To sign or not to sign. That is the question.
The big question on the minds of virtually every Dodger fan this winter is, “Will the Dodgers sign Manny Ramirez?” It goes without saying that Dodger fans would love to have him back, and many insist that this is absolutely necessary.
Well, what do I think about this? First of all, I am part of the vast majority of Dodger fans who would love to have him back. I think his personality and especially his bat, is a perfect fit for this city and this ballclub.
I will exam the pros and cons. First, I will address the cons:
1) The Dodgers have 14 free agents that they must either re-sign or replace, including their top two starters. The more money they pay Manny, the less money they have to fill up the many holes on the roster. Yes, Manny is great and Manny is exciting, but Manny on a mediocre team defeats the purpose of having him. The Dodgers do not want to find themselves in the situation the Giants have been in the past several years. The Giants had arguably the greatest hitter in the history of baseball in the middle of their lineup, but without an adequate supporting cast, they lost more games than they won. Manny was valuable to this team because they were already good. They just needed that push to get them over the top.
2) The six-year contract that Manny is looking for has him playing with the Dodgers until he is forty-two. This isn’t as much of an issue for offense as it is for defense. Manny is already a defensive liability in left field. Can you imagine what he and his two bad knees will be in his forties? Do the Dodgers want to repeat what the Giants did with Barry Bonds?
3) By the last few years of a six-year deal, the nucleus of this Dodger ballclub – Russell Martin, James Loney, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Chad Billingsley, etc. – will be free agents. If the Dodgers wish to hold on to these guys, they can’t have large sums of guaranteed money tied up in other players.
Now the pros:
1) If the Dodgers do not sign Manny, the Dodgers will be without a bonafide power hitter in the lineup. Sure, there is power throughout the line-up, but nobody who is a guarantee to give you 30 HR’s/100 RBI’s, and a spot in the line-up for opposing pitchers to pitch around. Unless you expect a comeback season from Andruw Jones, the Dodgers will need to go find themselves a cleanup-hitter and whoever they sign will not be cheap. Granted, that player will not be making “Manny money”, but will still cost a pretty penny. My fear is that the Dodgers pass up on Manny, and then go out and sign another hitter to a contract that isn’t that much less than they would have paid Manny.
2) The first priority of any team should be pitching. Why is this? Because pitching is the one thing you can rely on to perform well consistently. The up and down nature of hitting makes it difficult to be relied upon in a short-series in October. But great pitching can usually compensate what you’re lacking in offense – not vice-versa. Manny however, is an exception. Manny has that rare ability to step it up in postseason and push his game to a new level. You saw it with your own eyes last month. Manny is a hitter who craves the pressure and thrives in it. Such hitters are a rare commodity and are worth the money they are paid.
3) Manny brings people to the ballpark. He has star power. He is good for business. A certain percentage of people who come to the ballpark are there to see Manny. Part of the premium paid to a player of Manny’s caliber is made up by the extra revenue he brings in.
There are other reasons pro and con that I could have mentioned. On the negative side, I could have mentioned the “Manny Being Manny” issues he had in Boston, but I don’t know enough about all that and am assuming he will have a different relationship with Dodger management. I could also have pointed out the positive effect he had on the Dodger clubhouse as a “pro”.
The bottom line is that the Dodgers need to win next year. If signing Manny will prevent the Dodgers from acquiring the other players necessary to build a winning team, then it is not worth it. If the Dodgers can sign Manny and still supply him with a good supporting cast, then it is worth it.
The Dodgers have many needs this offseason, particularly in the area of pitching. If they can address those needs while still retaining Manny’s services, Dodger fans will be very happy. However, if the Dodgers are not able to re-sign Ramirez, Dodger fans need to keep this in mind: championships have been won without Manny Ramirez. The Dodgers can still put an exciting, championship-caliber team on the field without him. If Manny isn’t signed, it will have been to accomplish that very purpose.