Over the past few weeks we've discussed potential players the Rays could target for their currently vacant DH position. Free agents Magglio Ordonez and Marcus Thames had posts dedicated to their candidacy, and of course there's always internal options like Dan Johnson. Those players are well and good, but they're not without their flaws: Ordonez is coming off a major injury, Thames would need a platoon partner, and Johnson's performance over a full season is uncertain. Thanks in part to comments from his agent, though, another player has had his hat thrown into the proverbial ring: Manny Ramirez.
A hitter of Manny Ramiez's stature needs no formal introduction. You're all well aware of what he brings, both on and off the field. In other years someone like Ramirez wouldn't be available to the Rays, but as we've discussed previously, the market for designated hitters is overflowing with options this off-season. Echoing those statements, Scott Boras recently had this to say about his client, Manny B. Manny*:
"Really, the primary duty of what he is going to be doing from now on is DH-ing...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."
*Note: I wrote this post before I saw the post by Dave Cameron at FanGraphs yesterday.
It's as if Boras is speaking directly to Andrew Friedman. Ideally the Rays would like a full time DH, not a platoon situation, and I'd imagine a player with a lifetime .411 OBP and .418 wOBA would be at the top of their list. It's an odd thing to hear super-agent Scott Boras actually admit that he probably won't get his client a large contract, which makes it much more likely that Ramirez ends up in a price range the Rays like. If Ramirez ends up getting an incentive laden, one year contract, while the Rays would prefer to have someone younger fill their line-up hole, Friedman has said he's open to signing the right player to a one-year contract.
Also, it's worth remembering that not many teams in contention in the American League need a designated hitter for next season. The Yankees are moving Jorge Posada there to make room for Jesus Montero, Boston has David Ortiz, Texas seems to want to re-sign Vlad Guerrero, Toronto has Adam Lind, and the list goes on. If Manny wants to DH, his options are already limited.
There are undoubtedly some in the area who want no part of Ramirez due to his off-the-field personality issues. For those worried though, consider this: the 2011 Rays are going to be in quasi-contention without adding Ramirez, but adding his motivated bat (whether it's motivated desire for money or revenge, I don't care) can help the Rays make another push toward the playoffs. He's a gamble but to not take that gamble would be criminal, especially when you consider he would be managed by Joe Maddon.
If there is one manager who could connect with Ramirez, I feel it would be Maddon. Most would say that Charlie Manuel, like Maddon, is sort of an oddball character. Oddball or not, Manuel has said numerous times that Ramirez is like a son to him. Obviously, I'm not saying Maddon would inherently have that same relationship, but I don't think it's a stretch to see the two of them getting along quite well. I feel like Maddon's passion and penchant for getting himself kicked out of games would endear himself to Manny, and hey, they can both talk about their odd hair styles.
There's still too much talent left in Ramirez's bat for him to go without a job. If Scott Boras holds true to his comments and the Rays can work out a deal, they could find themselves with one of the biggest free agent bargains in baseball for the second year in a row.