I was amazed yesterday at the free agent signings of outfielders Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon by the Tampa Bay Rays.
My first instinct was that they had gone bonkers, but it only took a few minutes to realize that both signings actually made good sense for the Rays who are still reeling from the losses of all-star outfielder Carl Crawford and the power hitting Carlos Pena.
The price was right. Each of them agreed to one-year contracts, with Ramirez earning $2 million and Damon getting $5.25 million with a $750,000 attendance bonus. That said, I’m a little curious as to why Damon got the bigger bonanza instead of Ramirez. Incidentally, both players are represented by Scott Boras.
Even though he has lost a step in the speed department, Damon will most likely bat leadoff, while Manny Ramirez, arguably one of the greatest hitters in this era, will bat in the middle of the order with emerging superstar Evan Longoria. Great job by the Rays in trying to make the best of what looked like a hopeless situation after winning the AL East last season.
While observing some of the banter and reaction to this from Mets fans, I expectedly found concern over Ramirez getting $2 million compared to $1.1 million for the newest Met Scott Hairston. I also found many who wondered why Manny came so cheap, and other Mets fans quick to respond that he was washed up as well as being a trouble-maker. Washed up? Really? Somehow, my recollection of Manny last season was not one that he was washed up. I decided to go to FanGraphs and baseball Reference to see if the statistics would bear this out.
I decided to look at a three year trend and here is that data.
As you can see the statistics do show a distinct decline as indicated by his declining OPS and OPS+, but clearly these are not the numbers of a player who is washed up.
As a matter of fact, to strengthen my argument I will turn to the New York Mets.
Last season, Manny Ramirez would have led the Mets in OBP, OPS and OPS+ and it’s not even close.
His .409 OBP was 52 points higher than Josh Thole who led the Mets with a .357 mark, slightly ahead of David Wright who had a .354 OBP.
His .870 OPS was 14 points higher the David Wright who led the team with a .856 mark, and no other Met finished had an OPS over .800.
His 138 OPS+ was seven points higher than Wright’s 131 OPS+ and the next best mark on the Mets after that came from Ike Davis who had a 115 OPS+.
If you want to make the argument that Manny Ramirez isn’t worth his built-in drama, that’s fine and you’ll get no argument from me. But to suggest that this is a ballplayer who is washed up, is really just deluding yourself.
Manny Ramirez is still a top level performer and to get him for the bargain price of $2 million dollars, makes him the absolute steal of the offseason in my opinion.
Great job by Andrew Friedman, GM and Vice President of the Tampa Bay Rays. in what was a very strange Friday that also saw the Blue Jays unload Vernon Wells and his awful contract to the Los Angeles Angels.
They will undoubtedly come to regret that trade and I can’t imagine what Halos GM Tony Reagins was thinking? People are strange.