Red Sox Report: Manny Talks

1203619808In 2007, Manny Ramirez had his worst statistical season since 1994 when he was 22 years old and just becoming a regular with the Indians. He did not, however, ask to be traded, demand to be traded, or urinate behind the Green Monster (as far as we know).

In a weird way—and really what other kind of way is there with him—it was a great year for Manny and the Red Sox. Following a 2-year trend, his defense was fairly solid and there weren’t many Manny moments on the basepaths. And, of course, he was a Bad Man in the playoffs.

Manny is entering the final guaranteed year of his landmark contract with the Red Sox (he has two club option years left after 2008), and if anyone thought we’d live to see the day when the Sox would actually think about picking those up, they’re lying. But that’s where we are. He and David Ortiz remain the most feared 1-2 punch in all of baseball. That’s worth quite a bit, especially since right-handed hitters with an OPS+ of 126 in a down year are extremely hard to find. (note: OPS+ measures the stat relative to the average baseball player. That number is considered very good, but not Manny-like)

Things are looking good. Manny is in camp on time, and he’s even talking to the press.

Here’s the key quote as relayed by the Globe’s Extra Bases blog.

“I want to finish my career here, but it’s up to them. If that doesn’t happen, hey, I’ll go and play somewhere else. I know I still can play and what else can I say? It’s up to them. I’m not the one who writes the checks.”

Manny went on to say that he wanted to play “until the wheels fall off,” an indication that he won’t just walk away when his contract runs out. Manny is often portrayed as a goof and an idiot, but he clearly knows the business of baseball. If he’s on his best behavior and hits like a Bad Man, teams will line up to give him some serious coin if the Sox don’t pick up his option.

Which is why this is the best possible scenario for the team. The Sox get a motivated Manny, and without the contract albatross hanging over their head, they can take a await-and-see approach. Is he worth $20 million per in today’s market? Probably not, but can you find someone else to approximate his value, and at what price?

It was Steeler patriarch Art Rooney who said something along the lines of “You can never overpay a superstar. You only get in trouble when you overpay a supporting player.”

Manny beyond 2008 is a real possibility now. Who would’ve thunk it?