Originally posted on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 2/20/12

He’s not an outfielder any more. He might not even be a cutoff man any more. He can’t play in the field, in other words. He hasn’t played pro baseball in over 300 days. Even if he makes the team, he’ll have to serve at least a fifty-game suspension before shaking off the game-speed rust. He turns 40 this year. So what is there to like about the Athletics’ signing Manny Ramirez to a Minor League deal?

Something. There is something to like about it.

That something is that there’s probably a chance that Ramirez can still hit. ZiPs projected him, as a Ray, for a .241/.342/.363 line this year, with seven home runs in over 300 plate appearances. But the last time he played regularly, 2010, he had a .298/.409/.460 line that suggested that he could still take a walk and still make contact.

If we peg his on-base percentage upside between .350 and .400, he’s already ahead of most of the gaggle of designated hitter options. Chris Carter is projected for a .315 OBP by the fans. Kila Ka’aihue walks all day and could manage better than his RotoChamp projected .335 OBP, but how much better? Brandon Allen‘s best OBP projection comes in at .337 from the fans. Of course, they should all show more power than Ramirez, but it is interesting that he is projected to out on-base them all.

There is the fact that Ramirez is facing suspension for his second failed drug test last year with Rays. In an interesting twist that came out at the winter meetings, Maury Brown reported that Ramirez may only serve a 50-game suspension instead of the required 100-game suspension. He might get some partial credit for ‘time served’ because he stayed away from baseball all season last year.

If the team likes what they see in Spring Training, they may think that Manny can help man DH once he’s back from his suspension. He’s probably fighting Kila K for a spot on the 40-man roster, and the 28-year-old former prospect has done nothing but walk (12%) in his first 300-odd Major League plate appearances. The Royal important does have more years of control, so he’s in the pole position, but neither player will cost much this season. It’s still possible that Ramirez, even at this point in his career, is a better hitter than the Hawaiian.

The last piece is the fact that this is a Minor League deal. It’s a $500,000 lottery ticket on a player that was worth around six million bucks just two years ago. For a player that has skills of need at a position of need.

There’s something to like about this deal. A little something.

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