Scott Boras – open, honest, and realistic? Not the first three words that would spring to most people’s minds, but his conversation with Bill Shaikin about Manny Ramirez is just that. A few of the quotes about Manny.
“It’s just like Vlad Guerrero,” Boras said. “His last Angels season, where he had an injury season and he had 50 RBIs, was not a customary Vlad Guerrero season. He went to Texas and reestablished himself.
“This is really the course for great veteran hitters. We’ve seen, following an injury season, a player goes out and performs at optimum levels, because these players are still uniquely skilled. They’re still great hitters.”
“You look at his injuries, first of all,” Boras said. “He had a sports hernia. That was correctable. He had a calf injury. That was related to playing in the outfield.”
“Really, the primary duty of what he is going to be doing from now on is DH-ing,” Boras said. “Obviously, that can mitigate the probability of those things happening.
“This is professional sport. You have the ability to have a huge upside. Obviously, these players are not going to receive the contracts that they once received, nor the guarantees.”
In one sitting, Boras admitted that Ramirez’s days as an outfielder are essentially over, and that he’s hoping to get Manny a one year, low salary position as a DH. Will he be able to find one for his mercurial slugger?
Shopping for a DH job eliminates all of the NL teams, obviously, leaving him with just 14 potential destinations. Unfortunately for Boras, the three AL teams that usually throw their cash around – New York, Boston, and Anaheim – are all set at DH for 2011. That both lowers the amount of jobs he can apply for and takes the guys who drive up prices out of consideration. Instead of trying to leverage these clubs against each other, Boras will have to hope he can convince just one GM to actually bid on Ramirez, or else he stands a very real chance of becoming this year’s Jermaine Dye.
One team, however, makes a lot of sense for Ramirez, especially if he’s willing to take a low base salary in order to land a job – the Tampa Bay Rays. They’re likely to lose both Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena this winter, and ownership has stated categorically that the team payroll is going to shrink. They won’t be in the market for the high end free agents, but they’re still going to need to replace some of the offensive production that they’ll be losing. Ramirez, despite all his warts, would be able to improve that line-up, and if they’re the only suitor, Andrew Friedman will have the ability to set the price.
There are other options at DH, certainly, but the options that will come cheaply as Ramirez will offer significantly less upside. Even with his health issues last year, he still posted a .382 wOBA. Even with age related decline, projecting him for roughly a .370 wOBA in 2011 means he’s a +2 win player if he gets 500 at-bats. If Manny is willing to take the $5 million base that Guerrero got a year ago, there may not be a more cost effective upgrade for Tampa Bay to make this winter.