The Rays’ $2 million investment in Manny Ramirez certainly seems like a worthwhile gamble, but there’s no denying that the 38-year-old slugger seemed washed up during his stint with the White Sox last season. He hit just .261/.420/.319 with one homer and two RBI in 69 at-bats following the August deal. On the other hand, he came in at .311/.405/.510 in 232 at-bats prior to the trade, making him one of the NL’s 10-best hitters.
In all, Ramirez hit .298/.409/.460 with nine homers in 265 at-bats last season. Since returning from his 50-game PED suspension in July 2009, he’s had 525 at-bats and hit .284/.399/.476 with 22 homers.
So, let’s look at how some similar players hit in their age-39 years. Here’s a list of all of the players since 1961 to amass a .375 OBP and a .450 slugging percentage in at least 300 at-bats at age 38 and how they followed up in their age-39 seasons.
Gene Woodling – .313/.403/.471 (1961) – .276/.379/.424 (1962) – OPS+ 138 to 116
Hank Aaron – .265/.390/.515 (1972) – .301/.402/.643 (1973) – OPS+ 147 to 177
Willie Stargell – .295/.382/.567 (1978) – .281/.352/.552 (1979) – OPS+ 158 to 139
Ron Cey – .273/.384/.508 (1986) – .221/.359/.394 (1987) – OPS+ 138 to 107
Harold Baines – .301/.375/.458 (1997) – .300/.369/.451 (1998) – OPS+ 120 to 114
Edgar Martinez – .306/.423/.543 (2001) – .277/.403/.485 (2002) – OPS+ 160 to 139
Barry Bonds – .341/.529/.749 (2003) – .362/.609/.812 (2004) – OPS+ 231 to 263
Larry Walker – .289/.384/.502 (2005) – Retired
Moises Alou – .321/.400/.518 (2005) – .301/.352/.571 (2006) – OPS+ 138 to 132
Jeff Kent – .292/.385/.477 (2006) – .302/.375/.500 (2007) – OPS+ 133 to 119
Frank Thomas – .270/.381/.545 (2006) – .277/.377/.480 (2007) – OPS+ 140 to 125
Gary Sheffield – .298/.409/.460 (2007) – .225/.326/.400 (2008) – OPS+ 119 to 89
I have to say, the list fares a whole lot better than I expected. Cey, who simply had a last hurrah at age 38, doesn’t really belong in this group. Sheffield was the only player to fall apart, but he was playing with a shoulder that required surgery and he did rebound to a 119 OPS+ at age 40.
For the record, Ramirez’s OPS+ last year was 138. I don’t think he’ll bounce back with 30 or maybe not even 25 homers this season, particularly with how Tropicana Field has played as a pitcher’s park these last few years. Still, the OBP will be there and he should slug .450 anyway. He’ll be better than at least half of the league’s DH and a big improvement over the .238/.322/.391 line the Rays received from the spot last season.
With the White Sox losing Jeff Samardzija to free agency, Erik Johnson will likely get a shot to contribute out of the rotation to open up the 2016 season, GM Rick Hahn said in a conference call on Wednesday, per a report from MLB.com’s Scott Merkin.
“As we sit here today, I think it will be an opportunity for Erik Johnson to convert on sort of the return to form he showed back in 2015 when he was International League pitcher of the year for [Triple-A] Charlotte,” Hahn said. “Obviously, he got some starts in September and continued to show the progress in Chicago he had shown in the Minor Leagues over the course of the last season.
“So if Opening Day were today, then I think Johnson is penciled in to that spot in the rotation right now. In all probability, once we get closer to spring, there will be some competition for him to earn that spot. But if we were strictly looking at today, then I would think Johnson has the inside track on filling Samardzija’s innings.”
Johnson was called up from Triple-A Charlotte in September and made six starts, allowing 14 runs (13 earned) on 32 hits and 17 walks with 30 strikeouts in 35 innings. That followed up an impressive five months in the minors where he compiled a 2.37 ERA and a 136/41 K/BB ratio across 132 2/3 innings.
Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and MLB.com each included Johnson on their top-100 prospect lists, ranking him 63rd, 67th, and 70th, respectively. The right-hander was selected by the White Sox in the second round of the 2011 draft.
It was reported on Friday afternoon that Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was involved in a brawl at a Miami nightclub. Details were scant at the time, but he reportedly left with a bruise on his face.
Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that Major League Baseball plans to investigate Puig under the league’s new domestic violence policy for his role in the brawl. Citing a report from TMZ, Hernandez notes that Puig shoved his sister, “brutally sucker-punched” the manager of the bar, and instigated the brawl.
The Dodgers and Puig’s agent have thus far refused to comment on the situation.
Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes was the first player to be investigated under the league’s new domestic violence policy earlier this month, as he allegedly assaulted his wife. Reyes has pleaded not guilty after he was charged with domestic abuse in Hawaii.
As our own Craig Calcaterra pointed out, commissioner Rob Manfred does not need to wait for Puig to plead guilty or to be found guilty to levy a punishment.
Patrick Newman is reporting that the Chunichi Dragons of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and outfielder Dayan Viciedo are close to an agreement on a contract. Newman notes that the Dragons are close to signing pitcher Jordan Norberto as well.
Viciedo, 26, has struggled since making his major league debut in 2010 with the White Sox, batting an aggregate .254/.298/.424 with 66 home runs and 211 RBI in 1,798 plate appearances. He spent the 2015 season with Triple-A Charlotte (White Sox) and Nashville (Athletics), hitting a composite .287/.348/.450. While Viciedo can hit the occasional home run, he hasn’t shown the ability to do much else at the big league level. Given his age, he could prove himself in Japan and parlay that into a renewed shot in the majors in the future.
The White Sox signed Viciedo out of Cuba in December 2008, agreeing to a four-year, $10 million deal. The club re-signed him to one-year deals in 2013 and ’14 for $2.8 million each and $4.4 million ahead of the 2015 season.
Update (8:45 PM EST): Per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, Happ will get $10 million in 2016 and $13 million each in 2017 and ’18.
MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the Blue Jays have signed lefty J.A. Happ to a three-year deal worth $36 million.
Happ, 33, had a rebirth as a member of the Pirates last season after starting the season with 20 subpar starts with the Mariners. He made 11 starts for the Buccos, boasting a 1.85 ERA with a 69/13 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.
Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported this past August that Happ’s newfound success had to do with a delivery tweak suggested by Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage. The Blue Jays are certainly hoping that adjustment is the full explanation for his success.
The Jays’ signing of Happ most likely signifies they won’t be pursuing free agent lefty David Price.
This will be Happ’s second stint with the Blue Jays. The Astros dealt him to Toronto in a July 2012 trade. He posted a 4.39 ERA with a 256/113 K/BB ratio in 291 innings with the Jays, then went to the Mariners in a trade this past December that brought outfielder Michael Saunders to the Jays.