In a move that has been anticipated for the past few weeks, it was announced this morning that Manny Ramirez has agreed to terms with the A’s on a minor league deal worth about $500,000. Ramirez will have to sit out the first 50 games of the season for violating MLB’s performance-enhancing drug policy last season, and will be eligible to play in his first game on May 29 in Minnesota, one day before his 40th birthday.
Like I mentioned last week, Billy Beane has made a habit of signing aging sluggers to play DH in the hopes that he can squeeze at least one more productive season out of their deteriorating bodies. Frank Thomas, Hideki Matsui, Nomar Garciaparra, Jason Giambi, and many others (David Justice, Eric Karros, etc.) past their prime have been brought in to man the DH spot over the past few seasons. This move is standard procedure for Billy, and even if you’ve been in a coma all winter and haven’t heard the Manny rumors you shouldn’t be surprised.
The deal makes sense for a few reasons. First and foremost, the A’s only made a committment of a half-million, which is basically the amount of money Lew Wolff and John Fisher make while reading the Wall Street Journal and eating scrambled golden eggs and caviar, or whatever it is rich people eat for breakfast. Second, because Manny has to sit out 50 games the A’s don’t even have to give up a roster spot until then, and that’s assuming he makes the team out of Spring Training. Even if he does, if somebody like Chris Carter or Brandon Allen start putting up nice numbers in the DH spot, the A’s can just release Manny and forget that this was even an idea. Lastly, if nobody gets it going at DH while Manny sits, the A’s will be adding a guy with Hall of Fame numbers in late May. Even though he’ll be 40 years old, in his last “real” season in 2010 he managed to post a .298/.409/.460 slash line, nine homers, and a healthy 138 OPS+ in 265 ABs. Production along those lines, even if only for about two-thirds of a season, would be a pretty big boost for the A’s.
With all that being said, I’m really not a fan of this signing. Manny has never really been all that much of a leader, and despite being a potential Hall of Famer, he’s not the kind of player I would want my young guys, which the A’s are chock full of, to take cues from. There’s a reason why the phrase “Manny being Manny” has been oft-repeated during his career. A lot of people are saying this move generates excitement and should draw more people to the park, but with his history of behavior, and recent steroid controversies, he also brings more negative sentiment and publicity than Jose Canseco could ever dream of.
More importantly, if he suits up for the A’s he’ll be taking away at-bats from younger hitters who could really use the experience to help their development. Nobody, myself included, expects the A’s to compete for the playoffs this year, so it’s not like signing Manny is going to be that one move that gets them over the hump. I’m crossing my fingers that Carter finally realizes his potential and Manny ends up getting released. Whatever happens, the 2012 season has already gotten way more interesting.