New to Tampa, huh? Well, meet the two new Rays—Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez. Both players are outfielders who have spent most of their best years of baseball in the American League East.
Both were members of the 2004 Red Sox—the team that finally broke the curse. With both currently spending time at DH, it might be hard to find them in the lineup at the same time. But it seems that Damon will play left field, filling the void that Carl Crawford left.
Although Damon is no Crawford, he is remarkably consistent. He has played in at least 140 games every year since his first full season in 1996. Damon is joining his fifth team with a one-year deal, pending a physical. He has signed for one-year, $5.25 million. He will assume the regular left field duties, filling an outfield that already includes B.J. Upton and Ben Zobrist.
Of the two signees, Damon's signing is more critical because he fills a specific void in the Rays starting lineup.
Damon is a career .287 hitter, while logging a career .355 OBP. He has also averaged 27 steals per season, although his totals have dropped off from his season high 46 in 2000, when he was with the Kansas City Royals.
Although Damon doesn't still have his best speed, he can still cover ground in the outfield, and he can still take a good angle to a ball. His one defensive downside has always been his ability to throw, and Tropicana Stadium isn't like Fenway's short porch in left field.
This acquisition gives the Rays a veteran presence, and after Carlos Pena and other free agents leaving the club, this move might be exactly what the Rays needed.
Oh Manny, why must you torture us so? Manny can still hit the ball, but his antics on the field have caused him to be pushed out of Los Angeles and Boston. It seems to me that Manny has become haughty and arrogant, and his numbers don't back up his attitude anymore.
He is still a good hitter, but he is a defensive liability. Has anyone seen the debacle in 2008 when he was caught rolling around on the ground? Yeah, two years later, and he hasn't gotten any better.
But, if the Rays want to compete this year, Manny will be crucial to their success. After signing for one-year, $2 million, Manny adds a veteran presence while not holding down the payroll.
Manny's ability to foul-off tough pitches has kept his average around .300 over the past couple of seasons, but his power seems to be all but gone. Manny's .460 slugging percentage in 2010 may still be within the top 50, he only had 320 plate appearances and did not qualify for any batting-related title.
It seemed like the Rays were willing to sign Vladimir Guererro, but apparently, his contract was overvalued for a small-market team like the Rays.
With both Damon and Ramirez, the Rays have become stronger throughout their lineup without having to spend too much money.