The way I see it, the Athletics need to begin preparing their players now for Ramirez's return. I say that because, with the way the roster is set up right now, some rather drastic lineup shuffling will be necessary when Ramirez touches down in Oakland.
For example, Ramirez would operate well in both as a designated hitter and an outfielder.
Without Ramirez, the Athletics have four possible designated hitters (Jonny Gomes, Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Reddick and Seth Smith) as well as five outfield candidates (Gomes, Cespedes, Reddick, Smith and Coco Crisp).
For those scoring at home, that's too many people for the available spots on the field and in the lineup, without Ramirez. Adding an explosive talent like Ramirez complicates things.
Having established the need for some lineup changes upon Ramirez's arrival, I am going to periodically put out there what I think the lineup should look like, starting with right now. Here is the lineup, with an explanation to follow.
1. 2B, Jemile Weeks
2. SS, Cliff Pennington
3. DH, Manny Ramirez
4. CF, Yoenis Cespedes
How many spots in this projected batting order would you change?
5. LF, Jonny Gomes
6. RF, Josh Reddick
7. C, Kurt Suzuki
8. 1B, Seth Smith
9. 3B, Daric Barton
(Before you go to bashing, let the record show that I slaved over this. A lot. And will continue to slave over it as this series of columns continues. Maybe I should get another hobby...)
Weeks and Pennington were the clear choices both for their positions and lineup spots. I feel like Ramirez will get more hits and RBI than Cespedes will, therefore he's in the 3-hole over Cespedes. Besides, now that Cespedes is getting comfortable in the cleanup spot, I feel hesitant to make him go through more changes than he already has, with the new league and new country.
I put Gomes in the No. 5 spot because he's hot. I could see him moving down if he cools down and gets to a more consistent level of baseball. He is in left field because Coco Crisp is cold as ice at the moment, and therefore not in the lineup. When Crisp starts hitting the ball, he will probably return to his spot in LF.
Reddick is in the 6-hole mostly because he has the potential to hit Gomes to third or even score him when he gets on first, and can easily score him from second. I like the idea of getting good RBI possibilities in the 3-6 spots instead of the 3-5 spots.
How many changes would you make in the fielding arrangement of this lineup?
Suzuki is hitting the ball better than Smith and Barton at the moment, moving him up to the seventh spot. The fielding alignments here are a little crazy, however. Eric Sogard is out of this lineup, either a bench player or moved down to Triple-A.
In taking Sogard out of the lineup, I am not giving up on the Sogard project. I would like to option a different player to Triple-A and keep Sogard to give certain guys relief in days off. But, as of right now, he is the one that gets bumped out of the lineup if Ramirez were inserted.
This opens up the third base slot, which Barton fits best since he played a couple games for Oakland at third base in 2008. That is a long time ago, I am aware, but Barton's fielding is good enough that I feel like the move would be like riding a bike for him.
If he were to work on fielding at third base and getting reps at that position in practices and pregame workouts, I am confident Barton would prove to be a good third baseman.
Smith replaced Barton at first for two reasons. No. 1, I wanted his bat in the lineup. Smith can do good things for the A's at the plate and I did not want to waste him on the bench. No. 2, he's 6'3", a good height for a first baseman. Plus he's a lefty, which also works well for that position.
Columns like this one work best with feedback, so don't hesitate to comment on the column and get the debate going. For more MLB writings from Brett, check his BleacherReport writer profile and follow him on Twitter, @BrettH_MLB