Manny Ramirez comes up empty as White Sox's playoff hopes slip away

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Needing a sweep of the Twins to have any kind of realistic shot at the AL Central title the White Sox instead dropped Game 1 of a three-game series in Chicago last night as Manny Ramirez repeatedly came up empty in crucial at-bats.
In the first inning he came to the plate with two outs and runners on first and second in a 0-0 game. He struck out swinging.
In the fourth inning he came to the plate with one out and a runner on third base in a 0-0 game. He struck out swinging.
In the seventh inning he came to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded in a 4-3 game. He struck out swinging.
Ramirez did draw a walk and score a run in the sixth inning, but he whiffed in three at-bats where a hit of any kind could have dramatically changed the game. Chicago’s playoff chances were already slim when they acquired Ramirez, they’ve gone 7-5 in his 12 games, and he’s hitting .270 with a .400 on-base percentage, but remarkably has yet to produce an extra-base hit or drive in a run.
Obviously a dozen games is hardly enough to draw any sort of meaningful conclusions about what Ramirez has left, particularly since he posted a robust .915 OPS in 66 games with the Dodgers, but the White Sox took the small sample size gamble by assuming the $4 million remaining on his contract for just 30 games and his bat certainly looked slow last night as he repeatedly swung through fastballs.
And now that the White Sox are seven games behind the Twins what Ramirez does or doesn’t do for the final three weeks is almost meaningless. General manager Ken Williams took a $4 million gamble that Ramirez would be productive for 30 games, but after 12 games of little impact the remaining 18 games hardly matter. According to the simulations at Baseball Prospectus and Cool Standings, the Twins have a 99 percent chance of winning the AL Central.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.