Everybody has been waiting four months for this day to arrive: The date that Manny Ramirez is eligible to rejoin a major league ballclub.
Last December, Ramirez hinted that he was interested in un-retiring from baseball, following a seven-month absence in light of his positive drug test result during May of 2011, while he was playing for the Tampa Bay Rays.
This past February, Ramirez agreed to a minor league deal with the Oakland Athletics, allowing the beleaguered slugger to attempt to add to his 555 career home runs, pending his service of a 50-game suspension to start the 2012 season.
Fifty games later, and here we are, about to embark on Manny Being Manny: The Summer in Oakland.
Ramirez becomes eligible to play in the big leagues on Wednesday, May 30th—which happens to be his 40th birthday. But as CSNBayArea.com reports, Ramirez will not be activated for the Athletics’ game that day versus the Minnesota Twins.
There are several reasons why he will remain with the A’s Triple-A team, not the least of which is essentially to get his timing down. After all, he has only appeared in eight minor league games, after several weeks working out with the Athletics’ extended spring training squad.
From an individual standpoint, Ramirez simply wants to get himself into perfect major league conditioning—health-wise and hitting-wise. “The more I play, the better I get,” he said to CSN Bay Area.
From the team’s standpoint, however, there are several other factors for keeping Ramirez back for a little while. Specifically, Oakland has quite a few roster and lineup decisions to make as a result of Ramirez’s impending call-up. Who will be moved down for Ramirez? How will the 25-man roster be altered?
Let’s take a look at some questions the A’s will have to answer when Ramirez joins the team—whenever that may be.
The Athletics' front office has several roster spots to consider with the call-up of Ramirez. The 40-year-old Ramirez is certainly in no capacity to play the outfield for the A’s, so his place in the lineup is as the team’s permanent designated hitter.
For the season, Oakland has predominantly employed a three-headed monster, with Jonny Gomes, Kila Ka’aihue and Seth Smith each seeing more than 50 plate appearances at DH.
How could four players possibly split time at one position?
Obviously this is not possible. And one or two of these players will see extreme reduction in playing time—at least at DH.
Ka’aihue and Smith are both left-handed hitters, so that’s a nod in their favors in terms of creating a platoon with Ramirez. Gomes and Smith are capable of playing corner outfield spots from time to time, but both are not defensively strong players.
Ka’aihue is proving to be an adequate contributor, though his .243 batting average doesn’t exactly stand out. He does give the A’s an extra first baseman, and he offers a bit of pop—42.3 percent of his hits have gone for extra bases.
Gomes might be the odd man out if only because he is a right-handed hitter like Ramirez.
Gomes has appeared in 16 games as the Athletics’ designated hitter and in 17 games in left field. However, his time in left field is mostly due to dire necessity, not desired intention.
Coco Crisp, the team’s Opening Day left fielder, missed 23 games due to injury, and Yoenis Cespedes, the A’s Opening Day center fielder has missed 21 games himself, making Gomes’ presence in the outfield a call for desperate measures.
Gomes’ defense is not exactly a strong suit. He is sporting a 1.81 range factor in left field. And with Crisp back in the lineup, and Cespedes due to return sooner rather than later, the need for Gomes to man the outfield no longer exists. What will manager Bob Melvin do with him?
It’s easy to suggest that Gomes will be relegated to the bench. His .227 batting average is nothing to be impressed with, although he has hammered out five home runs in 97 at-bats. The A’s could always use more power, and Gomes has his fair share. But will that be enough for him to see significant playing time?
Probably not. Unless Ramirez somehow tanks.
Gomes is a nine-year veteran, and it wouldn’t make sense to send him down to Triple-A or do anything drastic like that. The probability is that Oakland would consider moving him before the trading deadline.
…or the A’s could move another struggling veteran outfielder. Coco Crisp has so far been atrocious this year. In 26 games, Crisp is batting a paltry .156 with one extra-base hit and only six runs scored. In fact, for Tuesday’s game against the Minnesota Twins, manager Bob Melvin has moved Crisp all the way down to the eighth spot in the order.
Just the cherry on top of a horrendous few months for Crisp and his ego.
The 11-year vet initially re-signed with the A’s despite reportedly having other suitors to choose from last offseason.
However, when the Athletics swooped out of nowhere and signed free agent hot-shot Yoenis Cespedes and named him the team’s starting center fielder, Crisp was naturally dismayed. Though he hasn’t been extremely vocal about his displeasure in being relegated to left field, Crisp has seemingly pouted about the move all season.
Or at the very least he’s allowed his transition to left field affect his performance at the plate.
At first, Crisp appeared to be sulking in his own way. But filling in for Cespedes in center field for the past seven games apparently hasn’t helped Crisp’s confidence, as he is 2-for-29 since returning from the DL.
The A’s might consider moving Crisp before the deadline, too. Obviously, Oakland’s place in the standings will play a factor in Crisp’s likelihood to be traded. Which essentially means that he will absolutely be gone by July 31st—it’s more of a matter of when, not if.
But considering that Ramirez will be joining the team shortly, the roster will be extremely crowded. And the Athletics will have to analyze their short-term goals as well as the goals for the season. Will the A’s need Crisp once Ramirez joins the team?
One of the things that Oakland’s front office has to consider is not only where Ramirez will fit on the roster, but also where Yoenis Cespedes will fit once he returns from injury. Ramirez, whenever he is deemed ready to join the A’s, is going to be the full-time designated hitter. Cespedes, meanwhile, is slated to start in the outfield upon his activation from the disabled list.
Those two spots are likely as set in stone as can be. The issue, albeit a minor one, will be where Bob Melvin will place Ramirez and Cespedes in the batting order. It’s not a big deal or terrible problem to have. But it is something to consider.
Until he went down with an injury at the beginning of May, Cespedes had been locked in as Oakland’s fourth-place hitter, with 94 at-bats in the cleanup spot. His numbers as a whole are quite decent, especially for a rookie who was brand new to America just three months ago. For the season, Cespedes has a .245 batting average with five home runs and 21 runs batted in. Not bad.
But would it be slightly better to have a veteran presence batting cleanup—say, one who has hit 555 home runs in the major leagues?
Obviously, Ramirez is not the hitter that he used to be. Much of his future with the A’s this season will be predicated on his performance in Sacramento in the next few games.
If he is able to demonstrate any semblance of consistent hitting, it’s possible that Cespedes and Ramirez could form a dynamic twosome in the middle of the Athletics lineup.
If that time does arrive, Melvin should think hard about how to get the best out the duo in order to maximize productivity. The A’s are languishing at the bottom of the American League in nearly every offensive category. They could use a boost from Ramirez, once he is ready to come back. And Cespedes.
Better yet, bring them both back. It could be entertaining to watch.
With the imminent addition of Ramirez to the A’s roster, there will be six players looking to see time in the outfield: Josh Reddick, Coco Crisp, Jonny Gomes, Seth Smith, Collin Cowgill and Yoenis Cespedes—whenever it is he is activated from the disabled list.
This means that there will be a couple of roster transactions to be made in the next couple weeks. Who will Ramirez replace? Then, who will Cespedes replace?
A few players could be shipped to Sacramento in the near future—certainly one of the aforementioned outfielders. Cowgill appears to be the most likely candidate to be reassigned, based on his poor performance (.234 batting average, no extra-base hits.) It also doesn’t help him that he’s the least experienced of the outfielders, as Cespedes at least has seven seasons in the Cuban professional baseball league.
But which player will be moved for Ramirez? That’s another transaction for Oakland management to contemplate in the next couple of weeks. The A’s are struggling mightily at the plate, and any player they choose to be reassigned would be a worthy option.
The clutch performance of Kila Ka’aihue might make first baseman Daric Barton and his .204 batting average expendable.
With Brandon Inge back in the lineup at third base, maybe rookie Josh Donaldson would be a candidate to be demoted. The same can be said for utilityman Adam Rosales, who only recently was called up to the A’s when Inge went down.
Maybe the Athletics will ship out a struggling reliever—Jordan Norberto?
The point is, Oakland has many things to consider when it comes to preparing for the arrival of Manny Ramirez. It’s not as simple as him coming in after a year off of not playing and stepping into the DH role, driving in runs with the swiftness and ease of his old self.
There are other players on the roster that will be affected by Ramirez’ return to the majors, and the A’s have the unfortunate task of determining which players will be moved. This decision is worsened by the fact that the A’s are performing terribly at the plate, and it might not even be logically feasible to keep Ramirez on the team for very long—if the A’s should fall further out of contention.
Would other veterans such as Jonny Gomes and Coco Crisp also be placed on the trading block in order to accommodate Ramirez’ roster spot?
Who knows? But these questions will all be part of an interesting storyline if and when Ramirez makes his season debut. Let the Manny madness begin.
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