Archive for Manny Ramirez
Got just two questions for you this week, but they’re both good ones with long-ish answers. Use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything throughout the week.
Bill asks: Should the Yankees have any interest in bringing Manny Ramirez to training camp and see if he has anything left? Could provide a nice righty bat.
Manny, 40, is tearing the cover off the ball in the Dominican Winter League, hitting .306/.405/.532 with four homers, nine walks, and a dozen strikeouts in 17 postseason games after putting up a .293/.360/.434 line in 25 regular season games. One hundred and eighty five total plate appearances is nothing though, so I wouldn’t read much into that performance at all. Ramirez’s agent recently confirmed to Jon Morosi that his client hopes to return to MLB next season and is using winter ball as what amounts to a showcase, and so far, so good.
Prior to the winter ball playoffs, Manny had not been an above-average hitter since splitting the 2010 season between the Dodgers and White Sox (140 wRC+ in 320 plate appearances). His bat speed and power had been slipping for a while when he signed with the Rays prior to 2011, though he continued to hit for average and draw walks. The stint in Tampa lasted five games due to his second PED suspension, which he satisfied after signing a minor league contract with the Athletics last winter. Manny hit .302/.348/.349 with no homers, five walks, and 17 strikeouts in 17 Triple-A games with Oakland before requesting his release in June and sitting out of the rest of the year.
I have no idea what Ramirez is capable of doing at the plate these days. No one does. He looked close to done during his brief (88 plate appearances) stint with the ChiSox in 2010, when he managed just a .261/.420/.319 (115 wRC+) line. The on-base rate is fantastic, but the lack of power from a guy in his late-30s is a red flag. That said, it’s a small sample and he hit .311/.405/.510 (150 wRC+) in 232 plate appearances with the Dodgers before going to Chicago, so maybe it was just a small sample issue. Remember, that was also two full seasons ago now as well. Hard to take anything from those performances.
Given their emphasis on makeup and all that, I can’t see the Yankees signing Manny at this point. Even on a no-risk, minor league contract. Just can’t see it. That said, I’d love it. Love it. Put that all-important veteran clubhouse to work and see if those guys can keep him grounded and in check. Give him an invite to camp and see what he can do against left-handers, against right-handers, as a DH, as an outfielder, at first base, whatever. There’s nothing to lose other than I guess PR, but the club isn’t doing so hot in that department these days anyway. The Yankees are boring as hell and Manny would certainly make Spring Training much more interesting. I’d love to see it.
Mark asks: With the Mariners apparently going with some mix of Jason Bay, Raul Ibanez, Mike Morse, Franklin Gutierrez, and Michael Saunders — should Casper Wells be available? He’d be a good, cheap fit.
Seattle did nothing to unclog their logjam by replacing John Jaso with Morse, and in fact they made it worse since they would have been able to stick Jaso behind the plate. Justin Smoak is terrible, so Kendrys Morales figures to get most of the action at first base. Jesus Montero has a clear opening to catch at least most of the time, meaning Bay and Ibanez will likely platoon at DH while Morse, Gutierrez, and Saunders man the outfield.
Wells, 28, is a right-handed hitting outfielder who does almost all of his damage against southpaws. He’s a .246/.317/.435 (109 wRC+) overall hitter in 656 career big league plate appearances, but that’s broken down into 132 wRC+ against lefties and an 88 wRC+ against righties. He will strike out some (26.2 K% vs. LHP), but otherwise he draws walks (10.2 BB%) and hits for power (.225 ISO) against lefties. The batting average won’t be anything special (.264 career vs. LHP), but power and patience go a long way. Add in the fact that his defense has been rated as above-average in the corners and average in center, and you’ve got a useful platoon outfielder.
Wells is out of minor league options, meaning he would have to clear waivers to go down to Triple-A next season. That won’t happen, he would almost certainly get claimed. Saunders broke out last season (108 wRC+ overall) and suddenly started hitting lefties (116 wRC+), so he doesn’t necessarily need a platoon partner now. Gutierrez is far from a guarantee to stay healthy (or hit) though, so having an extra non-Bay and non-Ibanez outfielder around seems like a wise idea. If the Mariners do make Wells available, a) it would probably be at the end of Spring Training after they ensure everyone makes it through camp in one piece, and b) the Yankees should definitely have interest. He’d be a great fit.
As you can imagine, we got approximately ten million mailbag questions this week following the Michael Pineda-Jesus Montero trade. Oddly enough, no one really wanted to talk about Hiroki Kuroda. Poor guy. Anyway, I tried to answer as many as possible this week, which is why the answers are shorter than usual. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in sidebar.
Ben asks: I can’t believe I’m even writing this, but would you take a flier on Manny Ramirez now that Montero has vacated the DH spot? Or is the baggage not even worth a minor league deal at this point?
I wouldn’t even bother. That’s a lot of baggage, plus he still has to serve his 50-game suspension for last year’s failed drug test. Jon Morosi confirmed that he has to sign a contract before he can begin to serve a suspension, so he wouldn’t even be available until late-May or so. Maybe he can still hit, but I don’t think it’s worth the trouble to find out.
Den asks: Do you think the probability of A.J. Burnett being traded increased significantly after the deals with Kuroda and Seattle?
I do not, at least not significantly. It’s not a matter of the Yankees and their willingness to move Burnett, we know they want to, it’s whether or not another team is open to taking him while assuming some portion of his contract. So far all we’ve heard is that other clubs want the Yankees to pay basically everything, and if you’re going to do that you might as well keep him. The Pineda and Kuroda stuff won’t make A.J. any more desirable to other teams, unfortunately.
J.R. asks: How did Andruw Jones fair against RHP in the second half in 2011 (after the widened stance)? Did he do well enough that he could be the full time DH (or at least 400 AB)? Do injury concerns prevent this?
To the statcave!
Jones vs. RHP pre-ASG: .091/.167/.091 in 24 PA
Jones vs. RHP post-ASG: .214/.365/.571 in 52 PA
That works out to a .172/.303/.406 overall line in 76 PA, but the sample size is so small that we shouldn’t take it seriously. For what it’s worth, Andruw hit .215/.310/.477 in 403 PA vs. RHP with the Rangers and White Sox in 2009-2010. I don’t know of any injury concerns that would prevent Jones from playing regularly against right-handers (though he did have his knee scoped at the end of the season), but there are obvious performance concerns. I think using him as the full-time DH would be a last resort, or at least a second-to-last resort behind Jorge Vazquez. Also, statcave is totally going to be a thing now.
Daniel asks: Due to the pitching depth that the recent moves create for the Yankees, could we see a move to get a young cost-controlled bat that could DH and play other positions (i.e. LoMo, Dominic Brown)? I would include Billy Butler, but he would keep the Yankees from using the DH for veterans needing a half-day.
I would love to see it, but I’m not counting on it. The Yankees have pitching depth but it’s not like they have a rotation full of aces and a few to spare; their depth is Burnett, Phil Hughes, Freddy Garcia, and a bunch of MLB-ready back-end types in Triple-A. That won’t net a whole lot in a trade, certainly not a Brown or Logan Morrison type. Look at what it took to get Montero, it’ll take a similar package to get someone like those two. Unless they plan on turning around and trading Pineda, I don’t see it.
Greg asks: Everybody is focused on Pineda’s extreme fly-ball tendencies, but we’re all thinking about it in a vacuum. How many of those fly balls at Safeco would have been out at NYS?
You can toy around with Katron, which SG already did. Click the link and you’ll see that none of the fly balls Pineda gave up in Safeco would have been homers in Yankee Stadium except for the ones that were homers in Safeco. There aren’t even many balls hit to the warning track. Obviously this isn’t a perfect analysis because it doesn’t take into account things like different wind directions and altitude and all that, but the point is that just because a pitcher gives up a lot of fly balls doesn’t mean they’re all hit deep.
Kevin asks: Outside of the box idea: if David Adams or Corban Joseph can prove to be a decent enough prospect this year, any chance of moving Robinson Cano to third and sending Alex Rodriguez to DH? Second basemen tend to age horribly, so it could preserve his career a little longer.
I do think that’s a possibility, but obviously it won’t happen anytime soon. I think Adams has a chance to be an above-average second baseman in the big leagues, or at least moreso than CoJo, but he lost so much development time over the last two years due to the ankle problems. His probability nosedived.
I’m really curious to see what the Yankees are going to do with Cano long-term, because second baseman do tend to age horribly as you said, and his contract will be up in two years at age 31. That’s a year or two before you’d expect him to fall off a cliff, but unfortunately he’ll be in line for a massive contract if he keeps doing what he’s been doing. I’ve been saying it for months, give him a six-year deal right now and knock out the first half of the contract before he enters the danger zone for middle infielders.
Brian asks: Would it be fair (in a general sense) to say that if Jesus Montero was a pitching prospect, he’d be Michael Pineda?
That’s interesting, and I do agree. The primary tools are huge, meaning Montero’s bat and Pineda’s fastball/slider/control. The secondary tools are a big question mark however, specifically Pineda’s changeup and Montero’s defense/long-term position. They’re both physically huge — though that’s good for one and potentially bad for the other — and approximately the same age (Pineda’s ten months older). Position players are less risky though, just due to general attrition rates and pitching being such an unnatural thing. They are similar to a certain extent though, at least as far as pitchers and position players can be similar anyway.
Nik asks: When Joba is healed and ready to pitch again, where does he fit in? And what would you guess the bullpen sequence to look like?
I expect the Yankees and Joe Girardi to ease him back into things at first, meaning a low-leverage inning here and there for the first few weeks. Once he’s settled in and back in the swing of things, I have to assume he’ll be right in the seventh and eighth inning mix with Rafael Soriano and David Robertson. Those guys aren’t available every day, so adding Joba will provide some depth and allow him to fill the gaps every so often.
Via Peter Botte, Brian Cashman replied “I don’t think so” when asked about potential interest in Manny Ramirez. Earlier today word got out that Manny will attempt a comeback next season following his abrupt retirement — thanks to a failed PED test — earlier this year. You can file this one in the “well duh” cabinet.
Via Jon Heyman, the Rays have agreed to terms with both Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez. Damon gets $5.25M and some incentives, Manny gets just $2M. That’s the steal of the offseason right there. Tampa gets some much needed punch, even if both guys are well into their decline phases. Not even $8M for the pair? Unbelievable.
Via Buster Olney, the Yankees have no interest in signing Manny Ramirez. The other day we heard that the team held internal discussions about him simply because he fit a need (right-handed hitting outfielder), but obviously it doesn’t make sense. Jorge Posada is the full-time designated hitter and they already have three very capable outfielders on the roster. Good to see this one shot down in relatively short order.
I’m guessing the internal talks went something like this: “Okay, righty outfielders, first candidate is Manny Ramirez.” “Nope, next.”
Via Jack Curry, the Yankees have had some internal discussions about Manny Ramirez, who would fit a need as a right-handed hitting outfielder. Outfielder being a relatively loose term, in this case. Curry adds that the team was just doing its due diligence more than anything, and a deal with Manny is less likely than a reunion with Johnny Damon.
I took a look at Manny a few weeks ago and came to the conclusion that there wasn’t a fit. He can still hit, but not nearly as well as he did in his prime. Plus he’s never been a part-time player in his career, and that will take some adjusting to on his part. I just think the Yankees can land someone a little more flexible, and probably cheaper as well (coughScottHairstoncough).
There’s nothing more tempting to fans than a future Hall of Famer on the free agent market, especially after they’ve watched him do unheard of amounts of damage to their favorite team for the last decade. “I want that guy to do that in our uniform” is the feeling, and for the last three years there’s been a decently sized contingent of Yankee fans that have pined for Manny Ramirez in pinstripes. If you’re reading this site, then you’re no doubt very, very familiar with Mr. Ramirez, perhaps more familiar with him than you care to be. He tormented the Yankees for years, hitting .322/.413/.607 (.422 wOBA) with 51 homers in 861 career plate appearances against them. That’s MVP caliber production over a year-and-a-half worth of plate appearances.
Manny is a free agent this offseason, two years after his last crack at the open market. Over the summer he was placed on waivers and claimed by the White Sox, meaning that even if the Yanks wanted to claim him, they didn’t get the chance since the ChiSox had a higher priority. Just three years ago he posted a .432 wOBA, whacking 37 homers with the Sox and Dodgers. The “Manny quit on Boston” narrative is blatantly untrue; he had a .398 wOBA with the Sox that year, and hit .407/.500/.712 (.480 wOBA) in the weeks leading up to the trade. If only every player would quit on his team like that. Yeah, Ramirez has had more than his fair share of off-the-field issues that have occasionally spilled over into his on-the-field effort, but he was a baseball mashing machine.
The problem is that over the last two seasons, the baseball mashing has occurred with less and less frequency. After averaging 39.75 homers per year from 1996 through 2008, Manny dipped down to just 19 homers in 2009 and then just nine this year. After a solid but injury plagued effort with the Dodgers (.393 wOBA in 232 plate appearances) this season, he really dropped off with the White Sox, picking up just two extra base hits in 88 plate appearances. His .353 wOBA with Chicago is inflated by five hit by pitches; if we remove those, he drops down to a .314 wOBA. Here’s a graphical look at his power decline…
Buster Olney thought it would be a good fit to poll various talent evaluators around the league to see what everyone thinks of Manny at this point in his career. It’s behind the iron curtain of Insider, but for the most part all of their opinions can be summed up by: “he’s a DH,” “solid bat, mid-.800 OPS guy,” “incentive-laden deal,” and “slow.” One called him a healthier version of Nick Johnson, meaning his offensive value stems from the ability to control the strike zone and get on base rather than drive the ball with authority.
The Yankees need a replacement for Marcus Thames, some kind of right-handed bat that will crush lefties, but Ramirez isn’t that guy. Not now anyway, it just doesn’t make sense. Manny offers negative defensive value and in fact the health of his legs is a concern (he was on the DL three times with leg related issues in 2010), so he probably couldn’t even play the field in an emergency spot. They’d be wasting one of three non-backup catcher bench spots on a guy that couldn’t do anything other than walk to the plate and occasionally run the bases. He would also take at-bats away from Jorge Posada as the DH, which in turn would take at-bats away from Jesus Montero, which is clearly bad for the long-term outlook of the franchise.
Manny is first ballot Hall of Fame lock, one of the greatest right-handed hitters we’ll ever see, but there’s no place for him on the Yankees at this time. They need someone more flexible defensively and frankly a little cheaper to be in a reserve role, not someone used to playing everyday that could become a distraction if things don’t go his way. I fully respect Manny’s absurd career accomplishments (how the hell did he never a) win an MVP, or b) finish higher than third in the voting?), but there’s no fit here. The Manny Ramirez option is a non-option for New York.
For starters, apologies for a second-straight PED post. We try to keep these topics to a minimum, but since Manny Ramirez was suspended last week, a number of issues have come to light. These issues are important in preventing future PED usage, not in any past witch hunts, which is why I’m going to run with this.
As you can see in the above-linked post, reports ran rampant upon the announcement of Manny’s suspension. It’s pot; no, it’s an ED drug; no it’s a fertility drug. Mark Fainaru-Wada and T.J. Quinn of ESPN have laid out the whole story, from Manny’s failed test to the ensuing investigation, even covering the planned appeal and its eventual dropping. If you’re interested in how Manny actually got caught, give it a read. It explains everything rather succinctly.
Just as it is difficult to believe that A-Rod stopped using steroids after the 2003 test, it’s equally difficult to believe this was the first time Manny used. There’s no use speculating exactly how long he used, so we’ll skip that part. Let’s just take it for granted that both A-Rod and Manny used outside of the timeframe when they were caught. How, then, are they skirting the tests? This is the most important question to arise from the collective incidences.
Major League Baseball’s drug testing program, while not the strictest on the books, trumps those of the three other major American sports. Yet the Manny issue highlights its deficiencies. Unfortunately, it’s going to take plenty more research to determine how these players are skirting tests. Are they only using in the off-season? Manny’s case could point to that. MLB found synthetic testosterone in his system, and his medical records revealed a prescription for hCG, a drug taken by steroid users coming off a cycle, in order to kickstart natural testosterone production. Does this indicate that players are using in the off-season, cycling off just before the round of Spring Training tests, and using drugs like hCG to restore normal testosterone levels?
The use of masking agents is another possibility. Steroid tests compare the ratio of testosterone and epitestosterone in a urine sample, with a 1:1 ratio being normal and a 4:1 ratio signaling foul play. A masking agent, then, could simulate epitestosterone in order to make the test look normal. This could be a problem for the testing program, since they’d then have to figure out what kind of masking agent would produce such an effect. Then they’d have to create a test for it which could be determined from urine alone, since we know blood testing isn’t an option at the moment.
While the current drug testing policy works well to keep normal steroid use in check, MLB still has a ways to go in further combatting PED use. If they’re truly committed to eradicating the sport of steroids and amphetamines, they’ll do whatever it takes to understand how players are beating tests. I’d expect many PED-related issues to arise when the PA and owners sit down for the next collective bargaining agreement. Unfortunately for the players, they’re not going to have a ton of leverage on this issue.
News just broke on SportsCenter. More as it comes.
Update (11:48am): LA Times has the news.
Update (11:52am): From the LAT article:
Ramirez is expected to attribute the test results to medication received from a doctor for a personal medical issue, according to a source familiar with matter but not authorized to speak publicly.
Update (12:21pm): Okay, so now basically everyone involved, including Manny and Boras, are saying the positive test was triggered by a medication prescribed for a personal issue by a doctor in Miami. Regardless, banned substances are banned substances, and Manny will serve the suspension starting tonight. I suspect we’ll hear absolutely nothing about the possibility of Boston’s recent titles being tainted.
Update (12:36pm): Manny issued a statement, basically saying that it was a prescribed medication and that he’s been advised not to say anything else. He did note that he’s taken – and passed – about 15 other tests over the last few years. The statement is available here as a PDF.
Update by Ben (12:50pm): Per Will Carroll’s Twitter, Manny was suspended under section 8.G.2 of the drug agreement. This provision allows for a suspension if a player tests positive for controlled substances, PEDs or stimulants not enumerated in the prior Section 8 terms. (The JDA is available here as a PDF.)
So basically, it sounds as though Manny has been suspended for something other than a PED, a stimulant or marijuana. It could be HGH; it could be something less serious. Either way, the suspension was at the discretion of Bud Selig. Something big happened here.
Update by Ben (1:56 pm): Yahoo! Sports reports that the banned substance was a sexual performance enhancing drug. It isn’t Viagra but rather, as Steve Henson and Tim Brown report, “a substance that treats the cause rather providing a temporary boost in sexual performance, the source said.” What the cause could be is anyone’s guess.
Update by Ben (2:12 pm): ESPN reports that the fertility drug Manny was using is a steroid booster. The Worldwide Leader writes, “HCG is a women’s fertility drug typically used by steroid users to restart their body’s natural testosterone production as they come off a steroid cycle.” This could blow up even more.
Somehow, someway, in a bad economy with no other potential suitors, Scott Boras is going to get Manny Ramirez his millions. According to numerous reports — rounded up by MLBTR — Manny and the Dodgers are soon going to agree to a two-year, $45-million deal. Included in this deal with be a one-year opt-out that Manny can exploit if he and Boras feel his 2009 performance and the 2009-2010 market warrant it. That the Dodgers would do this deal at this price point with an opt-out is a bit mind-boggling. Meanwhile, the Yanks have some outfield holes to fill next year, and either Matt Holliday or Manny Ramirez could wind up the beneficiary of some Bronx bucks. I’m sure the thought has occurred to Mr. Boras already.