02/20/12 6:25 PM EST
Manny signs Minor League deal with A's
By Jane Lee / MLB.com
For now, it's just about Billy Beane being Billy Beane.
The A's general manager has a well-documented history of making bold moves -- some brilliant, others bewildering and occasionally brash. Perhaps a new word will have to be created for his most recent transaction, which was finalized on Monday, when the A's announced the signing of embattled slugger Manny Ramirez to a Minor League deal.
MLB.com confirmed that the 19-year veteran will earn no more than $500,000 -- just over the league minimum, as expected -- and will report to camp by week's end.
Ramirez will be utilized by the A's as a designated hitter, but not before serving a 50-game suspension stemming from his second violation of MLB's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, meaning he won't be paid or allowed to participate in a game until as early as May 30 -- his 40th birthday.
In the meantime, Ramirez's new teammates are anticipating help in ways not just seen at the plate.
"From an organization standpoint, you always want to put your team in the best position to win," A's pitcher Dallas Braden said. "If right now that means bringing in somebody who could potentially help the molding of the organization and its young stars, you want to do that as well, and I think that's what he offers. It's almost two birds with one stone. We can bring in a guy who can still perform and a guy who can show these guys how to go about their business at a perennial All-Star level.
"It's something we need here. While we've had tremendous leaders in the past, they've been more of the lead-by-example types, like Mark Ellis."
Ramirez's reputation -- along with the pair of drug violations, he was also formally charged with domestic violence last year -- understandably led to little interest from other clubs. But the A's never shied away, and his signing equates to the ultimate no-risk investment.
If at any time Ramirez acts up or fails to give the A's the type of performance they're expecting from a right-handed power bat, the club can simply release him. If, instead, he resurrects his reputation and career -- even perhaps restoring enough value to lend the A's trade bait near the non-waiver Trade Deadline -- all the better.
Oakland enters camp without a proven bat in the middle of the order and is coming off a season in which it ranked 12th in the American League in runs. Much is expected of Yoenis Cespedes, whose four-year, $36 million deal with the A's should become official soon, but it's worth remembering that the Cuban defector has never faced Major League pitching.
Then there are Seth Smith, Coco Crisp and Jonny Gomes, who, though capable of bringing in runs, don't combine for the power residing in the lineups of AL West rivals Texas and Los Angeles.
Ramirez doesn't represent a quick fix, but he carries an impressive resume. Through 19 seasons, the 12-time All-Star is a career .312 hitter with 555 home runs -- good for 14th on the all-time list -- and 1,831 RBIs.
"He's one of the greatest right-handed hitters I've seen in my lifetime, and I hope he's got a lot left in the tank," Jemile Weeks said. "He's had some time off, and whether that helps or hurts, we hope it's a positive thing. I just think the addition of him can help out, no matter the upside on the field."
Ramirez most recently went 1-for-17 in five games last season for Tampa Bay before retiring rather than serving a 100-game suspension that was ultimately cut in half.
A first-round Draft pick of the Indians in 1991, Ramirez spent the first eight years of his Major League career with Cleveland before signing a free-agent deal with Boston, where he played for seven-plus seasons. He also spent time with the Dodgers and White Sox before his short stint with the Rays.
It was during Ramirez's time with the Dodgers that A's first baseman Brandon Allen, then with Arizona, encountered the slugger a handful of times on the basepaths.
"From talking to him a few times at first base, you can tell he's obviously a funny guy," Allen said. "He's a genuine guy also. He's down to earth, just as normal as anybody else. He's a great player and hopefully a great teammate. I believe age is nothing but a number. If you can hit, you can hit, and he was born to hit."
"Right now is a fun and exciting time to be in our organization, because moves like this are being made," Braden said. "We're retooling and reshaping the foundation of the organization. Any time you can bring somebody like that in, with the resume he has in tow, it's going to impact the younger guys."
Perhaps, even, in more ways than expected. With Ramirez on board, concerns could be raised about the possibility of younger hitters not getting as much of a look during Spring Training -- particularly those fighting for the DH spot that Ramirez won't immediately be allowed to occupy.
Thus arises a challenge for manager Bob Melvin, who will be faced with a juggling act of sorts with several contenders for the DH, first-base and outfield spots. Kila Ka'aihue was expected to get a long look at DH, and Chris Carter remains in the mix as well. Moreover, Daric Barton has no choice but to DH until mid-March, when his surgically repaired right shoulder is supposed to be ready for throwing again.
Nevertheless, Ramirez's looming presence puts to rest any speculation surrounding the A's interest in bringing back Hideki Matsui or signing Magglio Ordonez or Johnny Damon. However, the club remains open to bolstering its bullpen in the next week and has been linked to Texas' Koji Uehara, along with free-agent lefty Mike Gonzalez.
"Nothing surprises me anymore," Weeks said. "I like what we're doing. Manny is a clubhouse guy, and I think, for this type of team, a lot of people aren't expecting much out of us and guys might put too much pressure on themselves to try to perform. He's going to be the one keeping us relaxed and a guy who's going to put fans in the seat, along with it."