Manny’s Back: Ramirez signed minor league deal with Texas

This isn’t exactly Yankees related, but Manny Ramirez has signed a minor league with the Rangers. He was playing in Taiwan earlier this year, but he recently opted out of his contract to pursue big league opportunities. Unsurprisingly, the Yankees didn’t have any interest. They sure could use some right-handed thump though. Oh well.

Yankees unlikely to have interest in Manny Ramirez

No surprise here, but the Yankees are unlikely to have interest in Manny Ramirez according to multiple reports. “I wouldn’t say,” said Brian Cashman in a generic response to Anthony Reiber when asked if they would look into signing him. “I don’t think it’s in my best interests to say who I may or may not have interest in.”

Ramirez, 41, recently opted out of his contract with the EDA Rhinos in Taiwan in hopes of returning to the big leagues. He hit .352/.422/.555 with eight homers and more walks (23) than strikeouts (21) in 49 games and 206 plate appearances for the Rhinos, who play in a league that is roughly equivalent to High-A ball. I’m pretty sure no team will give Manny — who has served his most recent PED suspension and could join a team right away — a shot given all his baggage, especially the Yankees considering their emphasis on makeup and character.

Morosi: Manny Ramirez wants to return to MLB

(Photo via Baseballmania)
(Photo via Baseballmania)

According to Jon Morosi, Manny Ramirez hopes to return to MLB after recently opting out of his contract with the EDA Rhinos in the Chinese Professional Baseball League. There have been reports of a possible opportunity with the Chiba Lotte Mariners in Japan, but Manny’s agent Barry Praver made it clear their preference is a return to MLB.

“The reason he decided not to return for the second half was to free himself to be available to play in the United States,” said Praver. “This whole thing with Manny in Taiwan was a phenomenon. He invigorated the league. Attendance went through the roof. It was a very positive experience for both sides. Manny was so invigorated by his play there that he wants to return to the Majors … Manny would be interested in returning to the Majors in any role, including that of a pinch-hitter.”

Ramirez, 41, hit .352/.422/.555 with eight homers and more walks (23) than strikeouts (21) in 49 games and 206 plate appearances for the Rhinos. The CPBL is roughly equivalent to Single-A ball. He last played in the big leagues in 2011, when he appeared in five games for the Rays before being suspended for a second failed PED test. The suspension was reduced from 100 games to 50 games, and he served it last season after signing with the Athletics. He asked them for his release before they had a chance to call him up.

I would be, unequivocally, in favor of the Yankees signing Manny. The offense is lifeless and for the most part they’re an uninteresting team and a bore to watch, something Ramirez would correct in a heartbeat. I think the Yankees would sooner bring Don Mattingly out of retirement though; I can’t imagine they (or any other team, for that matter) would go for it because of all the baggage. But man it would be fun. Give him the league minimum and see what happens. What’s the worst that could possibly happen, he hits like Vernon Wells and they cut him? Embrace the sideshow.

Going back in time with old scouting reports

I’m not sure when exactly it happened, but at some point recently the Baseball Hall of Fame partnered with the Scout of the Year Foundation to create a free and searchable online database of old scouting reports. The data is very incomplete — it doesn’t include every player and it only goes back so far — and the database itself can be slow and a bit of a pain, but those are minor nuisances compared to the wealth of information available.

Thanks to the database, we can look back at what professional talent evaluators — people who do this for a living — had to say about our favorite players once upon a time. For example, here are some bits and pieces of reports from various teams about a young high school senior from Michigan named Derek Jeter back in 1992:

Derek Jeter Scouting Reports

You can click every image in those post for a larger view, and I highly recommend you do just that.

Within those report snippets, future first ballot Hall of Famer Derek Jeter is described as having:

  • a good face
  • a hi butt
  • an impact both offensively and defensively
  • makeup 2b a star
  • some hot dog in him

Once upon a time, Jeter was a showoff. Wrap your head around that. All of the reports agreed he was a future star though, and in the end that is what was most important.

After the jump — lots of images and I don’t want to cripple anyone’s computer — are some opinions on Alex Rodriguez back from 1993, when he was a high school senior:

[Read more…]

Mailbag: Manny Ramirez & Casper Wells

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.

(Christian Petersen/Getty)

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.

(Ed Zurga/Getty)

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.

Mailbag: Manny, Burnett, Andruw, Pineda, Joba

As you can imagine, we got approximately ten million mailbag questions this week following the Michael PinedaJesus 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.

(REUTERS/Brian Blanco)

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.

No LoMo for the Yankees. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

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.