December 14, 2010 at 1:00 am

Lynn Henning: Tigers

Tigers' next move: Sign Magglio Ordonez

Magglio Ordonez would fill the Tigers’ hole in right field, but his reported price of two years, $20 million might be a little high. (John T. Greilick/The Detroit News)

Thoughts and items lingering following last week's Winter Meetings:

What do the Tigers do next?

For starters, they'll wait and see how much it will cost to sign Magglio Ordonez. It's going to be a more expensive proposition than before Washington handed an offensive $126 million contract to Jayson Werth, a deal that threw the marketplace into chaos.

Carl Crawford still would have gotten his money, as Cliff Lee did from the Phillies Monday night, but the Werth contract had the singular effect of making a player like Ordonez doubly expensive to sign.

The Tigers probably will pony up. They need a certified professional hitter in that No. 3 slot to maximize the 1-2 punch they figure to get from Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. You could make a case for them getting 25 home runs and 90 RBIs from a guy like Casper Wells — who is a better bet than Brennan Boesch to get a corner outfield spot — but that figures to be a wager the Tigers can't afford to make.

Not when they need a guaranteed .300 hitter in that three-slot.

Can the Tigers beat the Twins and White Sox?

Yes, but only if they add that extra bat and only if their starting rotation stays healthy through the 1-2-3 slots manned by Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello. The bullpen should hold up, and could be devastating if Joel Zumaya makes it back and stays healthy.

But the starting pitching's top side must have brilliant seasons while the offense provides more thump than it has. That means adding someone on the level of Ordonez, just as it mandates a positive surprise from the likes of Alex Avila, Scott Sizemore, Wells or Boesch, with at least two of those names helping out the middle order.

The Twins will be very good, as usual, but their starting pitching is not on the Tigers' level.

The White Sox will be rugged, as well, especially with Adam Dunn on board. The question is whether Jake Peavy returns to full form. If so, their starting pitching can hang with the Tigers. The White Sox lineup is impressive and will score scads of runs.

Post script: Enjoy the Royals for about one more year, maybe two. By 2013, they could be the team to beat in the AL Central. Their young talent is awesome and the deals they're making only are adding to what could be an arsenal of two-way talent.

Can the Tigers beat the Red Sox even if they make the playoffs?

Not on paper. Nobody can beat the Red Sox.

Except, remember this: Three years ago, after the trade for Miguel Cabrera, most analysts thought the Tigers were a cinch to make the World Series. They ended up in last.

That won't happen to the Red Sox, unless a slew of people get hurt, because they are qualitatively superior in all categories. The poor Yankees tried to play catch-up by offering Lee a package so risky it could have ended up as the next-worst pitching contract this side of the Giants-Barry Zito disaster.

But that's only money, not to mention a first-round pick, the Yankees would have coughed up for Lee. The Yankees can absorb such deals because they're the Yankees and they're rich. But even if Lee had opted for New York, the Yankees are still trailing the Red Sox by a couple bats and a couple arms.

That's no way to head into Opening Day, having a backseat roster to your divisional archenemy.

In the event the Tigers steal a playoff spot, their only hope is to do to the Red Sox what they did to another prohibitive favorite in 2006. They used their pitching to stomp out a superior Yankees team.

More Lynn Henning