(The following was originally published at SB*Nation’s Pinstripe Alley)
The Yankees should sign Manny Ramirez. There, I said it. Admittedly, that statement would have made much more sense five years ago, but even now, it’s an option worth exploring.
Granted, the arguments against such a move are hard to refute. After all, not only does Ramirez still have a 50-game suspension for PED use hanging over his head, but once he returns to active status, he’ll be almost two years removed from his last period of sustained playing time. In other words, signing Manny would be like buying a lottery ticket, but every now and then they wind up paying off.
In a recent blog post, ESPN’ Buster Olney reported that Manny Ramirez will hold a workout later in the month with the hope of returning to the big leagues. Olney also makes a compelling argument for why teams should at least attend. Put simply, Ramirez offers the potential for high reward with absolutely no risk.
Does Ramirez have any chance of coming close to the form that made him one of the best hitters in the history of the game (his career OPS+ of 154 ranks 25th all time)? Probably not. However, it should be noted that even in his last two seasons before the 2011 suspension that forced him into retirement, Ramirez’ OPS+ was 153 and 138, respectively. According to fangraphs.com, Manny was worth over $15 million in those two seasons combined, so there is at least some reason to think he could be a meaningful contributor, especially as a DH in the American League.
Even if Ramirez turned out to be only a shell of his most recent self, he would still contribute value well in excess of the pro-rated minimum salary he’s likely to earn upon his return to the big leagues (assuming his workout isn’t so impressive that it ignites a bidding war). Also, although it’s never a good idea to predict how Manny would react to any situation, it stands to reason he would be on his best behavior in what he’d likely view as a make-good situation. Remember, a prospective employer wouldn’t be hiring the brooding $20 million player whose salary prohibited real punitive action. If at any point Ramirez proved unable or unwilling to perform, the team that signed him could simply cut bait.
The biggest drawback to signing Ramirez is the 50-game suspension that would wipe out the first two months of the season. When you tack on a 2-3 week “rehab” stint, Ramirez’ first at bat probably wouldn’t come until sometime in mid-June. For many teams, that delay is too prohibitive, but, ironically, for the Yankees, it actually makes him more appealing.
The Yankees seem to be counting on Jesus Montero to provide punch from the DH role in 2012, but what happens if the 22-year old isn’t quite ready for prime time? Currently, the Yankees only other viable DH would be Andruw Jones, so a lot is riding on Montero’s ability to quickly adapt to the majors. With Ramirez in the fold, however, the Yankees could consider his suspension as a three month grace period during which it could see how well Montero handles the big leagues. If he proves to be a fast learner, then the Yankees could use Ramirez in a limited role or simply release him outright. On the other hand, if Montero falters, Manny could be the Yankees’ fallback. Once again, it’s a no risk proposition that could provide the team with a viable backup in case their best laid plans go awry.
Regardless of the logic involved, the mere thought of Manny wearing pinstripes is still probably too difficult for many Yankees’ fans to bear. Not only is he marred by steroid baggage and a recent domestic violence-related arrest, but for many Bronx Bomber enthusiasts, the stigma of his years inBostonis the real scarlet letter. Obviously, there’s no argument that can contradict that kind of emotional reaction, but if the goal is to improve the team (and at a low cost, which seems more relevant to the Yankees these days), then some fans may just have to hold their nose and swallow hard.