an arbiter than he would get on the open market. My guess here is that the Tigers choose not to risk an arbitration offer and try to sign him for a year or two at a much lower salary. Before his injury, Maggs was enjoying a bounce back season, and was on pace for 20 homers and 100 RBI. He ended the year at .303/.378/.474 with 12 homers and 59 driven in in 84 games.

Go West, Disguised Man

News broke yesterday that former Rangers and Mets manager Bobby Valentine has once again withdrawn his name from consideration for the vacant Florida Marlins job. Valentine was expected to take over for the fired Freddi Gonzalez in mid-season, but reportedly got into a heated argument with a high-ranking Marlins official during the interview process. Still, as a friend of Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, Valentine was a favorite to land the gig with the Fish.

Valentine’s exit from the Florida search is causing most to assume that he has emerged as a front-runner for the job with the Mariners. Valentine managed successfully in Japan for a number of years and is known to be well-liked by Ichiro Suzuki, and therefore by Seattle’s Japanese ownership.

The Mariners have already interviewed several candidates, including Valentine, Eric Wedge, Lloyd McClendon, John Gibbons and Cecil Cooper; all of them have prior experience as big league managers. Valentine, however, appears to be a shoo-in for the job right now.

Quade vs Sandberg

When Lou Piniella  stepped down as manager of the Chicago Cubs late in the season, most assumed that Hall of Famer and minor league manager Ryne Sandberg would be given a hot to lead the big club. Instead of saddling Sandberg with a losing club, the Cubs promoted Mike Quade as the interim man. Quade responded by winning 24 of the final 37 games of the season and emerging as a very real and prominent candidate to snare the full-time job.

While Sandberg remains the favorite of ownership, Quade appears to be the leading man in the eyes of GM Jim Hendry. According to our own Jordan Campbell, the Cubs will likely make a decision sooner rather than later and have narrowed their search down to four candidates, the others being Bob Melvin and Eric Wedge. While the Cubs reportedly still have interest in Yankees manager Joe Girardi, an announcement on their opening is expected to come before the World Series begins, meaning the Cubs don’t plan to wait on Girardi, unless of course the Yankees lose to Texas.

As Campbell notes, Quade has the support of the players, who raised their game when he took over. Sandberg is a lifelong Cubs man, but has also been mentioned for the Blue Jays job and could become a candidate for other jobs should he lose out on the Cubs gig.

Prince Among Men

While Milwaukee first baseman Prince Fielder is under team control for next season, he remains the player most likely to be traded this winter. Fielder and his agent, Scott Boras, are known to have a desire to explore the free agent market and realistically, Milwaukee doesn’t have the resources to devote a huge chunk of their payroll to keeping him.

Milwaukee certainly could enter next season with him in the fold and either try to move him at the deadline or keep him and collect draft picks, but his trade value will be much higher this winter, when teams can have him for an entire season. Fielder, like Adam Dunn, would prefer to stay at first base rather than DH, but unlike Dunn, who can choose his destination via free agency, Fielder will have no say on where he is dealt.

While Boston would prefer to trade for Adrian Gonzalez, Fielder is a strong possibility there, and he would play first base given the presence of David Ortiz. I think it’s much less likely that he’s traded to a NL team than an AL club, but don’t rule out the Giants as a possibility here. They have shown serious interest in acquiring the slugger in the past.

While the free agent market will be dominated by Carl Crawford, Cliff Lee, and Jayson Werth, Fielder’s trade market may emerge as the biggest story of the hot stove season.