After watching the Manny Ramirez saga unfold over the past week, I can't help but think the solution is so simple; people are simply overlooking it. Essentially, there are three options on the table. The Red Sox can trade him, pick up his option, or let him walk after the season. To me, the easiest, and most beneficial solution, would be to tell Ramirez now that the team will let him become a free agent after the season, and here's why:
First off, a trade will be much too difficult for the Red Sox right now. According to Ken Rosenthal in his latest article on FoxSports.com, there's been speculation regarding the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies as showing interest. Regardless of which team is involved, there's no way the Red Sox will trade Ramirez in a deal straight up and get a player in return that fills the void left behind. Not happening. Manny is a 10 and 5 guy, and he'll want to be dealt to a contending team. That being said, any contender will not ship out an integral piece of the offense in exchange for Ramirez. If that team is looking to win a World Series, it's looking to add Ramirez, not use him to replace someone. The only way a deal could be made straight up is if a team like the Colorado Rockies decided they were sellers, Ramirez waived his no-trade clause and both teams agreed on a Holliday for Ramirez deal. The odds of that are slim.
So that being said, another possibility would be the inclusion of a third or even fourth team, much like what occurred in the deal involving Nomar Garciaparra back in 2004. The Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Minnesota Twins, and Montreal Expos were all a part of the deal, and there were a lot of moving parts to that deal. By including additional teams, Boston (Team A) could ship Ramirez to a team like the Phillies (Team B) in exchange for top prospects in the system. Those prospects, in turn, would never even begin their journey to Boston, instead heading to the third team involved (Team C), who accepted said prospects from Team B while sending a star player to Team A. Team C, however, would need to be a seller, such as the Cincinnati Reds and slugger Austin Kearns. Deals like this become extremely complicated, and with only a few days left until the deadline, it’s hard to say if it could happen in time. Again, the issue would be Ramirez and his no-trade clause. If he chooses to wave it, things might be easier, regardless of the number of teams involved.
The next option for Boston is to pick up Manny's option now and satisfy his financial worries. The genesis of the issue at hand is that Ramirez is uneasy with his dubious future in Boston and Major League Baseball. It can easily be said that he’s no Barry Bonds. While mercurial, he does not alienate teammates nor cast a black shadow over the sport. His talent is second to none, and despite going on 36 now, he's still one of the premier hitters in the game. Ramirez will play somewhere next year, there’s no question about that, but he’d rather know now where that will be. Therefore, if Theo and Co. can tolerate the stupid "Manny Being Manny" phenomenon that sweeps through Boston every year, then pick up the option and reap the benefits of a .300/30/100 season hitting behind David Ortiz next year.
My problem with this option is that I don’t necessarily think that Manny is worth the $20 million he'd be getting. He’s a known commodity and has had a much better season in 2008 than I think most people credit him for. Let's not forget that Ortiz was out 45 games. Not having him in the lineup, no matter how well J.D. Drew, Kevin Youkilis, and Mike Lowell are hitting, affects Manny in a negative way. I think he can put up the same numbers next year and most likely the year after. This guy will be a great hitter into his 40’s. But at $20 million a pop? I’m not sure about that. And if you pick up the first option, you might as well pick up the second option or else you're going to experience the same media frenzy next year, because it will just end up being another contract season and ambiguous situation for Ramirez yet again.
That brings me to the third option for Boston, and the one that I think is so clear-cut people are just overlooking it. It’s like searching frantically for your watch for an hour before realizing it’s on your wrist. It's right there in front of you, yet you refuse to consider that as even an option.
What I think Boston should do is sit down with Ramirez and tell the slugger it is not in the team’s best interest to trade him or pick up his options at the end of the season. He’s contributed a lot to this organization, given them two World Series titles and helped turn this into one of the biggest sports franchises on the globe. However, the team is going to move in another direction and allow Ramirez to seek greener pastures elsewhere after the season is over. He's earned that right and should have ample opportunity to secure his financial future elsewhere.
Here's why I think this is best for the Red Sox. By declining to trade him or pick up the options, it truly does make this an urgent contract situation for Ramirez. He'll now be faced with the grim reality that his numbers at the conclusion of 2008 will ultimately determine the girth of the contract he signs prior to 2009. So far, he's having a terrific season offensively. But there are many pundits who criticize the drop in average, power and production over the last couple seasons as a sign – trend, even – that he is slowing down and fading into the twilight of his career. These next two months would be the perfect opportunity for Ramirez to prove those critics wrong and showcase his still prevalent skills. We could see Ramirez turn into a beast down the stretch, running out ground balls, driving the ball the other way, hitting homeruns, producing runs and hustling on the basepaths night in and night out. Look at last night’s game against the Yankees as a microcosm of what could potentially occur down the stretch. That way, when he leaves Boston and begins acquiring interest from other teams, his 2008 resume would command the massive deal he is looking for.
As far as the Red Sox, a pair of compensation draft picks would likely come as a result. And we all know how well the team has drafted over the last several years. Those picks could even be used as trade bait, packaged with a minor leaguer or two, to acquire a power hitting corner outfielder from a team looking to rebuild.
What do you think the Red Sox should do?