I really thought that today’s big Jays news was going to be all about John Farrell and the accolades he brings to the Jays.
From Red Sox owner John Henry: “the Jays are getting a great baseball man and a great person.” and added “I expect him to manage in MLB for as long as he wants to. He’s going to an excellent young team with a strong and smart hierarchy. The Blue Jays are going to be a force in the AL East for some time to come.”
From Terry Francona: “You spend any time around him, he can be good at whatever he wants,” he told the Boston Herald during the season. “Manager, GM, pitching coach, running a minor league system, you name it. He’s just a special talent.”
When the Owner feels the need to make a statement like that, and the Manager backs it up right away, you know you’ve struck a nerve – and gold! You know the Red Sox are feeling the sting right now. Not only do they have to go through the painful process of bringing in a new person to coach their pitchers – apparently not an easy task for them and with no obvious choice from what I’m reading – but they also have to know that the person who knows all of the glaring weaknesses of their entire staff is going to be a division rival in 2011. When you fact a divisional rival as often as you do in Baseball, that means a lot of
The “other” big news: Apparently, Manny Ramirez loves John Farrell and the Toronto Blue Jays. The reasons stated in the article are the fact that he loves all of the Dominicans that played for the team in the 80s and also loved John while he was in Toronto. Well, so far as I know, his days in Boston did not end in a pretty way, so counting on John’s blessing may be a little far fetched. However, John did see what Manny is capable of – or was capable of – first hand, so he’s about as great an opinion as you’re going to get about his potential.
The Jays clubhouse lacked a little swagger before Alex Anthopolous became the Jays GM, but he hasn’t shied away from grabbing talented players that are, well, cocky. Make no mistake about it, the Yunel Escobar deal happened for 2 reasons: first, the Jays had Alex Gonzalez – the prototypical player type that Bobby Cox loves, and second, because the Jays were willing to take on a talented – but cocky – underachiever. Could they be willing to do the same with Manny Ramirez? I say yes, there is a chance, but it will ultimately depend on what John whispers to Alex Anthopolous.
Here’s why Manny could actually become a Jay.
1 – He priced himself within the range of the Jays budget by playing so little last season. I’m not saying he’ll sign for a million, but he won’t be looking for a long term deal and so would become affordable to the Jays.
2 – The motivation of playing against the Red Sox, their fans, and even the Yankees, are things that would bring Manny’s play to a new level. Not only would those series all have Manny as a focus, but the fact that the focus is on him allows other Jays players – Vernon Wells, Aaron Hill, Yunel Escobar, Jose Bautista – to relax and just go out and play.
3 – The Jays can’t expect Jose Bautista to hit 50 HRs again in 2011. Not only has he just undergone surgery for a hernia, but he’ll also be the focus of every scouting department and staff in the American League. Who knows how effective their scouting of his weaknesses will be and whether or not he’ll be able to adjust to their new tactics? I know one thing, the scouting on Aaron Hill and Adam Lind after their career years sure did a number on their numbers, so I wouldn’t bet on Jose hitting anywhere above 35 next season. Manny being on board could help provide that missing power to the lineup and could help alleviate them from pitching around Jose.
4 – With Manny Ramirez as DH, the Jays would post a formidable lineup – if Manny is healthy. That’s a big if for a 38 year old coming off an injury riddled year, but one that the Jays could afford to take on if they want to pay the price.
The projected lineup with Manny Ramirez on board, without any other changes:
That would mean that every single player could hit 15 HRs, and that all of those hitters from the 3 hole to the 9th spot could hit above 25. That, my friends, is what you need to win in the A.L. East.
5 – Who else is there on the market? Unless Alex Anthopolous can make a deal for a better power bat, my favorite being Matt Kemp, there’s no real alternative on the FA market. Carl Crawford would be a great addition but would cost too much and wants a long term deal. Jayson Werth is not really worth his price tag either. That leaves Victor Martinez, Derek Lee, Lance Berkman and possibly Vladimir Guerrero if his mutual optioned is declined by either party as the only real power threats on the FA market. Sure, the Jays don’t have to pick anybody up, but judging from everything Alex Anthopolous has done since he’s been in Toronto, doing nothing is not part of his plan.
6 – If you all remember last season, the Jays tabbed Jose Bautista (from the D.R.) as the delegate to make Yunel Escobar (from Cuba) feel comfortable with the Jays. Adding another player from the D.R. who could help Yunel feel more at home with the Jays surely doesn’t hurt.
7 – Even if Manny Ramirez had a down year in terms of numbers, his OBP was still above .400 and his average was at .298. His presence would be inconsistent, but so long as Manny’s around for a playoff run, he’d be more than enough presence to lessen the load for the other players. And that brings me to my last point…
8 – The Jays have very little in the way of playoff experience on the roster. When September rolls around and the pressure to beat the Rays, Red Sox, and Yankees for a playoff berth mounts, you want a steady bat in the lineup that can drive runs in. Manny would bring much needed experience and consistency to the lineup during those times, and hopefully, to a playoff run.
Having stated all of the points above, there is no doubting that there are a ton of hurdles to Manny becoming a Jay.
First, he doesn’t seem to be the type of player that would fit in well with the Jays clubhouse. That’s a big point when veterans like Vernon Wells and Aaron Hill are so low key and are finally taking on leadership roles.
Second, there’s the fact that the Jays want to get younger, not older. Adding Manny would mean taking a job away from someone coming up through the minors. However, this is mitigated if the Jays can get Manny to take a 1 year deal. But, Manny is also not able to play the field anymore, which lessens his value off the bench.
Finally, he needs to prove that he’s healthy. The Jays would obviously do their due diligence, but you never know how a player his age will wear down as the season rolls along. He hasn’t hit more than 25 HRs over his last 3 years, so expecting anything more than that may be asking too much.
I have no idea how Alex Anthopolous view Manny Ramirez or what John Farrell thinks of him either. But, if they’re unable to pry the likes of Matt Kemp or a similar bat away from another team, and they can get him signed to a 1 year deal at a not so obscene rate, I’d say that there could be worse things than bringing Manny on board for a trial period. I doubt it will happen because of the reasons stated above and his age – plain and simple – but it is not outside the realm of possibility that he could wind up a Jays player.
As Kenny Williams would attest to after the price he paid to get Manny on board last season (he basically paid his salary), the Jays may be better off letting another team take him on and to watch how well he does. If he does well, and that team falls out of contention, they could swoop in and grab the slugger for a discount.
It’s a tough call, but it is telling that Manny Ramirez immediately piped up and said he loves both the Jays and John Farrell. Now we all wait to see if that feeling is mutual, and find out whether or not the Jays will add a big bat this off season. It never ends, does it?