According to pretty much anyone you talk to – including Jim Leyland – nobody is going to be able to replace Victor Martinez‘ production at the plate. Unless Dombrowski is able to convince Boras that a 1-year $27 million deal for Prince Fielder is better than the 6-year $120 million he’ll likely get elsewhere, that might be true. There is one other option, though, that might provide the same raw impact with the bat and that option is Manny Ramirez.
I’ll start with the Pros, since probably what immediately jumps into your head when you hear that name is con, con, con.
Manny Ramirez is (or was) one of the best hitters of his generation and perhaps one of the best hitters of all time. His lifetime OPS is .996 and while he did virtually nothing last year after his suspension his OPS the year before was a healthy .870. Though his power might be a bit diminished from his prime, he should be able to replicate Martinez’ .380 OBP – something few if any available options could do. Ramirez would also come cheap – nobody else seems to be much interested in giving him that opportunity to make a comeback. His contract would probably include a very low base salary with a lot of incentives for performance and health.
And now for the cons: First, Ramirez retired in a fit last year after failing a drug test (yes, yes, I know he’s a cheater) and as a result never served his suspension. I imagine he wasn’t planning on a comeback at that time, but no that he is he’ll still have to sit out the first 50 games of the season for whoever gives him a contract. Second, Ramirez is OLD. He’ll turn 40 on May 30, right about the same time his suspension is up and he can start playing games. Really, the first con partially mitigates the second since an old man might break down over a 162 game season (which is why 40+ year old Clemens didn’t want to start on time) and might fare worse in cold weather in a Motor City spring. Third, he’s always been a defensive liability and should now be considered a pure DH – which would hurt the team in terms of flexibility. Fourth, he never had and certainly doesn’t now have and speed or athleticism to make a contribution with his legs. Fifth, he’s right-handed so he doesn’t replace that aspect of Martinez’ role. Sixth, he’s always been considered ‘difficult’ in the clubhouse and elsewhere. Fortunately, the thing Jim Leyland is best at is managing personalities.
This is actually a move I would be genuinely in favor of making – but then I was long in favor of offering a contract to that other pariah Barry Bonds as well. Manny Ramirez might do nothing at all – but I’m sure whatever contract he would be offered would be structured to avoid any real financial risk to the Tigers should that be the case. Then again, he might show enough glimpses of his old Hall-Of-Fame self to make it more than worthwhile.