Manny Ramirez is one of the greatest right-handed hitters of all-time. He'll be 40, but in the last full season he played, he had an OBP of .409. If there is anyone who could come back after a year off, roll out of bed, and hit .270/.370/.470 without blinking, it would be Manny. If you only focus on Manny as a player, his return would make sense.
But there's a little more that comes with Manny. Just a little. He's a living matryoshka doll of nonsense; with each layer you open up, a little more nonsense is found. It'd be one thing if was just the standard where's-Manny-I-don't-know-wait-how-in-the-hell-did-he-get-on-top-of-that-light-tower-get-down-from-there Manny nonsense. He's added a new dimension, though. He left the Rays after a couple of weeks last season because he was busted for performance-enhancing drugs.
They weren't just regular PEDs, either. That would be Manny being everyone. For it to be Manny being Manny, he had to take female fertility drugs. You can't spell ovaries without O-B-P. Well, Manny can't, anyways. Oh, and when he signs, he has to start serving a 50-game suspension. He has baggage, inside the baggage is other baggage, and he's waiting at the carousel for the rest of the baggage that he checked. Form a line to the left, teams.
In a way, though, it's refreshing. Manny isn't making a money grab. He has to know that, if he's signed at all, he isn't getting anything more than an invitation to spring training. Maybe, just possibly, he'll get a guaranteed one-year deal, even though the last time he received one of those, he sort of got suspended before retiring. Manny is coming back for the love of the game. Dude just wants to play.
But what team would be interested in a potential distraction like Manny? He'll be a DH, for sure. You can eliminate 16 teams right away, as the only way Manny should be in the field is if MLB grants an exemption to let him play left field with Pat Burrell at the same time. One can be true-left field, and the other can be shading-left field. Also, they'd each be strapped with explosives that went off if they ran into each other. Also also, every one of their games would be on pay-per-view. Baseball would be more interesting if I were commissioner.
The list of interested AL teams would shrink, too, after you eliminate the teams that are either a) set at DH, or b) not willing to take on a potential distraction like Manny. And when I write "potential distraction," that's like writing that a car you're about to roll off a cliff has "potential energy." You know how it's going to end up, but you have to add the "potential" to be technically accurate.
Going through the list, I can see two half-decent fits. There are at least two teams who could use an additional right-handed hitter, and who aren't going to pay a lot for that muffler. They're teams that are always looking for on-base percentage at a discount, and they're teams that probably aren't going to have to worry about bad publicity because they're more interested in any publicity.
The first would be the Oakland Athletics. Makes sense for them to get hitters who avoid outs by any means necessary, helping support a pitching staff loaded with talent.
The second would be the Tampa Bay Rays.
Yep. And as much as I wanted to laugh the suggestion off, I'm not crazy. From Buster Olney:
Source: it's unlikely but possible that the Tampa Bay Rays will have interest in Manny Ramirez.
Right now, in a New Mexico landfill, there are thousands of Manny Ramirez bobbleheads in a Rays uniform, and they're mating with unwrapped E.T. cartridges for the Atari 2600. The army of resulting abominations could destroy us all. Humanity's only chance might be for the Rays to sign Manny, dig the bobbleheads up, and pretend like nothing happened.
But in practical terms, it's unlikely that even the Rays would look into Manny. Even if you look past that he's a bit of a goof, and even if you look past the bad publicity, and even if you look past that he's a 40-year-old DH who had a year layoff, he's going to miss 50 games. Waiting for him in June is a pretty substantial leap of faith.
Here's guessing he's on the Barry Bonds express to forced retirement. The last season in which Bonds played, he had a .480 on-base percentage and 28 home runs. He was willing to DH. He was willing to play for the minimum. No one was interested. Or, if they were, they were told not to be interested. Teams didn't want one of the most productive hitters in baseball because they didn't want to deal with the baggage.
Manny has similar baggage. He might have more baggage, which is hard to do. If Ramirez is signed, it will be a bit of an upset. It's interesting to think about. It would be interesting to watch. But it's probably not going to happen.