2011 Rays DHs, Manny and Damon, Looking for Work

The 2011 Rays opened the season with their designated hitter position filled by a Hall of Very Good platoon: Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez. I don’t need to remind you how many people around here and elsewhere thought the combined pickup was a great idea, and one reason that they came to the Rays so cheap — just $7.25 million combined, just $2 million of which went to Manny — was that their mutual agent Scott Boras negotiated a package deal. Once Manny retired, Johnny Damon picked up nearly all of the slack, winding up with 150 games played — his 16th straight season with at least 140 games played.

But after hearing that the Rays weren’t bringing him back, Damon is right where Manny is: at the back of the breadline. Manny is currently unemployed because he has announced his desire to unretire, as Matt Klaassen wrote Monday. One reason Manny says for his desire to return is that, as he told ESPN, he wants to be a role model:

I want to show people that Manny can change, that he can do the right thing.

Manny will still have to serve a 50-game suspension, and his one-for-17 performance in 2011 won’t inspire much confidence either, so he may have a difficult time convincing another team to take a chance on him. (Much like Barry Bonds in 2008.)

It’s hard to know exactly what you’re getting with Ramirez. He was quite good in an abbreviated season in 2010, but multiple stints on the DL limited him to just 90 games, and due to his PED suspension, he only played 104 games in 2009. So he hasn’t played a full season in four years. But no one’s expecting him to be a full-season player: obviously, he was signed to be a part-time DH last year, and the Rays still wound up regretting that deal. He can probably still hit, but with Manny, as always, the only thing we know is that nobody knows anything.

Damon took it personally that the Rays went with Luke Scott over him, as the Tampa Bay Times wrote. “It’s an unhappy day,” he said. Then he took a shot at the team’s famously low attendance, and suggested that the team might have brought it on itself.

You wonder why fans can’t get involved with players… because they are here and gone.

Damon will probably get a job somewhere, not least because a bad team might decide that his chase of 3000 hits — he’s at 2723 — could inspire a good marketing campaign. But he’s a below-average defender and only a league-average hitter for a corner outfielder. No one would voluntarily choose to keep him as a starting player.

Damon will certainly command a higher salary in 2012 than Manny will: since time immemorial, because most baseball teams are conservative in nature, executives pay a premium for certainty. You know what you’re getting with Damon, who has been one of the more durable players in the majors over the last decade and a half, even though what you’re getting isn’t stellar. No one has any idea what they’re getting with Manny.

Of course, there is almost certainly a price at which Manny would still be worthwhile, somewhere between the minor league minimum and his salary in 2011 of $2 million. Likewise, Damon’s platonic ideal salary will be somewhere north of Manny’s and somewhere south of his 2011 salary, $5.25 million.

Where will it be? Well, on the back of the envelope, Damon’s 2011 salary was $2.75 million less than his 2010 salary, and his 2010 salary was $5 million less than his 2009 salary. If that trend were to continue, that would suggest that his 2012 salary would be somewhere around $4 million — which is right in line with the one-win performance that it may be fair to expect from him next year.

Last year, the Rays spent $7.25 million in the offseason on two former Idiots whom they thought would fill their designated hitter needs for a full year. They got a declining Johnny Damon and a week’s worth of Manny-being-Manny. According to all the information we had then, they made a great decision to sign the two of them, but they got disappointed in the performance they received for their money. This season, the two are looking for work once more.

They don’t share a lot in common — just their fates.



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Alex is a writer for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times, and is a product manager for The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @alexremington.


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rbt
Guest
rbt
4 years 4 months ago

I’m still confused about Manny’s suspension and have yet to hear anybody explain…why would it be 50 games? It’s his second offense; it should be 100 games.

Astromets
Guest
Astromets
4 years 4 months ago

I read that the MLB agreed to lessen it as part of him coming out of retirement to increase his chances of getting work and because he missed the rest of last season after the suspension anyway

B N
Guest
B N
4 years 4 months ago

“You wonder why fans can’t get involved with players… because they are here and gone.”

Because if there’s one thing you know you’re getting with Johnny Damon, it’s team loyalty, right? Not like he’s jumped for the biggest paycheck available… except that time he left the Red Sox… and when was traded from the Royals before that due to salary issues. I mean, I’m fine with Damon chasing a buck, but turning around and acting like teams are being disloyal to him is pretty absurd.

vivalajeter
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vivalajeter
4 years 4 months ago

If it weren’t for the PED issues, I’d be shocked if Manny didn’t make the HOF. I wouldn’t lump him into the Hall of Very Good category.

Brian
Guest
Brian
4 years 4 months ago

Can the Mets cut Bay and sign Damon instead?

I know Damon probably won’t be any better and could be even worse, but I’m so effing sick of Bay’s face. What a bust.

pft
Guest
pft
4 years 4 months ago

“Rays still wound up regretting that deal”

What’s to regret, they only paid him 1 weeks salary. Damon went to DH and did well there, Fuld had a great 1st half in lF. In the 2nd half they were able to bring up Jennings in LF.

If Manny did not sit out the season, they may have regretted it, but heck, it was only a 2 million dollar deal.

corvelay
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corvelay
4 years 4 months ago

People are generally willing to tolerate a person’s idiosyncratic / anti-social behavior if they make up for it with superior skills in other areas, which is why Manny could be Manny all he wanted to as long as he was putting up an OPS north of 1.000. Now he is actually declaring that he wants to be a role model… does not bode well for his bat.

Brian
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Brian
4 years 4 months ago

Manny keeps on disgracing the end of his career. It’s kind of sad. Just give it up already.

Robbie G.
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Robbie G.
4 years 4 months ago

Johnny Damon likely only signs a one-year deal, I’m guessing, which means that the chase for 3,000 isn’t going to be getting any media attention in 2012, since he’s 277 hits away from that magic number. I will say that if he is serious about reaching the 3,000 hit mark then he should probably sign with a team that figures to allow him to be an every day player. Is there a contender out there who wants Damon to be an every day player? Hard to say. Seems more likely that he would be a good candidate to sign with a not-so-good team full of young and relatively unknown players, as he does have name recognition (which should help somewhat with ticket sales, although nothing is more helpful than winning games) and would be presented as a player who can “lead by example.”

I can also see him returning to Oakland, as he would fit multiple criteria for Billy Beane: 1) the criteria mentioned in the above paragraph, 2) return of a former A’s star from better times (instantly marketable, presumably), and 3) the hope of getting a solid player for cheap who can provide acceptable bang-for-your-buck and can possibly be flipped prior to the trade deadline to a contender.

I do expect Damon to sacrifice dollars for plate appearances. Whoever can provide him the most plate appearances is going to be his preferred option. He knows that 3,000 hits has been an automatic ticket to Cooperstown for every single player in MLB history whose name is not Pete Rose. Oakland might be able to provide that.

Brian
Guest
Brian
4 years 4 months ago

Like I said above (and I know it won’t happen) but I’d love to see the Mets bench or cut Bay and sign Damon. He might not put up much better numbers, but the Mets are going to stink anyway and at least Damon is a somewhat entertaining player, especially if he is indeed going to chase 3000 hits!

Jon L.
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Jon L.
4 years 4 months ago

Except that Damon hit miserably the last time he was with Oakland – as most hitters do.

Jon L.
Guest
Jon L.
4 years 4 months ago

That was meant to be a reply to Robbie G.

I’d sooner see Damon on a team like Texas or Colorado, where even if he’s mediocre he can rack up hits and look good like Michael Young does some years.

miffleball
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miffleball
4 years 4 months ago

why did the rays regret the signing? damon was worth 1.5 WAR, certainly more than they paid for

Antonio bananas
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Antonio bananas
4 years 4 months ago

Not for the Rays. You think the Rays really expect to pay as much per WAR as everyone else? Again, we need to change our thinking on $/WAR. It’s not the same for every market.

Newcomer
Member
4 years 4 months ago

Maybe Damon heads to Milwaukee. He can fill in for Braun, and then he might be in the mix for some time at 1B if that situation isn’t working well. It seems people suggest Damon move to 1B every year, why not this year?

JCA
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JCA
4 years 4 months ago

How crazy would it be for the Nats to pick up Damon to leadoff and play left for a year? Their leadoff spot is a huge hole, unless you are an Ian Desmond believer.

This looks like horrible OF defense – likely Werth to CF and Morse to RF, barring a trade of LaRoche or Morse – but with ground ball pitchers in Wang and Lannan, and strikeout pitchers in Strasburg and Gio (also GB prone), it would seem only Zimmermann would be hurt much by the defense. If you believe in Werth as a CF and you think Damon’s range is passable even if his arm isn’t, then that arrangement is even more passable.

With either Fielder or LaRoche at first, the team could still use OBP ahead of them. Adding .040 at leadoff should help. When harper is ready, there is a need to trade a player, but that already is the case if you will not play Werth in CF.

Manuel Tortolero
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Manuel Tortolero
4 years 4 months ago

Damon have a pretty decent line away of the pitchers friendly Tropicana Field (280/345/463, 117 OPS+ in 328 PA, including 10 Hrs) and he is more reliable abouth health than Luke Scott. I feel that Tampa will regrets Scott´s signing and Damon will find a new place to work soon.

Socrates
Guest
Socrates
4 years 4 months ago

I agree. Everyone seems to look at Scott’s 2010 and say that he is better, but Damon has outproduced Scott 3 of the last 4 years with the bat (wRC+). Plus he has been healthier. They both stink in the field so D is a wash between the two. Have to go $6M per year for Scott seemed like an overpay to me. I assume he would have to settle for $1.5M and incentives. Obviously other than being obsessed with MLBTR and Fangraphs, I have no idea what the “market” for players is.

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