Why trading Manny doesn't make sense for the Red Sox
The ownership and front office of the Red Sox run a successful organization in great part because they do their best to eliminate emotion and guesswork from the decision-making process. They make money the same way owner John Henry did as a financier: by taking a clinical, fact-based approach. They assign valuations to their properties (i.e., ballplayers) and trust their process. Manny Ramirez is testing that Red Sox operational culture.
The Red Sox are sick of Ramirez, as they have been for five years. While teammates like him, his popularity in the clubhouse as a reliable cog in the team concept never fully recovered from his 2006 late-season checkout. But it would be highly irregular and counter to their ways if the Red Sox decided to trade Ramirez because they're sick of his act.
The facts are that Ramirez is still an impact hitter in fine shape at age 36 and is signed, at the club's options, at money that is not prohibitive. The Red Sox would pay him $20 million a year for the next two years. To put that into context, Andruw Jones, Torii Hunter, Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells are $18 million a year players.
Put Ramirez on the free-agent market this year (exactly what Ramirez wants) and he's probably a $20 million a year player over four years. Getting him at two years and $40 million, as Boston does, is smart money. Letting an impact hitter under a decent contract walk as a free agent is lousy business, no matter how tiresome Ramirez's act can be from time to time.
Trade him? For what? Fifty cents on the dollar? To write off a shot at the World Series this year? It reminds me of when the Phillies traded Curt Schilling eight years ago. The minute you trade an ace or a middle-of-the-order impact hitter is when you start to look for one. The only available bat who could replace Ramirez is free-agent-to-be Mark Teixeira, and there are no guarantees that the Red Sox could beat out the bevy of teams who will court him (Yankees, Mets, Orioles, etc.).
Henry himself has finally run out of patience with Ramirez, especially after the outfielder publicly questioned the owner's integrity. Henry has a right to be angry. But he also has a business to run. He can suffer through two or three more months of Manny's petulance, assuaged by all the home runs and RBIs. He can pick up a financially prudent option. And even after those smart moves, he still has the power to make the move that so many angry people want to make under duress at the trading deadline: to ship Ramirez, with his permission, out of Boston.
Lester, with his broad frame, downhill pitching style and boring cut fastball, bears some resemblance to Yankees lefty Andy Pettitte, a pitcher whom he admired while growing up. The resemblance is particularly striking when you take a look at these numbers: the pitching stats for Pettitte and Lester through the first 49 games of their careers: