Its January 31st, 2009. Many sports fans will consider today the day before the Superbowl. But I'm from Boston, so I consider today 13 days until pitchers and catchers. If the Patriots aren't in the playoffs, then its just the pre-baseball pre-season. This makes perfect sense to anyone from Boston.
With that in mind, here's my third baseball post in as many days. After yesterday, I got to thinking about when Manny's punishment would end. All along, I expected the Dodgers to throw down 3 years 60 million. But then, after looking up the Cardinals 2009 salaries, I looked at the Dodgers. Things aren't looking good for Manny; the Dodgers are already floating 118 million, the highest in team history. Granted, they offered Manny 22.5 earlier this season, but that's before giving Rafael Furcal 15.7 per season (which makes zero sense--a shortstop coming off injury with a career OPS of .764... yikes). They could still make the deal, but that jacks their salary figure to 2nd in baseball.
So, I did some digging. Here's my list of teams most likely to sign the Man-ram:
An interesting home for Manny. A's. Though payroll rarely exceeds 60 million (only twice since 2000), they are only around 47m going into the season. And Manny Ramirez and Matt Holiday would make a great back-to-back. However, they only have 18 established players on the 25 man roster, so they need depth. Still Ramirez would instantaneously make them a contender for the West. And while the big free agent is not Beane's style, Manny is a sabermetrician's dream.
Once upon a time, the Diamondbacks won a World Series and managed to keep their payroll between 80 and 103 million (2001-2003). Give a team with their pitching an actual run producer in one of baseball's weakest divisions, and I smell Manny paying for himself. Their payroll rests around 67 million, so they could be a surprise player. If the Dodgers do sign Manny, then I think it will have been to keep him away from Arizona.
Don't laugh. The Marlins payroll totals 22.7 million--and yes, Manny would likely make as much as the rest of their team. Manny Ramirez puts butts in the seats. I won't say he pays for himself, but he does generate revenue and excitement. That's two things that the attention starved Marlins could desperately use.
San Francisco Giants:
I'm assuming they've had enough with aging diva sluggers, and that's why they've been so quiet. But they have the need and the money to make this work. Their current salary is 14 million under the Barry years. But this team is so raw (or bad), that I don't think one slugger would make a difference. And San Fran was one of the few franchises who have seen a great hitter this century. Chances are Barry's blasts spoiled them--Manny wouldn't be as appreciated as he was in LA.
There's a few other teams out there who could take a shot--Minnesota and Cleveland could be in the mix. Thinking back to my baseball economy post, there's hesitancy in this market to risk committing this much money to such an unstable player. On a side note--I feel bad for the Brewers. After so much mediocrity, they are really investing in their franchise. I hope the fans can afford to come out and support the team.