There’s little doubt to how much value Manny Ramirez has to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
He was, quite literally, the difference between a second straight year of staying home in October and playoff baseball. There is also a general consensus as to what motivated the future Hall of Famer: a new contract.
However, just how much the Dodgers eventually offer (and what Manny deserves) should not be determined just by his recent performance as a Dodger, but also by his future behavior, which will not be difficult to gauge.
Hypothetically, if the Dodgers (or any other team) were to offer Manny a two-year contract that he accepted, there would be a maximum one-year grace period where all parties involved would be satisfied.
An Andruw Jones-like drop off should not be expected, as there has been no statistical evidence of that sharp a decline. If anything, Manny has proved to be just as valuable in 2008 as in any other year and would continue to be the RBI machine we have all grown accustomed to.
But what happens this time next year when Manny "only" has one year left on the hypothetical contract above? Should we expect an older, wiser Manny to suddenly accept his role as a team elder? Or should we rely on the empirical evidence, no different than his statistical record.
In reality, a two-year contract should be treated as a one-year deal because of the “Manny being Manny” factor.
I have full faith in Manny Ramirez demanding a new contract when he sees his time running out and he’ll probably deserve one. Therefore, the Dodgers would be wise to offer a three-year deal to ensure at least two years of silent productivity from one of the greatest hitters of all time.
Yes, his defense is atrocious and will only worsen with age. But the Dodgers would be wise to sacrifice Manny’s defense for Juan Pierre’s bat.
As for money, the Dodgers have almost $50 million coming off the books this year, with another $35 million in 2010 from Andruw Jones and Jason Schmidt alone. No baseball person could argue that Manny doesn’t deserve a high average annual value (AAV) when you combine his production with the current market.
If he should make more money per year than anyone in baseball, except for Alex Rodriguez, then so be it—the Dodgers would be better off in the end. The key is to give Manny security—not the security of getting paid, but the security of not having to demand a new contract.