Since the Astros are moving to the A.L. West in 2013 we’ve been paying close attention to the teams in that division. On Monday the Oakland Athletics shocked the baseball world by signing Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a four-year $36 million contract. The Athletics are now said to be close to signing Manny Ramirez. What happened to the full-blown rebuild in Oakland? A’s General Manager Billy Beane traded away three young pitchersearlier this winter in what appeared to connote a payroll purge in Oakland for the foreseeable future. Apparently not!
To say the Cespedes signing is a gamble would be an understatement. This is the type of move that we might expect Brad Pitt to make, not the real Billy Beane. A $36 million dollar commitment to a guy who has yet to play a single game in the big leagues seems to border on insanity, especially for a team that is not expected to challenge for a playoff berth. I just don’t get it. If this works out there’s sure to be a Moneyball Two.
And what about Manny? Why would the A’s be interested in the enigmatic Ramirez? Assuming he is signed before the season starts, Manny will celebrate his 40th birthday shortly after the completion of his most recent 50 game suspension. The second violation of the league’s performance enhancing drug policy originally resulted in a 100 game suspension for Manny. But the league has gone soft, reducing the penalty to 50 games. Ramirez served a 50 game suspension in 2009 after failing a drug test as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
If nothing else, at least Manny would fit into the Athletics payroll plan. Ramirez will come cheap and will have to forfeit 50 games worth of salary to boot. But how much does Manny have left? We know he can’t play the outfield anymore. Signing Ramirez would send a message that the A’s are extremely worried about their offense. Last season Oakland ranked 12th in the A.L. in runs, homeruns, slugging, and OPS. Three of last year’s top run producers are no longer with the team. David DeJesus, Hideki Matsui, and Josh Willingham have all left via Free Agency. Someone has to make up for the lost offense. The A’s apparently think Manny could be that someone.