The elephant in that off-season room is, once again, Manny Ramirez. The perennially cranky super-star has begun his annual "I want out of Boston" whining despite being too hurt (cough-cough) to play much over the past month and a half.
Granted, the Ramirez-David Ortiz combo is one of the best one-two lineup punches in all of baseball--the history of baseball, but Manny's lackadaisical attitude toward the city and the team consistently undermines his value. And now another phantom injury has conveniently kept him out of the lineup through the last gasps of a season that was not without its potential. While heroes like Jason Varitek and Trot Nixon fought through their injuries to return to the field despite little hope of the team reaching the postseason, Ramirez gets treated with kid gloves and heaping helpings of adoration for what, in this season and the last, amounts to little more than reverence for his potential.
As a lifelong Red Sox fan, I've gotta say that I'm sick of the merry-go-round. Despite all the analysis about his health and age and his historic skills, when we get down to it, it's about what Manny wants. And he's said what he wants... loudly, clearly. He wants out of Boston. Why not let him go?
Diarist, absolutelax395 had a front page column this Sunday on the Over the Monster sportsblog where he started a lively conversation about what Manny means to the Red Sox--past, present and future. His take is right along the lines of my own.
He goes on to write about likely options for trades and their potential ramifications (continued by readers in the comments section). He's dead on in suggesting that the Angels are the likeliest targets of a trade. Their prospects are above average and they've expressed and interest in adding a big name this offseason. But if I were to swap places with lil' Theo Epstein and have to come up with a plan, I'd be looking elsewhere.
Well, once again, Manny wants to be traded and this time I am just as pissed as Gordon Edes is about this.
Boston Globe: "While the Red Sox crumbled when Ramirez went on hiatus -- last night was the 22d game out of 30 Ramirez has missed since taking himself out of the last game of the Yankee massacre Aug. 21, during which he has been paid $1.918 million (calculated on his base salary of $15 million this season) -- he had the audacity this week, through agent Greg Genske, to reiterate to the Red Sox his desire to be traded this winter."-Prosportsdaily.com
Manny has not played at all after the Sox took their fall even though so many other players rehabbed and worked so hard to get back to play for the struggling club.
It is time for Manny to go.
I'd bend over backwards to work a deal with the Orioles... for a few reasons. (This is where I really geek out, be warned.) Shortstop and near-legend, Miguel Tejada wants out of Baltimore. Great. The Red Sox are likely to lose shortstop Alex Gonzalez to free-agency if they don't pony up... but frankly, I don't think he's worth the money. Even better. Now, seeing as Manny and Miguel's salaries are similar, a straight-up trade has gotta be possible.
I know, I know. Tejada would be a defensive downgrade from Gonzalez. But that bat would go a long way towards softening the loss of ManRam, as Jim Rome likes to call him. Additionally, Tejada's younger and far less prone to Manny-type dramas. Really, it's a win-win situation for both Baltimore (who need to retain some kinda big name) and Boston.
But what about the hole in left field?
Well, take a look at who's coming up for free-agency this winter. Carlos Lee is outta Texas. This year has been an off one for him, but after this exposure to American League pitching, it's a safe bet he'll snap back into form next year. That's my number one. But who's next? There's Alfonso Soriano who's definitely out of DC this winter. He's an excellent bat and has become a decent fielder. Plus there's the added "up yrs" to the Yankees, who would love to get him back. Aging vet Louis Gonzalez is another name being floated, but there really doesn't seem to be much gas left in his tank. Other options include (yawn) Aramis Ramirez, (gulp) Barry Bonds, and (ouch!) Cliff Floyd.
While a trade for Tejada would keep our power intact, a trade with the Angels would likely bring desperately needed pitching and some decent prospects. But whatever option does present itself, really, the only choice Red Sox management should be facing is the choice of where to send Manny Ramirez.