President/general manager Dave Dombrowski said on Tuesday the Tigers would "most likely" not re-sign their former right fielder and second baseman, both free agents after injuries ended their 2011 seasons.
"I would say the odds are, most likely, they would not be back," Dombrowski told reporters during a combination end-of-season evaluation and offseason look-ahead.
It's a decision many expected, and Tuesday's word made it all but official. With Delmon Young and Brennan Boesch expected to man Detroit's corner outfield spots, according to Dombrowski, and the Tigers looking for other options at second base, the fit isn't there. Moreover, with both Ordonez and Guillen, there are questions whether the health is as well.
Barring a bizarre scenario that sets up a return, Ordonez's start in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series last month at Texas will go down as his final appearance in a Detroit uniform. He left that game following a lengthy rain delay, and he was later diagnosed with a fracture of the right ankle he broke on a slide at home plate in July 2010. He spent much of this season working his way back to full strength from that while still playing, and looked and sounded more like his old self down the stretch.
Dombrowski said Ordonez has had surgery to repair the fractured ankle. There's no word on whether he'll be ready for the start of next season. He was ready for Opening Day this past season after having the same surgery the previous September, but he had more time to recover.
Guillen spent October trying to get ready for a possible bench role in the World Series after suffering a calf injury in mid-September. The Tigers didn't get that far, and Guillen's 2011 season ended with just 95 at-bats over 28 games, batting .232 with three homers and 13 RBIs.
In both cases, it was a far cry from the younger forms they brought to Detroit years ago. But then, they've had long careers as Tigers.
Ordonez signed with the Tigers as a free agent after the 2004 season, inking a seven-year contract after jumping from the White Sox. He lingered on the market after a midseason knee injury resulted in an operation in Europe, and the knee scared off a lot of teams. The Tigers, coming off more than a decade of losing seasons and needing a run producer to pair with Ivan Rodriguez, took a chance.
The deal paid off, and then some.
"He has done a tremendous amount for this franchise," Dombrowski said. "He, I think, started us [on the rise]. Right after Pudge, he was the next guy to come on board and sort of lead us as a free agent to come on board and help build us back. He led the league in hitting [in 2007]. He gives you everything he's got. I couldn't ask for more."
Ordonez provided arguably the signature highlight of the last 20 years of Tigers baseball, hitting a walk-off homer in Game 4 of the 2006 ALCS to send the Tigers to their first World Series since 1984. His 104 RBIs led that team to go with a .298 average and 28 home runs. A year later, he became the first Tiger since 1961 to win a batting title, hitting .363 with 28 home runs and 139 RBIs. He finished as the AL Most Valuable Player runner-up that year, falling short to Alex Rodriguez.
Ordonez struggled to find his form for a full season after that for numerous reasons, age foremost among them. After a miserable start to 2009, his late-season charge at the plate brought his average to .310 by season's end and nearly kept the Tigers on top of the AL Central before falling in a one-game playoff. He had a rejuvenation at the plate in 2010 before his broken ankle on an awkward slide at home plate ended his year with a .303 average and 59 RBIs. He came back on a $10 million, one-year contract last winter, but only started feeling like himself toward season's end.
For his career, Ordonez batted .312 in 847 games as a Tiger, adding 107 homers and 533 RBIs. He also became a community presence in Detroit, creating an annual college scholarship for students from Detroit's heavily Hispanic southwestern neighborhood while donating his time to various other causes.
Whether Ordonez continues his playing career is still in question. While some reports suggest he wants to continue to play, Ordonez himself hasn't commented. He'll turn 38 years old in January.
Guillen was already a Tiger when Ordonez arrived, having been acquired from Seattle after Detroit lost out on more prominent shortstops on the free-agent market. The trade turned out to be one of Dombrowski's greatest moves in Detroit, providing the Tigers their next in a line of All-Star shortstops.
Guillen hit .318 with 20 homers and 97 RBIs in 2004, then put up back-to-back .320 averages, leading the 2006 team in hitting. He batted .296 with career highs of 21 homers and 102 RBIs in 2007 after signing a four-year, $48 million extension beyond that.
Injuries, from knees to legs to shoulders to his back, kept him from approaching anywhere near those numbers the last four seasons. By 2011, the Tigers had lined up their team to prepare for the strong possibility he wouldn't be healthy.
"In Carlos' case, he's a true professional, an All-Star for us," Dombrowski said. "It's been unfortunate that over the last few years he just hasn't been healthy on a regular basis, but a very, very good player."
The Tigers plan on focusing their efforts on finding a second baseman, either through free agency or trades. Dombrowski acknowledged that the free-agent market for second basemen is "not real strong."