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02/21/12 6:15 PM EST

Beane: Why not take a chance on Manny?

PHOENIX -- In greeting a handful of media members on Tuesday, A's general manager Billy Beane took several questions about his decision to sign Manny Ramirez. More than half, it seemed, could be broken down to two words.

Why Manny?

Beane, over and over, came back with his own question: Why not?

"There was need, and we really couldn't find a reason not to," Beane said. "It's low-risk, high-reward. We've got some time to evaluate him, evaluate the [designated hitter] situation with some of the younger guys. There's little to no commitment. It would be foolish not to."

Ramirez's contract details fall in line with this thinking. The Minor League deal is worth a meager $500,000 -- but will be prorated after he serves a 50-game suspension stemming from his second performance-enhancing drug violation, meaning the most he can earn comes out to less than the league minimum of $480,000. It reads more like $340,000.

But even that's not guaranteed. Nothing is, and the A's can choose to part with Ramirez -- scheduled to arrive at A's camp on Friday -- at any point should he become a distraction or not perform at the level he's expected to maintain.

In the meantime, Beane realizes Ramirez could very well embrace the mentor role, perhaps fill a few more seats in the spacious Coliseum and, in doing so, generate a little revenue -- all the while lending the A's a dose of national attention they normally might not get.

All of the above could easily matriculate, but Beane assures this is no PR move.

"It was a 'We need a fourth hitter who can hit' move," Beane said. "What we need is someone with some presence in the middle, someone who's hit there before. I think we have some guys who surround that spot, but don't know if someone has presence to fill the No. 4 slot. I think there's something to be said for that."

Before the news of Ramirez's signing broke on Monday, the A's already had several in-house candidates for the DH role, including Kila Ka'aihue, Jonny Gomes, Chris Carter and Brandon Allen. Even Daric Barton is expected to see time there this spring, because of restrictions related to his surgically-repaired shoulder.

Manager Bob Melvin assured, though, that Ramirez's presence won't take away from any player's need for at-bats.

"Really, it's one more guy," Melvin said. "It's not like he's going to come in and get every DH at-bat. To get him ready for a 50-game layoff, it doesn't make sense to give him all the at-bats. He'll go through regular batting practice, hit off pitchers like everybody else will, and we'll get him into games enough to where we feel like we can evaluate him. I don't think it's wise to give him every DH at-bat."

The A's manager said "it would make sense" to immediately slot Ramirez into the DH spot once he's eligible to play on May 30, should all go well leading up to that point. Beane, though, noted it's possible such a scenario is voided if another player steps up and claims the job while Ramirez is out of the mix.

Beane contacted Ramirez's camp months ago, all the while staying in touch with a number of other unspecified DH candidates. Just how many other teams were in on Ramirez -- interest appeared weak because of his tarnished reputation -- was not of concern to Beane. "It was either going to work or wasn't going to work," said Beane. "I don't think, at any point, any of us were going to get into a competition. It was going to have to work perfectly for us. If it did, great.

"We kept an open mind that there were other guys out there. It just felt like this had no risk, and had the chance of providing the most production."

Even so, Ramirez' arrival, perhaps, doesn't appear to fit into the rest of the club's offseason picture -- which included the departures of Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey in exchange for a combined 10 prospects. The A's seemed primed for a rebuilding year when, really, it was more about retooling.

"We did acquire a lot of young players, and in areas we felt we needed immediate help," said Beane. "If we thought we didn't have a young player ready to step in, we would try to acquire someone who can help in the short term."

"I think the first wave was making the trades to enhance our system, and get a wealth of ... younger prospects," Melvin said. "We liked Cahill, we liked Gio, but we brought back more, and I think that was the focus to begin with. Now, you go out and you see what you have left financially, and try to make your team better."

For the present? Absolutely, says Melvin. But Beane isn't so quick to equate the addition of Ramirez, combined with all the other winter moves, to a playoff berth -- or even a competitive team.

"We'll see," Beane said. "We haven't even started games. Health is a huge thing for us and any club. I think we've got a chance to be a team that gets better starting Day 1, and gets better the next day and so on and so on."

Still, Beane admitted his most recent transaction to be "pretty unique" in comparison to any of the other moves he's made in his previous 14 seasons as the club's decisionmaker. But in no way does he view it as the wrong one.

"From the first conversation I had with his representative, he made it clear money was not an issue, and he wanted to play and make sure he went out the right way," Beane said. "From everything I've heard about Manny, he loves to play. He loves to hit. A lot of guys who play that long, that's the reason. It's obvious by the contract that we negotiated with him."

"At this point in time in his career," Melvin said, "I'd think that he'd want to come in here and be an example."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.