Mannywood is coming to Oakland. The Oakland Athletics have signed Manny Ramirez to a minor-league deal worth about $500,000. Before the soon-to-be 40 year old can actually suit up and play in a major league game, though, he’ll have to serve a 50-game suspension for violating MLB’s drug policy for a second time.
Billy Beane and Oakland’s front office will then decide if they even need Manny’s services. The A’s have compiled a few in-house options for the designated-hitter spot and may never need Manny to suit up once his suspension is served. His contract, as John Shea points out, is not guaranteed. The A’s could, if they wanted to, release Manny once he’s eligible to return.
If the A’s don’t find someone to fill the DH spot, though, Manny’s name could appear in Bob Melvin’s lineup card as early as June. Manny is a respected major league hitter with a proven track record and could potentially help the A’s in the home run department this season.
Ramirez’s 555 home runs ranks 14th on the career-list. He’ll be allowed to participate in spring training games, but once the season starts so does his suspension. The A’s will likely watch Ramirez very closely this spring to evaluate whether or not the guy has the same type of bat speed that made him a dangerous hitter in the majors.
If he flashes some muscle this spring, though, the A’s could be caught drooling over the notion of having a legitimate power threat in their lineup this season. This deal is virtually risk-free for the Athletics.
There are, of course, questions surrounding Manny’s committment. Will this be the bounce back year that helps to repair the former star’s tarnished image? He could strive to serve as a role model for some younger guys on the team, but I think we all know Manny’s heart just isn’t it sometimes.
He could flop, in which case the A’s could easily drop him. Still, it’d be nice to believe Manny will bounce back this year, spark a rather lifeless lineup and prove to be an influential figure in Oakland’s clubhouse. Manny is a .312/.411/.585 career hitter.
Now, here’s a quick look at Oakland’s DH options this year:
- Manny Ramirez: At 39, Manny’s no longer a spring chicken, but the A’s are hopeful he still has a little life left in his bat. He didn’t play much last year, appearing in only five games with the Tampa Bay Rays. He hit a paltry .059 with one RBI in 17 plate-appearances. He has 555 career home runs, so we all know he can hit for power, but we’ll see this spring if that long break away from action has affected his swing. Some scouts have said that he doesn’t have the same kind of bat speed that made him a once feared hitter, but the A’s have struck lightening before with their veteran DH signings (Frank Thomas of 2006, anyone?). If he performs well this spring, he’ll likely steal some playing time from some younger guys on the team.
- Chris Carter: The signing, if it works out for Manny, doesn’t particularly bode well for Carter’s playing time this year. Sure, Manny will be out for 50 games, but once he’s back the DH spot is likely to be his. Carter will need to be rushing out of the gates this spring if he wants to see some playing time in Oakland. He doesn’t have any real shot in the outfield and his shot at first base is hardly any better. He’ll face stiff competition this spring from all corners of the diamond.
- Jonny Gomes: Gomes, who signed a one-year deal this winter, was figured to get some playing time this year as the team’s DH, but things change. If Manny shows the organization even a glimpse of his former-self, the DH spot will likely be his come June. Gomes will likely see most of his playing time coming in the form of outfield starts. Oakland’s outfield will definitely be crowded this year, but Gomes is a veteran with proven success against left-handed pitching. He could be platooned with a guy like Seth Smith or Josh Reddick this season whenever the team faces left-handed pitching. He could also be used in the DH spot to give Manny or whoever a break from the duties.
- Kila Ka’aihue: The former Royals minor leaguer is in the same boat as Carter. He’ll face some stiff competition this spring from guys like Ramirez, Gomes, Brandon Allen, and Daric Barton. He’ll also need to have a monster spring if he wants a spot on the team’s roster.
ESPN.com’s Pedro Gomez first reported the signing of Ramirez.