Posted: Thursday November 30, 2006 11:45AM; Updated: Thursday November 30, 2006 12:29PM
The Red Sox can't count on the fragile J.D. Drew to replace Manny Ramirez's production.
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Manny's a pain sometimes. Everybody knows it. The goofy attitude. The bemused outfield play. Manny being Manny and all that nonsense. We know.
And Ramirez, let's face it, quit on the Sox last September, too. Plain stopped playing. After the Yankees swept a five-game series from the Sox in Fenway Park late last August, Manny started only eight of the final 38 games -- and one of those was at DH. He said he had a sore knee. That about cinched a ticket out of town for Manny, a lot of people think.
But it's time for everybody in Boston, the people in charge mostly, to wake up and realize exactly what the Sox would be losing. When the signing of the notoriously fragile Drew is finalized in the next few days -- it's reportedly going to be for $14 million a season, for as many as five years, which is a lot more than the Sox were willing to pay Johnny Damon ... but that's another story -- the Sox will have gained an on-base machine who is a superb fielder, certainly better than Ramirez. Yet Drew, as Papelbon and the statistics say, is no Manny. He's not even close.
It'd be folly to look at this as an even swap, Drew for Ramirez. No GM in baseball is that dumb. So we have to figure that if Epstein pulls off the Manny trade, he'll have another up his sleeve, and maybe another, in addition to the Drew signing. Jake Peavy, the fine Padres' starter, has been named in rumors. His teammate, reliever Scott Linebrink, also has been mentioned. The talk about a three-way deal with the Braves, with All-Star center fielder Andruw Jones landing in Boston, won't die. Packages of prospects from the Rangers, Giants or, maybe most likely, the Dodgers are in the mix. The Sox need a shortstop; Baltimore's Miguel Tejada seems eternally available.
If the Sox end up with Drew and another good starting pitcher, or Drew and a reliever or two, or Drew and some prospects, or Drew and another hitter, would that make trading Ramirez worth it? Are the Sox a better team?
Oh, this is a tricky game they're playing.
The only reason the Sox are considering such a bold trade -- other than they simply may have had enough of Manny's games -- is that many teams, in this winter of wildly escalating salaries, evidently wouldn't mind taking on Ramirez's contract. Ramirez's original $168 million deal, signed before the 2001 season, calls for him to be paid an average of $19 million a year for the next two seasons, the final two of the contract. That's a ton of money. More, on average, than anybody has signed for this winter.
Still, this is Ramirez, and several teams out there realize what that means, even if the Sox may not. At least a couple teams may be willing to pay Ramirez the $38 million for 2007 and '08 and tack on another year or two to his contract, at maybe the $20 million a season he has in option years right now.
As much talk as has been thrown at this subject, the trade may never, of course, be consummated. The people in Boston's front office, as much as they may want to dump their annual headache, know what Manny has done for the Sox, and they know to get a fair trade is going to be extremely tricky. And Ramirez, let's not forget, has an ironclad no-trade clause. If Manny rejects a trade, if Manny changes his mind and decides he likes it in Boston -- Manny has done it before -- no one would be surprised.
In the end, a scuttled trade, or no trade at all, would be the best thing that could happen to Boston. Whatever grand plans Epstein may have in his head, whatever pain Ramirez has caused in the past, whatever hassles everyone is going through now, keeping Ramirez is still the best course for this franchise.