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It’s not official yet (Update 2:55: Now it is — straight cash, homey!), but everybody on the West Coast is saying Manny Ramirez is Chicago-bound. The only question is whether the White Sox are paying with straight cash or money padded with a prospect:
The source said there was still some chance [the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox] will work out a trade that presumably would involve one from a list of a handful of prospects going from the White Sox to the Dodgers, a development that probably would mean the Dodgers would pay some percentage of the $3.825 million remaining on Ramirez’s two-year, $45 million contract, depending on the quality of the prospect.
Another league source, also speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the Dodgers’ preference at this point is to simply allow Ramirez to go to the White Sox as a waiver claim, in which case the White Sox would be responsible for the entire $3.825 million. The Dodgers have had that option available to them ever since the White Sox secured waiver rights to Ramirez on Friday.
To get an idea of the caliber of prospects being discussed, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale said the Dodgers were trying to figure out if Jon Gilmore was worth their while. The Dodgers probably had their sights set higher, but after Joe Torre didn’t start Ramirez in any of the last three games, it became increasingly clear that they were ready to dismantle Mannywood.
His two-year stay in Los Angeles ended on a sour note, befitting of Ramirez in its wack-assedness. He was ejected after arguing the first pitch of a pinch-hitting appearance.
And how’s this for timing: Ramirez was ejected within minutes of Ozzie Guillen’s ousting in Sunday’s 2-1 loss to the New York Yankees.
Add those two events together, and all I can say is, as somebody who is writing a book about this season, I wholeheartedly endorse this move.
Manny Ramirez by the numbers:
.311/.405/.510: Ramirez’s 2010 in 65 games with the Dodgers.
150: Ramirez’s OPS+, which would be good for second on the White Sox behind Paul Konerko’s 158.
50: Games suspended by Major League Baseball after testing positive for a female fertility drug used by steroid users to restore testosterone production to normal levels. The New York Post’s headline: GIRLY MANNY.
0.5: Wins Ramirez would add to the White Sox according to AccuScore.
3.1: WAR accumulated by Ramirez in 59 games with the Dodgers in 2008, following a similarly forced trade from Boston.
0.6: Cumulative WAR of Mandruw Kojones this season.
99: Would be the first time any Sox player wore a higher number than 73 (Tony Phillips in 1997).
4 1/2: Games behind the Minnesota Twins.
Let’s go back to 2008, when the Dodgers took Ramirez off the hands of the Boston Red Sox. Relations between the Red Sox and Ramirez became untenable, with Ramirez openly criticizing the franchise a month after he shoved a traveling secretary to the ground over a ticket dispute.
At the time, Los Angeles was 54-54 and two games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West. The Dodgers languished because they lacked punch. They slugged .376 as a team, including a combined .321 slugging percentage between their left and center fielders.
In particular, Andruw Jones was at his chubby nadir (great band name!), hitting .163/.263/.245 in the first year of his two-year, $36.2 million contract. Juan Pierre, a $9 million man himself, wasn’t much better (.283/.328/.320).
Ramirez had a clear-cut purpose, but even so, he was projected to only do so much. He had a .926 OPS with the Red Sox at the time, and thus AccuScore restrained its enthusiasm:
AccuScore expects Manny Ramirez to make a significant positive impact on the Dodgers as a result of simulating games against key NL competition — Diamondbacks, Mets, Cubs, Phillies and Brewers.
The Dodgers and Diamondbacks have little to no chance of making the playoffs as a wild card so winning the NL West is essential. AccuScore favors the Diamondbacks in this race heading into the weekend series between the teams. Before the trade the Diamondbacks had a 38 percentage point edge in the battle, but the gap tightened as a result of the trade to 21%.
While Ramirez significantly improves the Dodgers’ chances of making the playoffs, AccuScore still gives the Dodgers a less than 2% chance of winning the World Series. Not only do they have just a 40% chance of making the playoffs, once they get in playoffs they will likely not have home field advantage in any round.
Few were prepared for what Ramirez had in the tank. He crushed National League pitching to the tune of a .396/.489/.743 line over 53 games, the Dodgers finished two games ahead of the D-Backs at 84-78, and advanced to the NLCS.
Ramirez could have been the postseason MVP for his work in eight games. He hit .520/.667/1.080 during the playoffs, and signed a two-year, $45 million contract to stay in Los Angeles.
Obviously, the honeymoon ran its course. The Sox wouldn’t be acquiring him, otherwise. There are other undeniable, scary factors at play as well.
Ramirez is two years older than he was in 2008 (weird, I know). His age exacerbates the threat of his nagging calf submarining his September. He played only 104 games in 2009, so it’s been an issue for a while. And then there’s the whole “Manny Being Manny” thing, which should be an interesting fit in a White Sox clubhouse that only has an allowance for one personality.
Add it all up, and a funny, encouraging and somewhat sickening realization emerges: This is as bad as it’s ever been for Ramirez, and yet he’s still way better than anything the Sox can throw out there.
He just needs to stay healthy, and therein lies the only true risk. If Ramirez’s calf puts him back on the bench, the Sox have flushed $4 million with nothing to show for it.
But if he’s on the field (even as a DH), he changes plenty. He gives Paul Konerko another slugging threat in the middle of the order. He makes the Sox more watchable for the casual viewer. He makes the Twins a little less comfortable. He could be human smelling salts.
He could also be a human stink bomb, not giving Guillen advance notice on any injuries (we know he hates that), not talking to Joe Cowley, talking too much to Joe Cowley. But even that’s better than an injured Manny who never plays. There’s no difference between a happy veteran club and an unhappy veteran club if they both finish second. At least one is interesting.
That veteran club is why Ramirez works on the South Side. The Sox are built to win now. Maybe it’s a foolish premise, but it’s the operational one. The window of opportunity has essentially closed on Kenny Williams’ fingers, and Ramirez is a last-ditch effort to work it back open.
I’d say there’s an 90 percent chance the Ramirez era will be a vain effort. Ramirez, even at his best, wouldn’t be good for 4 1/2 games in a month by himself. But Williams was already past the point of no return when he traded for Edwin Jackson, so he can’t pass on any upgrade. Ramirez is a massive upgrade, even if he can’t provide the same spark as he did the last time he was traded.
And hey, the Ramirez of two years ago might still be around, especially if he’s auditioning for DH work, whether on the Sox or elsewhere. Maybe the Sox can help conjure up his mojo by starting him in left, Juan Pierre in center and Andruw Jones in right, giving Ramirez the impression that instead of flying from LAX to Midway, he landed in 2008 instead. Desperate times call for desperate measures, but this move already serves as a reminder.