Friday, November 05, 2004

Needlessly Stirring the Pot

I realize that the stretch between the end of the World Series and the beginning of full-blown free agency must be a lean stretch for baseball writers. I’ll wager it’s especially lean after your team has just won the title. There are only so many synonyms for “ecstatic,” and the dissections and grievances that usually fill the two-week void are not relevant under those circumstances.

Even so, gratuitous provocation is not the answer. Yet that is exactly what Gerry Callahan has provided in today’s Boston Herald. His modest proposal: waive Manny Ramirez. Again.

The suggestion is neither unprecedented nor (misguided though it is) entirely unexpected. After all, the Sox waived Manny last year, and some of the same reasons for having done so still apply this year. Manny is not getting any younger, and his enormous contract places considerable limits on the number of moves even a clever GM can make.

The problem is that these are exactly the same reasons that no one would claim Manny even if he were placed on waivers. The teams that can afford him (the Yankees, and who else, really?) don’t need him. The teams that are one clean-up bat away from seriously contending (the Twins and A’s, for example) can’t afford him.

Ah, but there’s an additional and more compelling reason to waive Manny this year, according to Callahan: “you don't have to sneak into Theo's War Room to understand two things: Carlos Beltran is a better all-around player, and Carlos Beltran is going to command less than $20 million a year. Beltran is a switch-hitter, a base stealer and a Gold Glove-caliber center fielder. He's also 27.” Would the Red Sox rather have Beltran than Ramirez? Quite possibly. Wouldn’t every other major league team rather have Beltran than Ramirez? Yup. This is why it makes no sense to waive Manny in the hopes of chasing Beltran: no one will claim Manny until Beltran has already signed.

Callahan is right about one thing. Our 2004 world champions are not a young bunch, and (sad to say) it won’t make financial sense to keep everybody. Given that the Red Sox already have sixteen potential free agents, however, there’s already sufficient flexibility for Theo to maintain/rebuild as he sees fit.

The Sox waived Manny once and were, quite frankly, lucky that he responded as positively as he did. There’s no need to press that luck this off-season, especially when the move is really no more likely to have the “desired” effect than it did last year.


At 9:03 PM, Blogger Jay said...

What's he got left on his contract? 4 years/$80 million?
I bet if he was put on waivers that the Mets would snatch him up and, while I would prefer Beltran, I wouldn't complain about getting Manny for bupkis.

At 11:44 PM, Blogger Matt said...

Jay, I'm about to take a cheap shot. I apologize in advance but, well, you opened the door.

When did you turn into Jim Duquette?

You've spent every waking breath since the trading deadline insisting (persusaively, I think) that the Mets need to play the kids, worry less about 2005 than 2006, and go hard after Beltran this offseason. Only now you're claiming you'd chuck that for an outfielder on the wrong side of thirty with an immense contract who might not have much left in the tank when Wright et al. are ready to make a genuine run. Manny's a better option than, say, Sammy Sosa, but he'd be the same kind of acquisition when you get right down to it.

I'm not quite playing fair, I know. What I think you meant is that Manny would be an acceptable consolation prize if Beltran falls through. I respectfully submit that you're misreading the likeliest sequence of events. The Sox would only waive Manny to make a run at Beltran themselves. In other words, the Mets would have to settle for Manny while Beltran is still in play. If your priorities are what you say they are, the timing on claiming Ramirez would be all wrong.

At 11:36 AM, Blogger Jay said...

Perhaps I didn't phrase myself correctly. Of course I would rather have Beltran and I certainly hope the Mets make a decent run at him. However, given the Mets management over the last few years, I could easily see them doing the wrong thing and claiming Manny instead.

Bad move? Sure. But there's a difference between a bad move that cripples your team and a bad move that will help your team. Is it the best move? No way. But honestly you can do worse than getting one of the best hitters in the game. In addition, the Mets could actually absorb that contract fairly easily right now, especially with only four years left. The Mets only have $64 million in guaranteed contracts next year and only $33 million the year after that.

There's only one team this offseason that's going to get Beltran. I hope it's the Mets. But I wouldn't whine about having one of the most feared hitters in baseball in the middle of my lineup next year.

At 12:18 PM, Blogger Matt said...

Okay, that does clear things up, the operative phrase being "the wrong move." A possible move, given the haphazard decision making process at Shea, but still the wrong one.
Also (and this is my point, if I didn't make it clear), Manny shouldn't be placed on waivers to begin with. Sure he's overpaid, but he's also extremely productive. If you're looking for a bad contract on our roster, look no further than Byung-Hyun Kim. How about waiving him, and see if anyone bites? That five million could go into the Bring Carl Pavano Home fund.

At 11:05 PM, Anonymous refinancing said...



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