January 9, 2012
“I’m now an officially retired baseball player. I’ll be going away on a trip to Spain with my old man.” (ESPNDeportes.com)
And with that, Manny Ramirez ,one of the best hitters in this generation, retired last Spring early in the season. That statement came after he was suspended for steroid use and it appeared that Ramirez was riding off into the sunset. But as is frequently the case with retired athletes, Ramirez apparently decided he wasn’t ready for golf, vacations, and appearances at baseball card shows just yet.
Ramirez sought a return and Major League Baseball has cut the 100-game suspension he was due to receive in half because he missed virtually all of 2011, appearing in only five games with the Tampa Bay Rays. Manny now wants to play again and is scheduled to hold workouts in the near future for teams. That’s not the real issue, though. The question that needs to be asked is ‘Does baseball want Manny?’
Ramirez is clearly past his prime and has seen better days. Last year in those five aforementioned games, he hit only .063, tallying a single hit in 17 games. In 2010, though, he hit .298 playing in 90 games, so he probably has at least a little left in the tank. Despite his recent problems with steroids, I’ve got to think that some team will take a chance on him.
At first glance, there are plenty of teams to which Ramirez could go. But Manny’s not the greatest defensive player in the world, so his suitors may be limited to the American League where he can serve as a designated hitter. Even then, we can likely rule out some teams just from their stance towards the 2012 season. For example, the Oakland Athletics are without a designated hitter with Hideki Matsui not likely to be re-signed, but A’s General Manager Billy Beane has already said the team is probably going with a younger, in-house option. That would obviously rule out Ramirez.
Here are four potential destinations for him in 2012 as I see it.
Miami Marlins: The Miami ‘don’t call us Florida’ Marlins are the only National League team on my list, but Ramirez could be a fit there since he lives in Florida. Miami is less than an hour’s drive from Ramirez’ home in Weston and Man-Ram wouldn’t have to worry about packing up and moving away for the season, making it very convenient. In addition, with the Marlins’ new stadium opening in 2012, adding an attraction like Ramirez could help boost attendance a bit.
Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles have allowed last year’s DH, Vladimir Guerrero, to go to free agency. Guerrero produced decent numbers last season (.290 batting average, 13 home runs, and 63 RBI), but did so for about $8 million. Ramirez could probably be had for less than that and his 2010 numbers extrapolated to a full season were mostly better than what Guerrero did last year in 145 games.
Toronto Blue Jays: The Jays used Edwin Encarnacion quite a bit in the DH role last year, but he’s also a great utility player and can fill a few different positions capably. Toronto could, at the very least, use someone else to help them split time in the DH spot and Ramirez could be that guy. And while it’s been three years since Ramirez played in Boston, there are still several pitchers in the AL east with whom he’s familiar. I think he could fare well against some of them.
Cleveland Indians: The Indians picked up future Hall of Famer Jim Thome as a DH last year in hopes of reaching the postseason. Thome, however, has since signed with the Philadelphia Phillies for 2012. That leaves a hole in the Indians’ lineup and Cleveland could certainly use someone that hits for average in their lineup as they finished only 18th in the majors in that department last year. Ramirez started his career with the Indians and is familiar with the club and the area. Cleveland was amenable to bringing Thome back last season after he started his career with them in the early 1990s and I could see them possibly doing the same with Ramirez.