Word out of Major League Baseball on Monday has the Oakland Athletics continuing their recent shopping spree as they reportedly signed designated hitter Manny Ramirez to a minor league contract that could be worth approximately $500,000. The A's have not made the official announcement because Ramirez has to first pass his physical. However, the deal is expected to be officially announced before position players report at the end of the week.
There has been fairly extensive reaction to the signing from within the Oakland A's clubhouse. Most players are excited about the team rolling the dice on a guy they hope has some pop left in his bat. Manny Ramirez will go down as one of the most dangerous right handed batters in the history of the game, and if the A's can squeeze something out Manny's bat, they could benefit in numerous ways.
There are also those who are concerned about the consequences this signing could have on the playing time of younger guys like Chris Carter, Michael Taylor, Kila Ka'aihue or another handful of players. That is where Manny's suspension could actually prove to be quite valuable.
In reality, this deal provides the A's with limited downside and considerable upside. Even if Manny is a complete flop, a minor league deal leaves the team with almost no risk. This situation could play out in a variety of ways. Here is a short list of some of the more likely scenarios:
1. During Manny's suspension, one or more of the young prospects shows they can hit big league pitching with relative consistency.
In this situation, the A's can easily just release Manny before he even takes the field in a regular season game. The A's are building towards the future and Manny is not part of any long term future. He serves as low-cost insurance in case none of the prospects can step up. However, Carter, Taylor, etc... prove they can hit, the A's have no need for Manny long term. The odds of this scenario are fairly low given the struggles of these prospects.
2. The young players struggle and Manny joins the lineup in early June. Manny shows his age and struggles.
This is probably the most likely result of this whole experiment. Nobody plays well as the designated hitter. The A's either play out the string with Manny at DH, or they release him before the season ends to just give the young guys some extra at bats. The A's are out $500,000 and nobody is really the worse for wear.
3. The young players struggle and Manny joins the lineup in early June. Manny takes a step into the way-back machine and shows some of his old pop.
This is probably the least likely scenario given Manny's age and how much PEDs helped him in the past. Manny is reportedly a bit more at peace with himself but that won't necessarily help him hit major league pitching. However, if he does somehow re-discover his younger days as a hitter, there are two possibilities.
If he is hitting well and the A's are struggling in the playoff race, Oakland could deal him away before the trade deadline for a prospect. They won't get a top prospect, but if Manny is playing well, they could very well grab a mid-level prospect. Or, if Yoenis Cespedes has given the offense a surge and Manny joins him in that surge, maybe the A's surprise folks and become legit contenders in 2012. The odds of this are extremely low, but the upside in the lineup is there. Unlikely, but there.
The one potential drawback to this signing is how many at bats Manny takes in spring training. The clubhouse issues don't strike me as a particularly big deal since the team can release him fairly easily if he acts up. However, prospects losing some at bats in spring training is a bit of a concern. It is not the end of the world, but it is something to consider. Other than that though, this seems like a perfectly fine low risk deal. And you get the added bonus of a media circus in Phoenix!