The odd offseason continues in Oakland.
How else does one explain a team that has seemingly gotten both older and younger in one offseason?
The latest odd move? The A's have inked Manny Ramirez to a one-year, $500,000 deal.
The deal is a minor-league deal and he'll still have to serve a pending 50-game suspension for his last positive performance-enhancing drug test, which he failed last spring while on the Tampa Bay Rays roster.
Barring rain-outs, Manny could be "Manny" on June 2nd, 2012. Regardless of whether you love, hate or are completely neutral (I'm sure someone must be) on Manny, this deal is one where the A's really can't lose.
If Manny stinks, if he's washed up, if he can't hit, if he is a clubhouse nuisance, then he'll be gone. The A's will release him and with the low cost of the deal the team will be no worse for wear. It's not as if the A's are planning on competing for the American League West divisional title this year.
What if Manny is not bad, though? What if he's not washed up? Not too old and can get his bat around on major league fastballs? Those are compelling "what-ifs" because a healthy and effective Manny could be a serious hitter.
We have no idea to what extent and for how long and how frequently Manny used performance-enhancing drugs. Unless he was a non-stop user throughout his entire career dating to 1993, then Manny Ramirez has been a fairly legitimate force both clean or not clean.
When he is focused and happy, he's a devastating hitter—one of the best from the right side of the plate since he arrived in the league. Now if he is getting paid a ton of money, then this would be a highly questionable move.
He's not, though. Even for the A's, $500,000 is not a prohibitive amount.
If he hits and hits well, especially in an Oakland ballpark that is one of the league's worst for hitters, then the A's will enter the mid-summer trade deadline with a tempting card to play.
Surely some team in the American League will need a right-handed power hitter. Maybe it's the Yankees if they have some injuries, maybe it's the Rangers or Angels? Perhaps it's Cleveland or even Tampa? Only the Boston Red Sox would seem like a no-chance trading partner.
One way or another, with a likely early June arrival, if Manny is mashing baseballs, then someone will call Billy Beane in July and ask about how much Manny will cost in a trade. We all know that Beane will ask for a prospect or two and if Manny really looks good, Beane will probably get some one to take a chance on him in a trade.
For Beane and the A's, this is basically a half-million-dollar roll of the dice in which they might be able to land a nice prospect. Then again, Manny could be on the waiver wire by July 1st and available for next to nothing. If that happens, then it's still not a big loss for Oakland. Beane will probably just make a different deal involving different players.
For the A's, this deal is a low-risk move that has the potential to yield high long-term profits. Plenty of general managers have made bad long-term deals with their sights set on a run at a ring in the fall.
Beane is hoping to take advantage of that potentially short-sighted viewpoint.