BASEBALL Contend? Tigers say Ordonez is the key

Another big free-agent signing puts big bat in middle of lineup.
DETROIT (AP) -- The Detroit Tigers started their off-season by landing one All-Star free agent, then had to wait three months to nab another.
After Carl Pavano and Steve Finley spurned the Tigers' offers, Detroit on Monday added outfielder Magglio Ordonez to go with closer Troy Percival, who joined the team in November.
Ordonez is "a big, big addition to our team, a cornerstone, the type of player you build around and try to win championships," Tigers president Dave Dombrowski said at a news conference at Comerica Park.
For the second straight year, Detroit added a marquee player about two weeks before the start of spring training.
First, Ivan Rodriguez. Now, Ordonez.
The money
Ordonez, the last remaining premier free agent of the off-season, and the Tigers agreed to a $75 million, five-year contract, a deal with two option years that could raise the total to $105 million over seven seasons.
"I'm really happy to be here, and thanks to everybody," Ordonez said. "I'm really excited. I'm glad that I'm here. I look forward to playing here in Detroit, and I'm going to try to do my best and bring in a championship team over here."
After signing in 2004, Rodriguez helped the Tigers win 72 games. That was a 29-win improvement from the previous season, the second-best turnaround in the AL since it expanded in 1961.
With Ordonez's bat in the middle of the lineup, Detroit figures to improve its chances of competing in the AL Central.
"We're going into spring training here pretty soon with another impact-type player," said Tigers manager Alan Trammell, who envisions Ordonez batting fourth.
The Chicago Cubs, Toronto and Texas backed out of talks recently, and the New York Mets told agent Scott Boras on Friday they were not prepared to move quickly and would first want to examine Ordonez. He made $14 million last year, and the White Sox made no effort to re-sign him.
Ordonez hit .292 last season with nine homers and 37 RBIs in 202 at-bats for the Chicago White Sox. A career .307 hitter with 187 homers, he missed 36 games after injuring his left knee May 19 -- an injury that required two operations -- then went on the disabled list for good on July 22 with bone marrow edema.
"We were all aware of the injury Magglio had last year," said Dombrowski, adding Ordonez is now running without pain.
Doctors "believe that he will be fine, ready to go at the beginning of the season," he said. "He feels great."
The Tigers structured a contract for Ordonez that gives the team some protection if he is hampered by injuries, just as they did with Rodriguez.

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