BALTIMORE -- Magglio Ordonez's season-ending ankle injury might not mean the end of his Tigers tenure after all. Though team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski confirmed the club will not pick up Ordonez's $15-million option, he left the door open for the Tigers to re-sign him as a free agent.
"That will not close the door by any means," Dombrowski said of the decision. "For us, he is definitely a possibility."
The interest is mutual. Dombrowski confirmed what Miguel Cabrera said last week, that Ordonez has a "strong desire to remain a Tiger."
That sets the stage for what could be an interesting offseason saga. While the interest is there on both sides, negotiations likely won't be easy. Ordonez was on track for a potential 100-RBI season, batting .303 with 12 home runs and 59 RBIs, before fracturing his ankle on a slide at home plate on July 24. He had already surpassed most of his numbers from 2009, but was on the verge of much more.
Ordonez is expected to be ready for next season, but nobody can say with confidence how strong his ankle will be -- even with a full offseason to recover. He'll turn 37 years old just before Spring Training next year. And the early-season struggles of rookie Scott Sizemore this year showed that even young bodies can take time to heel from fractures such as his.
Ordonez is represented by agent Scott Boras, who has been known for taking negotiations on free-agent clients deep into the offseason. The Tigers had a late signing with Boras last year when they inked Johnny Damon, whose on-and-off flirtation with the Yankees lasted most of the winter before he agreed to a deal with Detroit in mid-February.
"I don't think Magglio is going to be a quick [signing]," Dombrowski said. "I don't really put that as high for us. You look at our positional players, and if we've got Brandon [Inge] and Jhonny Peralta done, well, your infield's pretty well set. You know what you're getting catcher-wise. You've got a couple of your outfield spots filled. You know what you're looking for in your outfield. But we'll explore what other opportunities are out there, and Magglio coming off of his [injury] situation.
"He's also represented by somebody not normally akin to making fast deals. It comes with the territory."
Tigers look to re-sign Inge, Peralta
BALTIMORE -- Monday starts what could be the biggest offseason of changes since 2003, but the Tigers might be close to retaining the left side of their infield. Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said on Sunday that the team has offered a multi-year contract to third baseman Brandon Inge and would like to bring back infielder Jhonny Peralta, either through a new contract or by picking up his option.
"We'd like to have him back," Dombrowski said of Inge.
The feeling from Inge and Peralta, of course, is mutual.
"I'm absolutely ecstatic about it," Inge said. "This is where I want to play, as long as they'll let me. A multi-year [deal], I feel like they're showing me a little respect. And it's another thing where everyone's comfortable with everyone, meaning myself and the organization.
"They know what they're going to get. I'm going to go out there and play as hard as I can, rain or shine, whether I'm injured or not. And I think it maybe eases their mind a little bit."
Dombrowski made the comments during a wide-ranging interview with beat writers on Sunday morning that he usually does near the end of each season. With more than $60 million coming off the payroll this offseason in expiring contracts and potentially a half-dozen free agents, this year's remarks were highly anticipated.
Not all of the Tigers up for free agency will be back, but Inge and Peralta appear to have a good shot.
"We have made him an offer," Dombrowski said of Inge, "and we'll see if we can get something done."
Inge and Peralta are both represented by agents Seth and Sam Levinson, whose firm includes former Major League player Keith Miller. Dombrowski said team vice president/legal counsel John Westhoff has talked with them within the last couple of days about both players. Inge is a free agent, while Peralta has a $7.25-million option for next season.
The Tigers have exclusive negotiating rights with their free agents until five days after the end of the World Series. The fact that talks are picking up now doesn't mean they'll get something done by then, but it's an encouraging sign.
"I have a feeling I'm coming back," Peralta said.
Inge is the longest-tenured current Tiger, drafted in 1998 and called up to Detroit in 2001, and the 33-year-old All-Star probably generates the most emotion -- on both sides -- of any player on the team. Between his longevity, his visibility in the community and his highlight defense at third, he's arguably the most popular player on the club. He's also a major presence in the clubhouse, having emerged as a team leader.
His range at third ranks him among the best defensive players at his position, and a major favorite among Tigers pitchers. Balancing that out, though, are his offensive struggles, including a .247 average that ranks as his highest since 2006. His 13th home run and 70th RBI of the season opened Detroit's scoring on Sunday.
"I think with Brandon, you have to know what you have in a player," Dombrowski said. "First of all, he's an outstanding defensive third baseman. We all know he's a gamer. He gives you everything he can. He represents what you want on the field. He never leaves an ounce of anything behind out there.
"He gives you some offense. I don't think you write down Brandon Inge as coming out and hitting 25 home runs and knocking in 100 runs all of a sudden. I think you have to look at the numbers he's put up and figure that's probably the type of hitter you have. If he gives you more, that's great."
Inge has made no secret that he wants to remain a Tiger. He and his family moved to Michigan full-time this year, and he has said they'll continue to call it home -- even if he plays somewhere else. He's believed to be seeking a three-year contract, but he and the Tigers could find some common ground with a two-year offer.
The Tigers traded for Peralta at the end of July as a short-term replacement for the then-injured Inge at third, believing he could play at short part-time once Inge came back. His play at short over the last two months has convinced team officials he can play there full-time, and they've talked with Peralta about an offseason workout program designed for that.
"We're looking to sign him as our shortstop," Dombrowski said. "He wants to play shortstop. We've already had internal discussions. We're very happy with him. We know what he has. He's got great hands. He's got a real solid arm. His range is below average, and he catches what he gets to. He drives in runs for a shortstop.
"We've gone the defensive route, just defense. We're looking for a little bit more offense. Maybe our lineup stretches out a little bit more. We're also in a position where he wants to try to get in a little bit better shape for the middle of the diamond."
Peralta entered Sunday batting .253 with eight home runs and 38 RBIs in 57 games as a Tiger. He added a single and a run on Sunday. The negotiations would seemingly indicate the Tigers would like to work out a new contract rather than pick up the option, but Dombrowski wouldn't rule out the latter.
Trio of players soon to become ex-Tigers
BALTIMORE -- Jeremy Bonderman has been a Tiger since 2003 and Gerald Laird since last year. Johnny Damon has only been a Tiger this season, but has been a popular one. They're all about to become former Tigers.
Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski told all three of the soon-to-be free agents on Sunday morning that the team would not pursue them. Dombrowski left open a slight chance of bringing back Bonderman later this offseason -- depending on how the market unfolds -- but said it "most likely" won't happen.
None of the news is particularly surprising. Bonderman said last week that he didn't expect to be back, and Laird said he'll look for a situation with more playing time, now that the Tigers have decided on Alex Avila as their regular catcher. Damon has been hopeful for a return, but also realizes the crop of young Tigers outfielders didn't help his chances.
The Tigers signed Damon in February to help the top of their order and installed him behind rookie leadoff man Austin Jackson. But Magglio Ordonez's season-ending ankle injury forced Damon into the third spot quite a bit over the final two months, including Sunday's season finale, shifting him from offensive catalyst to run producer.
The results weren't as good as his four seasons with the New York Yankees, but they were better than the credit he received. He entered Sunday batting .271 with 36 doubles, eight home runs and 50 RBIs. His 69 walks were just two off his total last year in a stacked New York lineup.
"We have told Johnny that we're very appreciative of what he's done here," said Dombrowski. "He's handled himself well, he's been a leader in the clubhouse. But for those spots, we're looking for a middle-of-the-lineup type of guy next year -- [who] can drive in some runs."