Bear with me.
Known for his flair for the dramatic, for the dreadlocks, for the mysterious knee pain, Manny Ramirez has been nothing short of a superstar for 15 years. His career OPS sits right around 1.000.
But he's lost it, right? The man is 39 years old, has had 17 very unproductive plate appearances since 2010, and would have to sit out the first two months of the season if he signs with a team. But...
This man revitalized the Dodgers. A fanbase that did not yet know the hell it would be put through in 2010 and 2011 has the memories of 2008 and 2009 to fall back on when the nights get cold. In my time as a Dodger fan, I've had very few moments to cling to: Steve Finley's Grand Slam in 2004, Jose Lima in his entirety, 4+1, Game Over Gagne, every single time Clayton Kershaw or Greg Maddux picked up the baseball in a Dodger uniform. And Manny Friggin Ramirez. He would be coming to a clubhouse that not only has experienced Mannywood, but that learned and grew from being around him. It is a clubhouse that, since the "kids" took on leadership roles, has become accepting of new faces with past issues. Someone like Juan Rivera. He'd presumably come cheaply enough for this tight-budget franchise, where guaranteed money should win his services but may be more than is necessary. Giving Manny Ramirez a minor league deal would be a great signing, but giving him a major league deal somewhere around $1 million with performance-based contract-enhancers wouldn't be poor usage of funds either. On a team with limited funds, it's all about buying lottery tickets and trying to get your money in on the horse with the best odds of paying off. manny could be that lottery ticket.
But, what role would he play? The outfield is already crowded and you KNOW he's a defensive liability. This is the National League, GScott (you might be thinking), homey don't play that Designated Hitter jazz. What are you going to do? Sign Manny Ramirez to be a bench bat?
Absolutely. Juan Rivera is a subpar defensive outfielder, but he's on the team and we can't quarrel about that. But, by letting Rivera play Punch to Loney or Ethier's Judy, subbing against a left-handed starter at either first base or right field depending on whether Jim or James is playing at the time, would keep Jerry Sands playing left field full time and we'd have a right-handed power bench bat. Then, when Manny comes back July 1, we'll have a couple hundred plate appearances of Jerry Sands to determine where he is in his development. If he's playing well, GREAT! Use Manny off the bench as planned and let Rivera stick with his normal role. The bench only gets stronger. If by July first it's clear Jerry Sands needs to work on his approach some more, Rivera goes back to left field full time, Loney and Ethier play their positions full time, and we're right where we left off, with the exception of having Manny Ramirez on the bench instead of Juan Rivera.
Manny Ramirez is barely a shadow of what he used to be. Sure, he posted an OPS of .870 in 2010, but that was a lifetime ago at this stage of his career. But let's face it, we're going to end up with Juan Castro or some variation of Juan Castro being the last guy on our bench. If you've only got a buck to spend, why not play the Powerball instead of the scratchers?