Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
July 31, 2008
BASEBALL: Manny Blue
As deadline deals go, this is a biggie: Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers, Jason Bay to the Red Sox, a package of prospects to Pittsburgh:
Third baseman Andy LaRoche and right-handed pitcher Bryan Morris will go to the Pirates from the Dodgers. Outfielder Brandon Moss and right-handed pitcher Craig Hansen will leave the Red Sox organization for Pittsburgh.
The core of the deal is the contract status of the two stars. "Ramirez is in the final guaranteed season of an eight-year, $160 million contract. It also contains club options at $20 million each for 2009 and 2110," while Bay "has one year and $7.5 million left on his four-year contract and will make $7.5 million in 2009."
Sox fans seem to be split on this, with the majority being steaming mad and a dedicated minority happy to finally reach the end of Manny's annual rituals of exasperating the fans, teammates and front office. Pirates fans are like a wino without the energy to grab the bottle after it tips over and drains out on the sidewalk. They just sit there, watching it flow....although in the long run, they did get a decent package of players, as LaRoche has some good pop at 3B and Hansen has a decent arm, although he has yet again been ineffective at the big league level. As always with a team like the Bucs, the question is less the guys they got in return than what this says about their business model and whether it includes ever being competitive.
For the Dodgers, this is a win-now move, and one borne of the weakness of their division and the parlous state of their lineup, which is 13th in the NL in runs. I'm not sure win-now makes a ton of sense for a team that by all rights should get squashed in the playoffs, but recent history has been kind to weak teams in the playoffs.
The major attention will focus on the Sawx, though, since they are the ones dumping a Hall of Fame talent who is having a good year (.299/.398/.529, 66 Runs, 68 RBI - not the Manny of old but not bad for age 36) and who, after many years of underachieving in October, has batted .317/.548/.438 and averaged an RBI a game in the playoffs since 2004, as the heart of the Sox two World Championship teams. They deal him for Bay, a 29-year-old .281/.375/.515 hitter who is batting almost exactly that (.282/.375/.519, 72 Runs, 64 RBI) this season. (Both players are hitting marginally better at home, but Bay has been working in the comparatively weak NL Central).
How you value the deal depends entirely on whether you think the loss of Manny's bat in the postseason is worth trading a half season of Manny for a year and a half of Bay (the Sox are eating Manny's contract so it's not a financial savings). I tend to think it's a defensible deal, in the 50s Yankees sense of trading a guy a year too early rather than too late, although I frankly probably would not have made this deal myself. The Sox are, after all, defending a World Championship, and even though this has been something of a reloading year for them, they are still very much in the hunt, 3 games behind an overachieving Rays team and leading the Wild Card race. On the other hand, Manny has been enough of a distraction, and Bay is good enough, that at least the players are unlikely to look at this as a surrender.