|MANNY RAMIREZ / ESPN.COM|
It’s that time of year again. It’s the “trade Manny Ramirez” column from Fire Brand! (2004, 2005, Zach’s parody of a roundtable of experts discussing a trade) The difference here is that it’s the first column where its widely believed that it could happen without much of a problem. In past years, a trade would be discussed, but it was always such a long shot. Is it a long shot this year? Manny Ramirez is due $36 million over the next two years, with two concurring club options for two years after that, both at $20 million. Two years with $36 million on it doesn’t seem that obscene, especially with Alfonso Soriano, 31, signing for eight years at $136 million (Manny signed for eight as well, for $24 more million at 28 years of age). It doesn’t seem like a long shot. As a matter of fact, it seems like we could get some actual value in return.
We’re talking about signing J.D. Drew for four years at $52 million or two years at $30 million. Carlos Lee is looking for four years at $75 million (and he’s going to get more than that!), despite many concerns about his weight and his ability to hold up statistically over the duration of that contract. Manny could be quite appealing in this market with two years left. It’s possible that Manny could ask for a contract extension as part of the trade, but his desire to get out of Boston may cause him to accept the trade. If not, Manny is such a prolific hitter that an extension wouldn’t be a bad idea, especially if the guaranteed money is lower than the club options. Again, it’s about the total years committed. A contract extension brings the total years committed to three, and it would still be cheaper and a safer bet than Alfonso Soriano and the Cubs. This market is so out of whack, the three-year deal given to Josh Beckett for $30 million is looking pretty nice right now.
Without getting into wild trade fantasies, you can count me among those as hoping Baltimore signs Carlos Lee, leaving Houston and Los Angeles (of Anaheim) in the cold (assuming we win the J.D. Drew bidding over the Angels). This would start up a war for Manny, and I would start the bidding at Morgan Ensberg and Brad Lidge for the Astros (they want to get rid of Ensberg) and for the Angels, Ervin Santana, Scot Shields, and Macier Izturis. (I completely understand that the Ensberg/Lidge deal carries a lot of risk. It’s only an option. There are many options, and three of them were explored yesterday in Zach’s article. In addition, the Houston Chronicle suggests Brad Lidge, second baseman/outfielder Chris Burke, top outfield prospect Hunter Pence, and $4 million for Manny.)
Four teams to this point have contacted the Red Sox about Manny. While the Astros and Angels make the most sense, the only confirmed team that contacted the Red Sox are the Texas Rangers. They don’t seem to be the best fit, but they could offer shortstop Michael Young. I would be happy with Young, but the Rangers would have no reason to give him away. The other three teams are in question, and I’m sure the reason they haven’t said anything is because the Red Sox asked them to operate in secrecy, as Bill Belichick probably told them to do, while the Rangers are prolific chatterboxes.
Losing Manny Ramirez, no matter who we get back in return, would be a blow to this team offensively. This is a guy headed to the Hall of Fame. A guy with a career line of .314/.411/.600. That is just absolutely insane. He hit .321/.439/.619 in his age 34 season, bashing 35 HR and notching his 11th season of over 100 RBI in 12 seasons of full-time play. He also got 100 walks in a season for the first time in his career.That’s just flat out nuts. A .300 BA/35 HR/100 RBI season day in and day out. There is absolutely no question that he is a dynamic hitter.
Which is why we can’t trade him if we don’t get value in return. Is Morgan Ensberg and Brad Lidge fair value? It’s close to me. Ensberg is a stand up guy who can rake, and Lidge is a solid closer who I think is in dire need of a complete shakeup. Changing leagues, regions, and teams. If the best we can get for him is a team eating his entire salary in exchange for Jose Offerman (who, believe it or not, is still actually playing) … then I have no interest in that.
Losing him would create a gaping hole in our lineup. Sure, Wily Mo Pena could be assigned the left-field job and bash 40 home runs and slowly increase his plate patience, but Manny Ramirez’s do not grow on trees. Wily Mo Pena showed promise this past year, hitting for a .301 average (career: .261) and his prodigious power. However, he’s going to have to learn plate patience simply by playing, but natural plate discipline that Manny has, that Jason Giambi has … that cannot be learned. Wily Mo Pena can become the answer in the four hole, or even Lars Anderson in four years. But Wily Mo (and probably not Lars, but we all hope he does) is not and will never be a Manny Ramirez. Dealing Manny is going to have to make sense for the club. It can’t be about dumping him (thank you, MLB revenue streams!) – it has to be about trading him to improve the club. Having Wily Mo Pena allows us to trade him to improve the club and make the Sox stronger in other aspects of the game.
Now that Alfonso Soriano is off the market, teams will move faster to land the free agents they need to make sure they get them (read: the Angels, having lost out on Aramis Ramirez and Soriano, whom they coveted). Market prices will have been solidified, making it easier to talk numbers. In this talent-strapped, cash-infused market, it may be time to trade Manny Ramirez. His value may never be higher. However, we need to be prepared for the gaping hole in the middle of our lineup that will leave us.