St. Louis Cardinals Should Sign...Manny Ramirez?

Joel KochSenior Analyst IJanuary 29, 2009

Get it while it is hot everyone. Manny Ramirez is still a free agent and Scott Boras is still trying to find a suitor for his last remaining big time free agent.

Albert Pujols wants the St. Louis Cardinals to sign Ramirez.

Stop. Repeat: Pujols wants Ramirez?

As Larry the Cable Guy would say: Git R Don.

I actually heard about this rumor on yesterday, but the rumor is making its rounds now. Pujols has given Ramirez Tony La Russa's phone number, and he is waiting for the Cardinals to jump in.

I may only be a fan, but I do have a strong opinion on this matter: Pujols just said he wants Ramirez, so sign him.

Bill DeWitt is on the record saying that for the right player, he would raise payroll. Newsflash DeWitt: Manny Ramirez is that right player, and your face of the franchise just admitted he wants the Cardinals to sign him. Raise payroll, tell John Mozeliak to sign Ramirez, and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Another newsflash for DeWitt: if you let Ramirez slip through your fingers (a player who gives the Cardinals a real impact bat), Pujols may follow.

Pujols' contract is up after 2010 (with a 2011 club option). If the Cardinals do not show a true commitment to winning (and not signing Ramirez fits in this category), he may just walk and go to the highest bidder for the largest contract ever, instead of taking a hometown discount to resign with the Cardinals.

With all that behind us, lets look at the positives.

Now, I am a die-hard Cardinals fan, so I like this rumor, but let's really look at this. If Ramirez is batting cleanup, Pujols is will never be intentionally walked again. His numbers will skyrocket and he will be at the top of every offensive category.

Another positive could be that with Ramirez in the lineup, it will take pressure off others to perform at their top levels and let them be support players, instead of playing over their heads and be stars.

Now, how can the Cardinals make this addition without upsetting the natural flow of things in St. Louis? Well, there are two scenarios that could play out. Here is an outlook on both:


Situation One: Rick Ankiel

Ankiel is due to make at least $3 million in arbitration in just a few short weeks. He's also a free agent following the 2009 season. Trading Ankiel would not only cut $3 million from the payroll, his subtraction would also keep a spot open for Colby Rasmus.

So, how would they trade him? Trade him to the Atlanta Braves for LHP Jonny Venters. The Braves are in the market for an outfielder who can play all three outfield spots. Adding Ankiel would also save them prospects instead of trading for Nick Swisher or Xavier Nady.

True, Ankiel would only be in Atlanta for one season, but his left-handed power would come in handy in a lineup lacking pop. He could also sign on long-term, or he could become a Type-A free agent with a good season (he will be a Type B). Both situations would help the Braves in the long term.

After the Ankiel trade, the Cardinals sign Ramirez to a one-year deal worth $22 million. The contract would have a club option for $22 million (and $2 million of the base salary is the buyout for this option). Incentives for games played and innings (if it is allowed)  played, for the 2009 season only, are attached that could raise the base salary AND the option year by $3 million. If Ramirez reaches all the incentives, the option is guaranteed. That would make it two years, $48 million.

Not a bad deal.

This situation would leave the Cardinals the best 3-4 hole hitters in baseball plus an open outfield spot for Colby Rasmus. The payroll would be (assuming Ryan Ludwick settles on $4 million in arbitration) around $120 million for the 2009 season. Not really bad at all.


Situation Two: Ryan Ludwick

Ludwick is in line to make $4 million or more in arbitration (no way the arbitrator chooses the Cardinals' figure of $2.8 million). Moving his potential salary would save the Cardinals some payroll room. Plus, since he's still under contract for 2010 and 2011, it would clear off those potential salaries as well.

Trading Ludwick wouldn't be all that complicated. Teams are unwilling to go too high on the trading price because you don't know if his 2008 season was a fluke or not, but if moved for a reasonable price, a deal could be done. Potential trade partners would be the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Braves.

Again, the Cardinals go ask for Venters from the Braves, along with another prospect. The Dodgers, well, who knows? Trading two prospects would be a good a deal for both sides. The Dodgers, in limbo because of Ramirez, could really use Ludwick. Ludwick isn't the same type of hitter that Ramirez is, but he would come cheaper (the Dodgers owner must be an identical twin of DeWitt) and still give them right-handed power.

This trade of Ludwick would also take the Dodgers out of the running for Ramirez and leave the Cardinals as the lone suitor.

That same contract mentioned in the first situation would be given, but the contract would look even better in this situation.

Ankiel and Ludwick would both be off the books for the 2010 season (letting Ankiel walk after the 2009 season). That is a lot of money that won't be tied up. Add in that Troy Glaus, Joel Piniero, Ryan Franklin (option), Kahlil Greene, and Adam Kennedy would also be off the books.

This would lead to a major face lift. David Freese or Brett Wallace would be at third base. Jon Jay or Daryl Jones would be in right field with Rasmus in center field. Those cheap options would mean that the Cardinals have enough money to pay the $22-25 million owed to Ramirez.


So, Manny Ramirez: good idea or bad for the Cardinals? Pujols says good. I say good. Mozeliak and DeWitt? Not sure. Mozeliak shot down that the Cardinals were the "mystery team" yesterday, but we don't know if he's interested.

When it is all said and done, Ramirez falls on DeWitt. Will he live up to his statement of "for the right player" he'd open up his wallet, or will he continue to sit idly by, listening to the fan unrest?

DeWallet or DeWin, we shall see. Stay tuned.