The Manny Market

It really seems as if Manny Ramirez wants to play in the major leagues in 2012. He’s had a rough go of it since last April, having a brief and ineffective stint with the Tampa Bay Rays that ended when he retired to avoid the ignominy of a 100-game suspension for a positive PED test. Yes, Manny brings baggage, and he will be 40 in May. However, despite the way things ended in 2011, Ramirez has a long record of impressive offensive production. It is hard to say which teams might actually be interested, but what teams even have a place for him? Not many, and league-wide interest (understandably) seems tepid so far. But if we scour the league, some possibilities do appear.

How well can Manny hit at this point? He looked terrible with the Rays this past April, but on a statistical level, that sample is pretty close to irrelevant. What the scouts think of him when (and if) they go seen him work out is extremely important, of course, but that is not something to which we have access. However, even in 2010, when he was exiled from Los Angeles and had a forgotten-and-forgettable stint with the White Sox, he managed an outstanding 138 wRC+ (.298/..409/.460). Oliver projects Manny for a context-neutral .364 wOBA in 2012, which is about two-and-a-half wins above average overall a full season in the current run environment

That projection has more uncertainty than most, since the 2011 sample is close to nothing. Manny’s age and time off is also something worth considering. Admitting that this involves a good deal of subjectivity, I do not think a .340 wOBA is an unrealistic or optimistic projection for Manny in 2012. That is not a number I am going to repeatedly reference, I am simply saying that that I see it as likely Manny can still hit well enough to contribute if a team has room for him. I think he could easily be a one-win DH for some team in 2012, and there is upside as well. Given the likely price, it would be virtually “no-risk.”

In this look at a “market for Manny,” I am not primarily looking at what teams are likely to consider at Manny — that is a reporter’s job. I am just giving my opinion about what teams maybe should check him out. It is a pretty short list. For one thing, Manny is going to need to be full-time designated hitter. Leaving aside some NL team signing him to be a bench pinch-hitter (I doubt he would come back for that, although I guess his former teammate Jim Thome did), that narrows things down to the American League.

Among the teams of the American League, what would make a good landing spot for Manny? Well, finances are not going to be a problem, as it sounds like it will not take more than a league-minimum or even minor-league deal to sign him. However, teams still need to have a spot open at DH, or a player they are willing to shove aside for Manny. Moreover, unless a team is really barren at DH, it probably needs to be a contending team, as there is not really any future in Manny, as he is obviously looking for a one-year deal to “prove himself” again. With those in mind, let’s peruse the American League to see if there are any potential homes for Manny that makes sense.

Starting in the West, I think it is fair to rule out the Angels. They are contending, but they are already pretty set at DH with Bobby Abreu. Manny might be better at this point, but is that likely enough for them to sit Abreu and his big salary on the bench? Probably not. Even without Abreu, the Angels are rather crowded with other DH candidates like Mark Trumbo. Even assuming their rumored desire for Prince Fielder is not fulfilled, the Mariners are not a good fit either. They are still clearly in a rebuilding phase, and while neither Justin Smoak or Mike Carp are all that exciting, it is not worth benching either of them to roll the dice on Manny for one season. Speaking of rebuilding teams, do we even need to go over the As? Sure, Manny would come cheap, and I personally do not have much faith in Brandon Allen, but they might as well give him a chance.

But what about the Rangers? They already have a DH being paid very well in Michael Young, and even Manny might hit better, they cannot really just bench Young (although it would be thrilling if there was another bout of trade rumors and angry recrimination involving Young and the front office). But assuming the Rangers really are out on Fielder, the Rangers probably could stand to upgrade on Mitch Moreland at first base. If they feel like Young can play first base full-time, they could move Young there and put Manny at DH. It would be inexpensive (and thus low risk), they can keep Moreland around somewhere in case things go wrong, and offers upside for a team that obviously has designs on a third straight trip to the World Series, but needs to keep up with the Angels.

How about the Central? Remember the three days Manny was on the White Sox in 2010? Maybe he’d make a great platoon partner with Adam Dunn as DH as part a the White Sox’ “sort of” rebuild? Ha… yeah… no. Detroit is already set at DH with Victor Martinez. Cleveland might make sense given that they want to contend and are (as always) on a tight budget, but they are already paying Travis Hafner to play DH. As for the Royals, even if you believes they should make a run at contention in 2012, they already have Billy Butler at DH full-time. I personally believe think they need to wait until 2013 to take a shot, so even if they got a really great pitching return in trade for Butler, signing Manny for 2012 probably would not make sense.

That leaves Minnesota. Manny seems like an odd fit for Minnesota, despite the fact that he could potentially keep up the Delmon Young/Jason Kubel tradition in the field. However, as has been discussed before, the contractual commitments to Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau (with those contracts severely hampering the trade value of those players) mean that the Twins are sort of stuck “going for it.” While off-season acquisition Ryan Doumit is penciled in as their DH, he is not much of a hitter. Oliver projects Doumit as a .319 wOBA hitter next season, which really does not play at DH. Moreover, with Joe Mauer always needing relief, Doumit might get some time behind the plate (although that is a pretty bad idea for defensive reasons). More significant is the continued uncertainty around Morneau’s recovery from his concussion. Even with Doumit aboard, those things could open up time for Manny at DH. As I said, it seems strange at first, but the situation in Minnesota really suits a Manny signing.

Finally we come to the AL East. For comedy’s sake, I wish there was a spot open at DH in Boston, but David Ortiz has that spot occupied for at least one more season. Manny has expressed interest in the Yankees in the past, and the price now might be right given the Yankees’ recent austerity. However, barring some sort of Rafael Soriano-esque craziness from on high, the Yankees are set with Jesus Montero as their primary DH in 2012. Of the two of the teams that have reportedly had people take a look at Manny work out, one is at least pretty funny: the Orioles. It isn’t like the Orioles are stacked with hitters. But the whole organization needs to focus on a time frame three to five years down the road (at a minimum), not on some guy to whom new GM Dan Duquette signed to a massive contract ten years ago.

The other team that reportedly has already taken at least a brief look at Manny is Toronto. This makes a bit more sense. I am not sure that the Blue Jays are quite ready to contend in the AL East already in 2012 — their offense should be good, but not good enough to make up for their starting pitching. Maybe if they had won the Darvish bidding and he worked out. That said, I could be talked in Toronto. After all, look how many times the Angels went to the playoffs with Jeff Mathis! But seriously, I could.

Would Manny have a logical place to play in the bland expanses of the Rogers Centre? Leaving aside the team’s apparent plan to continue jerking Travis Snider around, maybe. Right now it looks like the plan is to have Adam Lind at first base and Edwin Encarnacion at DH. Lind hasn’t hit decently since his great 2009 (really the only time he has hit in a full-time major league season), and Encarnacion hits well enough to be at least a stopgap everywhere but his best position — DH. That is not to say that they does not have uses or potential, simply that none of them pose a big obstacle to Manny getting time at DH, and Lind’s contract is not so big that the team has to play him full-time. They could even platoon Encarnacion and Lind at first a bit to give playing time to Ramirez if they decide it is worth giving him a shot.

Finally, we come to the AL East’s perennial budget contender, the Tampa Bay Rays. Yes, I know that it is extremely unrealistic for Manny to return to the hallowed ground of The Trop after the way things ended, but since we are speculating… The Rays currently do not have much of a plan in place for their 2012 DH. Brandon Guyer looks like he might end up getting some of the plate appearances there, but the team probably would rather have him getting time in the outfield with Matt Joyce in one corner and Desmond Jennings in center. Of course, that would involve trading B.J. Upton, but the team wisely understands that Upton is good and valuable enough that he is worth paying for while the team is in contention — they do not need to simply dump him. However, if the Rays did manage to move Upton or decided to start the year with Guyer and Joyce platooning in right field, and the scouting reports from Manny’s workouts are positive… well, I guess the “crazier things have happened” chestnut goes here, right? Again, I realize it that there is no way it would happen in the real world, but it does seem like a potential fit.

Four teams, then, seem like they might be able to use Manny: the Rangers, the Twins, the Jays, and the Rays. Even then, each team would have to move things around to make it work, and only the Jays have been reported to express interest so far (as far as I know). This is all to say that while the chances for Manny landing a job seem slim, with a bit of work one can drum up some possibilities. Given the right circumstances, things could work out well for a team willing to take a low-risk chance on Manny.

I won’t be holding my breath.

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Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.

27 Responses to “The Manny Market”

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  1. Dr. Schadenfreude says:

    Don’t forget that he has to sit out 50 games before he can play his first. I expect Manny to draw just slightly more interest from MLB teams than Terrell Owens did from the NFL this season.

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  2. Lewie Pollis says:

    The presence of Travis Hafner doesn’t preclude Manny being useful in Cleveland. The Indians are desperate for a right-handed bat, and Hafner is left-handed and a huge injury risk (he’s played 95 games only once in the last four years). Given his strong bounceback potential and the fact that it will cost almost nothing to sign him, he’d be a perfect fit as the Tribe’s DH platoon guy.

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    • Socrates says:

      I disagree. The presence of Hafner DOES preclude Manny being useful.

      1) Hafner is a lefty and Manny is a righty
      2) Manny will miss the first 50 games and Hafner will likely miss a good chunk of the last 110 games.
      3) Despite what the author of this article says, Manny could be a useful play to trade at the deadline if he proves healthy and non-disruptive.

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      • Cidron says:

        those are good, but, so is the fact that they can do the whole “homecoming” thing for Manny. Waaaay back, he was an Indian in RF back when the Jake just opened. Some tickets can be sold if its marketed right.

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      • Lewie Pollis says:

        …how is that disagreement?

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  3. Hurtlockertwo says:

    MLB passed on Barry Bonds completely, and he was certainly a better hitting prospect than Manny. I’d say zero chance he signs with anyone.

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    • AK707 says:

      Exactly. MLB isn’t above blackballing somebody they think makes them look bad, even if they enabled him for years on end.

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  4. vivalajeter says:

    I still don’t understand why he retired in April, instead of serving his 100 game suspension and then filing the paperwork. I’d think there would be more interest in him if he was able to suit up in April this year. Surely his agent must have told him that he should serve the suspension before retiring unless there’s a 100% chance he didn’t want to come back.

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    • Ian R. says:

      That sure was a terrible idea. But then, when has Manny ever made sense?

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      • Yirmiyahu says:

        Well, if he was certain he was done with baseball, it would’ve been a good decision. It prevented the details of the test from leaking out. It saved the Rays P.R. department from having to deal with Manny for the whole rest of the season. The story fizzled out quicker than if he’d been actually suspended.

        But, of course, Manny makes rash decisions. Even now, I can’t figure out his motivation for reinstatement. He wants to play in the DWL in future years? He cares about his legacy? He needs the money? He’s bored sitting at home? Love of the game?

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    • Joe says:

      He did it to hide from the media. What better way not to answer questions about it than “I retire”.

      It was like the David Ortiz “I need to investigate what happened” and then you let enough time pass and people move on to the next story. He never wanted to answer questions about it and over time the media forgets.

      Many athletes don’t worry about tomorrow, and a guy like Manny is about what makes my life the easiest today and they will deal with tomorrow….tomorrow. No I don’t know the guy and this is a harsh generalization, but I really don’t see him thinking more than 1 or 2 days into the future.

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  5. Eminor3rd says:

    Really, the Rays make all the sense on paper. Weird how that works out.

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  6. Richie says:

    This is a terrible idea. Granting the gargantually lower stakes, but calling Manny “low risk” is logically akin to calling Typhoid Mary such on the grounds that she undoubtedly worked cheap, too.

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  7. Basil Ganglia says:

    If he only needs to sit out the first 50 games, I think a non-contending AL team could acquire him and let the suspension clock start running. That returns him to the active list near the end of May. He can then spend the next several as a showcase; if he looks as if he can still produce he becomes a deadline trade candidate. The team releases him if either he appears to finished or the team can’t swing a deadline deal.

    This only costs the team about three or four weeks of time of whatever plans they had for the DH spot, but offers the chance to obtain a Grade C prospect in a deadline deal.

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    • Socrates says:

      You are correct. The author is incorrect. He almost makes more sense for a team that is not going to be competing because they will have the roster spot. For instance the Yankees and Rangers will not have a roster spot to give him to being the season.

      In the end, I think that Cleveland is the most logical play for him to land. Maybe Minnesota and maybe Oakland. None of them have much left to spend and all could use his bat (if healthy).

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  8. JayT says:

    I wonder if it wouldn’t make sense for the Orioles to sign him in the hopes of trading him if he’s having a good season. It’s not like he would be blocking anyone of any real use, and like you say he probably won’t cost much more then league minimum. If come the end of July he has something like a 900 OPS, they could probably get a mid-level prospect from a contender.

    Granted, that would take a lot of things breaking just right, but like I say, the Orioles don’t have anything to lose either if they just have to drop him a month into the season.

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    • dave in GB says:

      That would be a very typical move by the Orioles. It seems like Camden Yards is a cemetary for old, unwanted or exiled players. I’d make a list, but I don’t have the sanity to go through all the names.

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  9. Socrates says:

    Matt – There are some problems with the arguments you are making.

    1) You seem to think that teams are looking at Manny as a starter at DH. I dont think there is a team in the league that is going to consider him their first option even if they sign him. As a matter of fact, he won’t be anyone’s first option for anything until late May.
    2) The contention that he needs to play for a contender is incorrect. It might actually make sense that he is a better fit with a non-contender to start the season. First, contenders tend to have a higher standard for their 25th man than a non-contender. Second, a contender is only willing to give him a shot if other options fall through (injury or ineffectiveness). Those opportunities will likely be around in June and July.

    Lastly, Seattle and Oakland actually should consider Manny. So should the O’s and Cleveland and so should Minnesota and maybe Toronto as well.

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  10. Jim Lahey says:

    Forgot Houston.. They may want a real DH in their move to the AL even though they arent contending. Puts a more respectable product on the field first time through the league

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  11. james wilson says:

    The common perception, which is not incorrect, is that whatever team signs him does not respect itself, so even disreputable organizations are not going to sign him. That is not the same as blackballing even though it ends in the same place.

    Let jerkoff do a Strawberry and hit 600 in independent ball first, which would give some organization an excuse to sign him. He won’t.

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  12. Bill says:

    The notion that it doesn’t ‘cost’ anything to sign Manny is a fallacy.

    For a cheap team like the O’s or A’s, you have to pay him $420,000, major league minimum, which I assume he would not get while suspended.

    More importantly, you have to make room for him on the 40 man roster and cut someone else. For this reason, it really doesn’t matter where Manny begins spring training because he will be on a minor league contract, and if he produces he could be held, or cut and let another team take him. Cleveland makes the most sense for this minor league deal.

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  13. kick me in the GO NATS says:

    I do not like manny and seriously hope he is done!

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  14. john in Toronto says:

    I hope he signs with someone so I can pass at our draft. Crickets, is the term I believe we use when everyone else passes and you are stuck with your call.

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  15. phoenix2042 says:

    so maybe the tigers open up now that vmart is going to miss at least most of the season, if not the whole thing. they are pretty clearly in contending mode right now in that weak central and have the opening at DH without vmart… but comerica park might hurt his power numbers, so perhaps not a perfect fit.

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