The baseball world seems to have gone crazy to end the week. The Tampa Bay Rays have acquired both Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon. What’s truly amazing is the size of the deals: for one year of each, the Rays spent a mere $7.25 million. Both played well enough last year, and look to provide value in 2011.
Ramirez played 90 games for the Dodgers and White Sox last year, mostly due to injury. Since he looks to be primarily a DH next year, he should be able to stay in the lineup. In 2010, he posted a .298/.409/.460 line (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage), which should provide decent value over more games. His wins above replacement (WAR) (which accounts for hitting, fielding, position and playing time) for the year were 1.6. He could easily post above two WAR (about starter-level) in 2011 with more playing time, even accounting for some decline.
Damon, meanwhile, played 145 games for the Tigers, with a .271/.355/.401 line and 1.9 WAR. He may not provide as much value as Ramirez, but he too could easily provide two WAR. In an AL East race that looks to be very close, the Rays will need every win they can get.
These are both very team-friendly, low-risk/high-reward deals for the Rays. Based on the contracts handed out over the offseason, Fangraphs has estimated one WAR went for about $5 million through free agency. Therefore, should Ramirez and Damon both reach two WAR, the Rays will have gotten $20 million in value, which is $12.75 million more than they paid for the two of them combined. They fill several gaps the Rays have: both designated hitter and bench. The 2011 Rays look somewhat like this:
C: John Jaso
1B: Ben Zobrist/Matt Joyce
2B: Sean Rodriguez
3B: Evan Longoria
SS: Reid Brignac
LF: Desmond Jennings/Johnny Damon
CF: B.J. Upton
RF: Matt Joyce/Ben Zobrist
DH: Manny Ramirez/Johnny Damon
The downside is that it looks like top prospect Desmond Jennings will be out in the cold. However, these moves give the Rays both depth and flexibility. Worst-case scenario: If the Rays fall out of contention, the can likely flip them for prospects come the trade deadline.
The Angels, meanwhile, are trying to be the anti-Rays. They have reportedly swung a deal for Blue Jay Vernon Wells, sending over catcher Mike Napoli and outfielder Juan Rivera. The money alone should show just how bad this deal is: Rivera has one year at $5.25 million on his contract. Napoli has two more arbitration years, and made $3.6 million last year. Wells has $86 million left the next four years.
Apparently, the Angels decided to do something with the money they had left over from not signing Adrian Beltre or Carl Crawford.
Granted, Rivera was nothing special (.252/.312/.409 line, .5 WAR in 124 games for 2010); however, Mike Napoli is a 29-year-old catcher coming off of a .238/.316/.468 season, with two more years under contract. He even posted 2.7 WAR, a number that looks to rise.
The man who takes over for him is manager-favorite Jeff Mathis, who posted absolutely atrocious numbers last year (.195/.219/.278, -.6 WAR). Granted, he is supposed to be better defensively than Napoli. But, for what it’s worth, Napoli threw out a higher percentage of baserunners last year. Plus, Mathis is only under contract through 2011.
The Angels have not only committed regular subtraction, but also subtraction by addition. Granted, Wells did have a bounce-back year last year, posting a .269/.328/.467 line with four WAR. However, the three seasons prior to that, he posted WAR of 1.5, 1.5 and zero respectively. To add insult to injury, he just turned 32, meaning the Angels get to pay him $86 million for his decline years. For reference, here’s what the Angels could have done with the extra money they are spending.
This deal isn’t all bad, though. The Blue Jays front office did a remarkable job seizing the opportunity to remove an albatross deal.
And, on a final deal of more personal concern, the Cardinals signed 33-year-old infielder Nick Punto to fill Tony LaRussa’s need for another grinder or something. It’s not even for twice the major league minimum, so I guess it’s not too bad. I would just feel much better about this situation if they didn’t already have an almost identical type of player in Ryan Theriot. Or, even better, if they had a major league-caliber shortstop, like, say, Brendan Ryan, so they didn’t have to start Theriot at shortstop.