By Tommy Rancel //
After watching several key players leave via free agency, and a few others moved in trades for prospects, Andrew Friedman surveyed the market and decided it was time to play. What else would you expect from the guy who is quoted in Jonah Keri’s upcoming book, The Extra 2%, as saying “I am purely market driven. I love players I think I can get for less than they are worth.”
Signing arguably the greatest right-handed hitter of his generation to a one-year deal worth $2 million is right in Friedman’s wheelhouse. Sure, a 38-year-old Manny Ramirez is not the same Manny who dominated the American League for more than a decade. But for the bargain basement price of $2 million, the Rays are not paying him to be that guy. Better, that same 38-year-old Ramirez is still very productive.
Ramirez battled leg injuries and a hernia injury last year that limited him to just 90 games. However, he hit .298/.409/.460 and had a 141 wRC+ (an offensive stat from fangraphs.com which measures runs created by a hitter; a wRC+ of 100 is average). When he was in the lineup, he was still a near-elite hitter.
Though his home run power is not likely reach the 37 he hit in 2008, he still has enough power to belt 20-plus home runs and produce 20-plus doubles, if given 500 plate appearances. He continues to have a fantastic batting eye, which will help keep him on base nearly 40% of the time–huge in leagues that count OBP, but also helps with runs scored in standard 5×5 leagues. Batting in the middle of a lineup that features several other high-on-base hitters – including the newly signed Johnny Damon – he’ll have plenty of chances to drive in runs too.
By moving to designated hitter full-time, the concerns about Ramirez’s injuries should be eased a bit. He underwent hernia surgery in October and has been working out in Arizona in advance of spring training. (Peter Gammons Tweeted that Ramirez is in excellent shape.)
One of Andrew Friedman’s goals this off-season was to find a middle-of-the-order bat to replace Carlos Pena and team up with Evan Longoria in the heart of the Rays’ lineup. Ramirez might not replace all the power lost by Pena’s exit, but along with Matt Joyce, the Rays now have adequate pop surrounding their franchise player.
The age and injury concerns – along with the potential for Manny to be Manny – are understandable. That said, no one is counting on Ramirez to carry a lineup – real or fantasy. As an OF4 or Utility option in standard mixed leagues, Ramirez should provide plenty of value, considering the price tag should be a mid-to-late round pick. If you show the patience of Andrew Friedman on draft day, you too will love getting a quality player for less than what he is worth.