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Rumor has it that Manny Ramirez could be headed to Oakland. There are plenty of pros and cons to Manny being Manny in green and gold and there are also some out-of-the-box alternatives if general manager Billy Beane is determined to sign an old hitter. (Photo credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Manny Ramirez and a world of possibilities

It looks like the A’s are creeping closer and closer to signing Manny Ramirez to be the team’s DH and cleanup hitter. Fellow Over-the-hill Gang member Magglio Ordonez has also been mentioned as a possibility and Jose Canseco has even come out of the woodwork to publicly lobby for a spring tryout.

I guess if you’re an old, washed-up hitter Oakland is the promised land where at-bats in the heart of the order are there for the taking.

General manager Billy Beane told BANG’s Joe Stiglich that the team is in the market for a veteran DH to bat cleanup this season. If you ask me, any general manager openly searching for a cleanup hitter right before spring training starts has done something seriously wrong while assembling his roster during the offseason.

Sometimes stuff like that gets a guy fired and sometimes it gets him a contract extension through 2019.

Clearly, I’m not in love with the idea of Manny coming to town under these circumstances but it’s a slow time of year and the prospect of him calling Oakland home this summer offers a lot of food for thought.

5 REASONS TO SIGN MANNY

1. Attendance. Owner Lew Wolff is all about appealing to the fans, right? Bringing a big name like Manny Ramirez on board could draw an extra 5 or 10 people to the park every month.

Brilliant!

2. Someone has to hit cleanup. Hate to say it but right now I don’t see a No. 4 hitter on the roster. At least Manny can settle into the middle of the order without overthinking it the way a young kid like Josh Reddick might if he got thrown into the fire.

I don’t think hitting third did much to help Kurt Suzuki‘s development and forcing a kid into the cleanup spot could stunt the growth of someone better suited to hit lower in the lineup.

3. Maybe there really is an unofficial payroll floor. If the A’s still have to spend a couple of million dollars to keep the league and union off their back I guess Manny is as good a use of that chunk of change as anyone else. I could live with Manny more than a veteran fifth outfielder or middle reliever.

4. It buys time. The A’s are entertaining the idea of signing Manny because they obviously don’t have a cleanup hitter for 2012. But a 1-year commitment to Manny leaves that spot in the order wide open for Michael Choice in 2013. Sign Manny and for one season there’s no need to rush an unprepared kid into the heart of the order.  That has to be worth one or two million bucks.

5. Maybe the old man can contribute to the 2015 A’s. The front office has tried to sell fans on the idea that this rebuild is all about 2015 and on the surface Manny won’t have anything to do with that club. But if he can have a strong half season in Oakland he may actually deliver some trade value at the deadline.

Even if all he brings back in a deal is some kid who develops into a good backup infielder it’d be a long-term return on a short-term investment.

5 REASONS NOT TO SIGN MANNY

1. Dude, where’s my youth movement? Don’t sell me on a rebuild and then give me a DH about to turn 40 when you have a young kid like Chris Carter sitting around with nothing left to prove at Triple A.

To be perfectly honest with you I feel the same way about the offseason acquisitions of Coco Crisp, Seth Smith, and Jonny Gomes.  If the A’s ever get to San Jose those guys won’t be part of the inaugural opening day and in the meantime they’re blocking younger players.

I bought into the idea of a youth movement so give me a lineup full of young players who have a chance to be something special. Manny doesn’t fit the bill.

2. Veteran “presence” could be highly overrated. Manny’s an all-time flake, does he really have anything to offer a clubhouse full of kids? If the A’s sign him I’m sure at some point in the season we’ll see some obligatory stories about how much the team loves having a veteran like Manny around but I have my doubts that the mere presence of him makes anyone better over the course of their career.

3. He may actually make the A’s a little better in 2012. There were a lot of problems with Beane’s last rebuild but one of the main failures was that in the early stages the A’s were bad but they were never bad enough to get really high draft picks.

If Manny actually shows up in shape and motivated he just might become a run producing beast in the middle of the order. If Beane makes the potential mistake of keeping him around all year that could add up to a few more wins which may not sound like much but it could be the difference between getting into the top 10 of the draft or landing in the teens.

As long as the ultimate goal of the franchise is to be great in a few years then high draft picks are like gold and a few losses in 2012 could lead to a lot of wins in 2015 and beyond.

That’s not to say that I want the A’s to make it a point to go out and find terrible stopgap players to stink up the joint but I prefer to see them lose while prioritizing player development to discover which youngsters can cut it in the big leagues over possibly hovering around .500 thanks to Manny’s bat.

I’ll take finishing 10 games under .500 without Manny in 2012 if it pays off with the development of Carter, etc. and a high draft pick in 2013. The growing pains are worth it if it helps lead to the next great A’s team.

4. He’s going to eat up valuable at-bats. OK, I’ll admit that this is more like No. 3b on this list than it is No. 4, but an ancient DH isn’t a part of the long-term formula for success and giving Manny significant playing time blocks the development of everyone from Carter to Brandon Allen to Collin Cowgill.  I just can’t emphasize enough how much I want to see young players learning the ropes in 2012 over someone like Manny.

This is just one man’s opinion, but as far as I’m concerned the A’s are better off using the 500 at-bats that could go to Manny on younger players who could be part of a playoff team in San Jose.

5. People may start showing up in those stupid hats with built-in dreadlocks. Mannywood in Oakland could lead to some really stupid marketing. It’ll be hard for me to mock the absurdity of Giants fans wearing moronic panda and giraffe hats if A’s fans start walking around the ballpark in dorky looking fake dreads.

5 OLD HITTERS THE A’S SHOULD ALSO CONSIDER

If the A’s are really going to stroll down Memory Lane dumpster diving for a past-his-prime hitter I want to help and throw some ideas out there for Beane and Co. to kick around.

1. Rickey Henderson. If the A’s are really going give someone long in the tooth a real shot at playing a key role on the team in 2012, this is a no-brainer isn’t it? If there’s one person who thinks Rickey can still play it’s Rickey. And if there’s one group of fans that would like to see him try playing again it’s the faithful few who call the Coliseum home every summer.

If Wolff wants to find a gimmick to prop up attendance a little bit with a name fans recognize there’s no better man for the job than Henderson.

2. Barry Bonds. If Wolff is really open to giving guys a second chance he can put his money where his mouth is and offer baseball’s exiled bad boy an opportunity to don green gold and launch some baseballs into the upper-deck tarp.

Throw a nice leather recliner in one corner of the locker room and let Barry do his thing whenever he feels like it. Since this would be part of one big circus sideshow anyway, Bonds can have it written into his contract that he only plays in home games.

Depending on how cranky the old man is feeling he may only show up for day games on the weekend. No big deal. He’s Barry Freakin’ Bonds and he can do whatever he wants.

3. Mark McGwire. C’mon Big Mac, ditch that hitting coach gig in St. Louis and come back to the East Bay. Andro, schmandro … all is forgiven. We’re not here to talk about the past, right?

Dig into the batter’s box and put on a show. It can’t be any worse than giving Canseco a shot, can it?

4. Jason Giambi. Oh wait, we already tried that and it failed miserably. Maybe I should put Mike Piazza or Hideki Matsui in this spot on the list? Oh yeah, we’ve already been down that road and we know it leads nowhere. Which begs the question of why are the A’s wasting their time flirting with Manny when they know how this kind of thing usually works out?

5. Ted Williams. You say he’s dead, I say he just needs to be thawed out of his current cryonic slumber at Alcor. Unless the A’s can scare up a headless body to attach the Splendid Splinter’s noggin to, all he’ll be able to do in a game is watch pitches whiz past him. But if that’s good enough to earn Daric Barton playing time it should be good enough to warrant at-bats for a legend like Williams.

Potentially losing a big chunk of playing time to freezer burn is a major worry with this idea but I’m sure the A’s training staff has a way to deal with that little dilemma. It can’t be any tougher than trying to keep Rich Harden on the field.

If the A’s really want to think outside the box they can make Chili Davis their DH and cleanup hitter. I bet Oakland’s new hitting coach has more power than half the kids on the current roster. There’s no reason he can’t lead by example and show the youngsters what he’s talking about in the video room and around the batting cage.

Now it’s time to sit back and see what the A’s have up their sleeve. Is Manny really coming to town? I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

Follow me on Twitter @JunkballBlogger and for more A’s-related analysis, stories, and opinions, follow us on twitter @FS_SwinginAs or like us on Facebook.

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