10 Dec 2007
2008 represents Manny Ramirez’s 8th season with the Boston Red Sox and it marks the end of his 8-year, $160mm deal. The Red Sox hold options for both 2009 and 2010 at $20mm each.
It got me thinking just what are the Red Sox going to do after 2008? We all remember the Red Sox front office putting Manny on irrevocable waivers after the 2003 with no team claiming him. At the time, the Red Sox were content to let any MLB team have Manny, contract and all for nothing in return. Times sure have changed. Somewhere along the line the Red Sox FO felt Manny proved a value after all (maybe it was those 2 World Series Championships), Manny learned to love Boston and certainly the Boston fanbase proved willing to ignore most of Manny’s idiosyncrasies.
With Manny’s base contract up after next year, what are the Red Sox going to do? If I am Theo Epstein, it’s simple. Exercize the 2009 option. Assuming Manny has a productive year, it’s a no-brainer. If Andruw Jones can get $18.1 per year with a .724 OPS, certainly Manny’s .881 OPS is worth $20mm (hold your comments, I know Jones brings more to the table defensively, but if I mentioned that, it makes my argument look weaker, so pipe it).
Of course it isn’t as simple as that seeing as Manny is coming off his worst season since 1994. Manny missed 35 games and hit only 20 home runs and saw his slugging % drop to a career worst .495 (he had a .302 slg in 1993 in only 53 at bats, his first year in the Majors.).
The warning signs are there. It wasn’t as though he just had his overall production numbers reduced by the same % of games missed, the largest concern was that slg % drop. Manny had a terrible April, found his grove in May, June and July, then scuffled again in August before missing most of September due to injury. The average and obp remained solid enough, but again, no power. Add to it Manny will be 36 in May 2008. Power hitters generally don’t stay power hitters past their mid-late 30’s unless their name is Barry Bonds and they use flax seed oil.
So here’s the deal. If Manny posts decent numbers in 2008, take the option year. If he struggles, let him go and see if you can sign him to a smaller deal. It really is a win-win. If he does well, you have an all-star in LF for 2009. If he doesn’t, you have $20mm to spend on a replacement. The trouble with that is it isn’t easy to find another Manny Ramirez.
Addendum: Eric Gagne declined arbitration with the Red Sox and instead signed a 1-year $10mm deal with Milwaukee. Gagne just got a taste of the High Life, yes, the Champagne of Beers. Gagne was terrible to be kind with Boston and somehow got a 66.6% pay raise to sign with Milwaukee. Small market ownership will never cease to amaze me with their stupidity. Dear Milwaukee, have fun being bad again. You made a nice run in 2007, but lost your minds (collectively) by signing a reliever who was really bad for 3 of 7 months in 2007 to a 66.6% raise. That is some good business. Perhaps a reading of Moneyball is in order when it comes to closers.