DETROIT -- Magglio Ordonez has pulled a vanishing act from Comerica Park since his season-ending ankle surgery a month ago, but he's kept in touch through teammates such as Miguel Cabrera. And Cabrera told reporters on Wednesday that his good friend and veteran hitter wants to be back next season, even if he ends up a free agent this winter.
"I've talked to him," Cabrera said. "He said he feels better. He wants so bad to play, but his injury, he feels bad. He wants to come back next year here. He wants to stay here."
Whether the Tigers' front office feels the same remains to be seen, and it represents one of the biggest decisions they have to make this offseason. It became their choice when Ordonez fractured his right ankle on a slide at the plate July 24. The resulting time missed ensured he wouldn't end the season with enough plate appearances to vest the final year of his contract.
Thus, his $15 million option for 2011 became a team option that the club must either pick up or decline in the days after the World Series ends. If the Tigers decline, Ordonez becomes a free agent, able to sign with any team, including re-signing with Detroit, for whatever salary he and agent Scott Boras can negotiate.
"And I want him to be back," Cabrera added. "[He's an] excellent hitter, great player, great teammate."
After six seasons in Detroit, Ordonez has almost as much time there as he did with the White Sox, where he spent the first seven years of his career. His signing with the Tigers in January 2005 was a huge deal for a team still on the rebound from years of futility, and his walk-off home run in Game 4 of the 2006 ALCS stands as one of the biggest homers in franchise history.
Ordonez and his family have also become personally involved with the city. They established a scholarship fund for deserving students in Detroit's primarily Hispanic southwestern neighborhoods, and Ordonez made a donation to help refurbish a baseball field in the city.
At age 37, moving the family for a summer might not be the most appealing option.
"It would be good if he's back next year," Cabrera said. "They love him here. The city loves him here. They love Magglio. He's got to grow the hair again."