Manny Ramirez officially joined the Oakland Athletics Friday, even participating in a batting practice session in which he hit numerous home runs.
A's manager Bob Melvin is excited about the addition and teammates look forward to seeing what the 39-year-old has left in the tank.
“He can be a great example with his work ethic,” Melvin said. “We have some young kids and, who knows, maybe something will rub off.”
"I think the guys are excited to see what Manny Ramirez is all about."
Fans, on the other hand, remain somewhere between lukewarm and cautiously optimistic about the signing.
Ramirez, a career .312 hitter with 555 home runs, has a history of malignant behavior if and when things go awry.
Ramirez signed a minor league deal with the team on Monday worth $500,000. He will participate in spring training and exhibition games scheduled in Japan, but he must serve a 50-game suspension before he can play in the regular season.
The A's had an active offseason and the acquisition of Manny was just one of many surprising decisions. In three separate deals, they traded away starting pitchers Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzales and closer Andrew Bailey. The club let Josh Willingham, their lone slugger in an otherwise benign lineup, sign with another team. Steady contributors Ryan Sweeney, Craig Breslow, Josh Outman and Guillermo Moscoso were among others packaged in various trades. The A's then shocked everyone by actually spending some money on outfielder and Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes, agreeing to a four-year $36 million deal. That was then followed up with adding Ramirez.
Huh? What about the so-called youth movement?
With the arrival of spring training and the regular season just around the corner, don't expect the surprises to get lost in the mail.
A's followers, more so than Boy Scouts, are always prepared.
So, don't be too shocked to see these two scenarios play out once the regular season starts.
Another Youngster Emerges as the Team's Ace
It's become a choreographed dance routine. The team's top pitcher is dealt or leaves with dollar signs as pupils. Another youngster, either one acquired via trade or eHarmony, steps into the now-vacant spot of the rotation. They go on to emerge as the team's ace. The dance then starts over from the beginning. Over and over. Again and again. Shimmy, shimmy.
Expect the dance to continue this season. Gonzales and Cahill are gone, opening up spots in the rotation. Bartolo Colon has been resurrected from the graveyard of antiquity to fill a vacancy, but the others remain up for grabs.
A youngster will not only earn a spot, they will emerge as the team's ace.
Here are three likely candidates for that role:
RHP Brad Peacock: Peacock, 24, had a breakout season in the minors last year, going 15-3 with a 2.39 ERA in AA and AAA. He possesses a 92-96 MPH straight fastball, a nasty knuckle-curve ball and an average changeup. Needs further development, but will be in the mix.
RHP Tyson Ross: Still just 24 years old, Ross was solid for the A's last year (3-3 with a 2.75 ERA in six starts) before an injury derailed his progress. He appears to have recovered and will compete for inclusion in the starting rotation. Ross throws an above-average fastball and slider to go along with a much-improved changeup.
RHP Jarrod Parker: Considered to be the top pitching prospect in the system, Parker has the makeup of a No. 1 or No. 2 starter. His fastball is a plus, but his slider is the out-pitch in his repertoire. He also throws an impressive changeup that comes in about 11-12 MPH slower than his fastball. Sooner or later, Parker will work his way into the rotation. I say sooner.
Manny Ramirez Signing Will Pan out
Ending where we started, let's take a closer look at the signing. It's a one-year deal for $500,000 (actually, prorated to about $345,000 when you deduct the suspension) that is non-guaranteed. Basically, should Ramirez struggle at the plate or as a positive influence in the locker room, the A's have the option of releasing him at any time.
If the team can get anything out of his dusty old bat, it's a plus. Or if he becomes a mentor to the newly acquired Cespedes and other teammates, they will be getting a bargain.
Expect a little pop, a few clutch hits and some surprising leadership from Ramirez.
Just keep the expectations as realistic as possible.
Anybody hoping to see the 2004 version of Ramirez should just stick to watching ESPN Classic. That year, he hit .308 with 43 homers and 130 RBI. That was eight years ago, and Ramirez won't even sniff those numbers.
However, a .280 average with 15 homers and 45 RBIs is plenty realistic.
Well worth the absence of risk.
Join in on the crystal-ball festivities and forecast other potential surprises.