Archive for Manny Ramirez


The Manny Ramirez Option

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(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

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…

The Fall of Manny Ramirez.

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.

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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.

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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.

Categories : STEROIDS!
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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.

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Ed. Note: The post originally scheduled for the overnight — about the new patch on the Yankee hats — will be back at 9:30 a.m. Since Manny’s rejection is timely, we wanted to toss this up as soon as we could.

I’m beginning to wonder if Manuel Aristides Ramirez actually wants to play baseball this year. For the fourth time this winter, Manny and Scott Boras have rejected an offer from the Dodgers. The latest one was a one-year offer for $25 million with a player option for 2010 at $20 million, and from the sound of it, Frank McCourt isn’t too keen to jump back to the table.

“We love Manny Ramirez,” the Dodgers owner said in a statement last night. “And we want Manny back, but we feel we are negotiating against ourselves. When his agent finds those ‘serious offers’ from other clubs, we’ll be happy to re-start the negotiations. Even with an economy that has substantially eroded since last November, out of respect for Manny and his talents, we actually improved our offer. So now, we start from scratch.”

While the Giants remain on the periphery of the Great Manny Chase, I’m beginning to wonder if Manny isn’t going to be somewhat forced to sit out. By rejecting the Dodgers again, Boras has made sure that he won’t get a comparable offer from any time. Maybe Manny should stay in top shape and wait until teams come a-knockin’ in June for that playoff drive push. Who knows which team might be able to use one of the game’s best right-handed sluggers ever by then?

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A year ago, Scott Boras and Alex Rodriguez suffered through a public and personal divorce. While A-Rod‘s opt-out resulted in a $270-million, 10-year deal from the Yanks, his timing — in the middle of Game 4 of the World Series — earned him universal baseball scorn. With another top client jobless as Spring Training begins, Boras is again on the receiving end of some bad press.

According to a report in the Dominican-based Impacto Deportivo, Manny Ramirez may be on the verge of jettisoning Boras as his agent this week. The free agent could attempt to handle negotiations himself.

For Scott Boras, losing Manny Ramirez at this point in his career wouldn’t be the biggest loss to the agency business. After all, Mark Teixeira, also a Boras client, just landed himself a $180-million, eight-year deal. Boras will draw a far bigger commission from that one Teixeira deal than he will throughout the rest of Manny’s career.

But on the other hand, Boras seems to play a dangerous game with his clients. He tried to steal the spotlight for A-Rod in 2007, and he completely misread the Manny market this year. Teams seem to be getting wise to his dealings. It’s tough to convince a GM that some unknown team is also in on the GM’s top target when the GM is expecting Boras to drop that line.

So instead, Boras the agent tells his clients that he can get them a better deal. Turn down the two-year, $40-million option; turn down the two-year, $45-million offer; turn down the one-year, $25-million offer. Somewhere out there is a three-year offer, and somewhere out there are a bunch of fans who aren’t going to look too kindly on a player haggling over a few million dollars while the American economy hits a recession.

Manny will probably land with the Dodgers. Joe Torre is expecting him, and the team is holding open a locker for the slugger. But he looks bad, and Boras’ players are finally deciding that perhaps the bad press just isn’t worth it. As teams grow tougher, it will be interesting to see how Boras maintains his empire. He didn’t get to the top without smarts, and he’ll have to adapt. It’s all part of the game of the business of baseball.

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Cash: Yanks at payroll limit

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The Yanks may have won the winter, but it didn’t come cheap. Speaking at a charity event last night, Brian Cashman addressed the Yanks’ off-season spending and said that the team is done with the big contracts this year.

David Waldstein from The Times covered the Yankee GM’s appearance:

Cashman spoke for nearly two hours to a capacity audience of 164 people at the Jacob Burns Film Center on behalf of Ed Randall’s Bat for the Cure foundation to benefit prostate cancer research. He talked at length about George Steinbrenner, Manny Ramírez, the 2004 collapse against the Red Sox, the Yankees’ center-field situation and past failures regarding pitching and minor-league development…

Regarding the current Yankees, Cashman said he was looking only to sign some nonroster invitees to spring training, and did not expect any major moves between now and the beginning of camp. “I fully expect to go to spring training with what we’ve got,” he said. “And that’s a good thing.”

Cashman took a question about why he was not pursuing Ramírez, and he said that he simply could not afford it after spending so freely during the off-season. “People expect us to get in on Manny, but it’s not going to happen,” Cashman said. “We’re in the nonroster invitee mode…He’s a great player, but when you look at our payroll, we’re tapped.”

Considering how the Yanks’ payroll appears to be right around $192.5 million heading into Spring Training, Cash’s words ring true. This time, there will be no stealth, 11th-hour signing of Manny Ramirez, and as Scott Boras and the Dodgers square off, Manny is in danger of losing his negotiating leverage.

Meanwhile, with the Yanks committed to their current roster, that means the starting center fielder come Opening Day will be either Melky Cabrera or Brett Gardner. Cashman expects the two to fight it out and egg each other on this season. I’d be more comfortable with a better player anchoring that spot.

But that’s that. Now bring on Spring Training.

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The Manny/Matsui divide

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It’s been a while 24 hours since we last checked in on Manny Ramirez, and, well, there have been some interesting developments that could impact the Yanks.

According to the latest from various sources, succinctly summarized for us by MLBTR, the Dodgers have extended a one-year, $25-million offer to Manny. The Dodgers have also made this a conditional offer: Manny and Scott Boras have 48 hours to accept it or Ramirez will once again be left offer-less with around ten days left until pitchers and catchers report.

In a way, a one-year deal from Los Angeles would be exactly what the vocal group of Yankee fans who want to see Manny arrive in the Bronx want. As iYankees noted earlier, the Yankees will be looking for a full-time DH following the 2009 season. Hideki Matsui will be a free agent, unlikely to return; Johnny Damon will be a free agent, unlikely to return; and Xavier Nady will be a free agent with his return contingent upon his 2009 season. Manny would, to quote Buster Olney, be a perfect fit for the Yankees in tens months.

For now, though, it seems highly unlikely that the future Hall of Famer will wind up in the Bronx. Next off-season, we can debate the virtues and pitfalls of courting a then-37-year-old Manny, but for now, let’s look at production just because. Last year, splitting his time between L.A. and Boston, Manny hit .332/.430/.601 with a combined 164 OPS+ in 153 games. He was by and large the best offensive player in the game last year.

Meanwhile, in the American League, DHs hardly fulfilled half of their collective role. AL DHs as a group hit .256/.339/.435, and the Yanks’ various DHs hit .282/.378/.461. That’s a respectable total, but is it a realistic goal for 2009?

Last year, in limited duty, Matsui hit .294/.370/.424 with a 108 OPS+. This year, he’ll be the Yanks’ primary DH with Jorge Posada, Damon, Nady and Nick Swisher filling out the rotation. This disparity — 50 OPS+ points and a whopping .140 slugging difference — is why, if the Yanks had the money and the will to land Manny, they should. When a player offers that much of an upgrade, a GM deals with a logjam on the roster after improving the team.

Of course, this is reality and not fantasy baseball. As rich as the Yanks are, they are still constrained by the realities of the economy in Feb. 2009. They’ve spent a lot of money and can’t spend more. But if Manny takes this one-year offer and excels in L.A. this year, the Yanks, with money coming off of their books, and their fans can have this debate all over again.

* * *

Update: Manny has already turned down the Dodgers’ offer. Twice, Los Angeles has put an offer out there, and twice, the Ramirez camp has turned it down. No other team has yet to offer the slugger a deal this winter.

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Musings on Manny

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As the Steelers sealed the Super Bowl deal tonight, pitchers and catchers started eying their calendars. In less than two weeks, these players will head to points warm for the annual Spring Training rite. While their position player brethren will join them a few days later, a few key players remain unemployed.

Former Yankee Bobby Abreu is still waiting for a job, and Adam Dunn remains unsigned. But the one of the bigger on-field catchers of the Hot Stove League is still out there. After ensuring that options worth a combined $40 million wouldn’t be exercised, Manny Ramirez is still a free agent looking for work.

It’s surprising, in a way, that Manny is still out there. He’s a career .314/.411/.593 hitter with a 155 OPS+. Age hasn’t slowed him down too much, and had Mark Teixeira landed in Boston, he’d probably be Bronx-bound right now. But as fate would have it, Manny, persona non grata on the one team that could really use him, has suffered from the poor economy.

According to the latest reports, Manny may find that a two-year, $30-million offer is the best he can do. It’s hard to imagine Ramirez happy with that deal. It does seem to be all about the money for him.

So I have to wonder about the Yanks. I know the team is, according to GM Brian Cashman, done with their free agent signings. I know they want to get younger all around and better defensively. I know they have too many outfielders. Could the team really pass up Manny at $15 million per though? Travis at Pinstripe Alley pondered this question over the weekend, and I’m almost tempted to agree. Manny the bat is an appealing target, and if the price drops, who could say no?

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Manny and the Yanks, revised

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In a meandering column on the potential landing spots for Manny Ramirez, Bill Madden revisits the Yankees as once and former potential destination for the slugger. On page two of the column, he writes that the Yanks were “ready to go at least two years and an option for Manny” had they not signed in Mark Teixeira. As we all know, Teixeira landed in New York, and in my opinion, the Yanks were better off for it.

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