Time has come for fading Dodgers to trade Manny Ramirez
Los Angeles Dodgers have just a 1.6 percent chance of making the playoffs
Manny Ramirez is on the disabled list but other teams should have interest in him
Ramirez's bat could help the Rays and White Sox in particular
Despite last night's 6-0 win over the Rockies, the Dodgers' postseason hopes are almost too small to measure. Eleven games behind the Padres in the NL West and seven behind the Phillies in the wild card hunt, they're left with a 1.6 percent crack at the playoffs, per Baseball Prospectus. That's about a 1-in-60 chance, not far from the odds that the McCourts will reconcile and open a bed-and-breakfast in Santa Barbara.
The Dodgers made a big push at the first trade deadline, acquiring Ted Lilly, Ryan Theriot and Octavio Dotel in an effort to bolster their roster. Those deals haven't been able to prevent a 7-9 August that has featured a number of bullpen meltdowns, with closer Jonathan Broxton losing his job last week and his replacements, Dotel included, blowing a 3-1 ninth-inning lead to the Braves Monday night. It's time to be realistic about the '10 Dodgers and use the rest of the month to strengthen the team for the 2011 campaign. You might yet be able to re-flip Lilly, Theriot or Dotel for a minor prospect, and Vicente Padilla may have value to a pitching-thin contender willing to risk acquiring Padilla's prickly personality.
The big move, however, would be to deal away Manny Ramirez. Ramirez is currently on the DL with a calf injury, and as such has not, cannot, be placed on waivers. Once activated, which should come before the end of the month -- Ramirez took batting practice Tuesday -- he can be placed on waivers. The somewhat anachronistic waiver rules dictate that every NL team has first dibs, and if none want him, then every AL team gets a crack. If no one claims Ramirez, the Dodgers may then trade him to any team. If one team or multiple teams claim him, then the team with the worst record at the time of claiming (with every NL team having priority over every AL team) is the only one that can get Ramirez. The Dodgers have the option of letting him go to the claiming team for nothing except the obligation of paying his salary -- as the Blue Jays did with Alexis Rios a year ago, letting the White Sox have him -- or pulling him off waivers and working out a trade, but only with that one team.
Ramirez is not guaranteed to clear waivers. He's making $20 million this season, but $15 million of that is deferred money, meaning a team would be on the hook for less than a million bucks in cash this season. Teams that have little interest in or room for Ramirez, such as the Rockies, Cardinals and Twins, may claim him merely to prevent a team ahead of them in the league from improving themselves. This practice was once frowned upon, but is now commonplace.
Whatever Ramirez's foibles, whether attitude, availability or awareness, the man still hits: .317/.409/.516 at the age of 38 in a home park that doesn't do him any favors. There are few teams in baseball that wouldn't be helped by adding that kind of production, even for one month, and the teams eyeing Ramirez would no doubt be envisioning him in their lineup for two. Ramirez's poor defense, no doubt made worse by the calf injury, hinders his value to an NL team, making him a bit more of a fit for an AL team that can slide him into the DH role.
What are the matches for Ramirez? Well, Tampa Bay has been searching for a decent designated hitter all season and on the heels of the failed Pat Burrell and Hank Blalock Eras, the Rays -- whose OPS production from DHs ranks 11th in the AL and whose low-BA offense could desperately use a .300 hitter -- have to be looking longingly at Ramirez from afar. He could add as many as 10 runs in September over what the Rays have been getting from the DH slot, which is nothing to sneeze at: it's the rare player who could possibly be worth an additional win, which is the value of those 10 runs, in that time frame.
Of course, Ramirez would have to clear two whole leagues for the Rays to have a shot. Would the White Sox pass on Ramirez? They continue to make do with Mark Kotsay and Andruw Jones at DH, a pairing that has produce a .312 OBP. The Sox hit for power and, once again, do little else, with a .328 OBP and bottom-three AL ranks in doubles and triples. Ramirez wouldn't have quite as big a projected impact on the Sox' fortunes, maybe seven or eight runs, and unless we learn that he can hit 94 mph fastballs with some movement, may not address the Sox' biggest current need anyway.
The Yankees have long been connected to Ramirez because of his Washington Heights roots, but they seem an unlikely landing spot for him. The Yankees made their big move in trading for Lance Berkman, and they need the DH slot held open for Jorge Posada. As much as the Yankees desperately need a right-handed bat, the roster-construction issues associated with acquiring Ramirez make it unlikely they would do so.
There are few NL teams that are a fit for Ramirez, making it likely that he'd clear waivers. The Braves could use an outfielder and a bat to replace Chipper Jones. However, based on organizational temperament, they seem an unlikely dance partner. The Reds added Jim Edmonds, which fills the "aging outfield bat" slot. (It would be funny to see Ramirez have a teammate for whom he could serve as a defensive replacement. Jonny Gomes is even worse afield.) The Giants picked up Jose Guillen, getting all the negative traits Ramirez brings and about half the productivity.
Ramirez can still help a team get to the postseason...just not his current one. The Dodgers should be aggressive, once they can, about leveraging their best trade chit to make themselves just a little bit better down the road.