With one week to go before training camp, it looks like Manny Ramirez is actually going to follow through with those plans to play in the Dominican Republic this winter. He’s set to arrive this weekend and join Aguilas Cibaenas on Monday.
Ramirez retired from MLB in April after learning that he’d be suspended for 100 games for a second violation of the league’s steroids policy. ESPN Deportes reported later that month that he was planning to play in the D.R. this winter, and Aguilas team president Winston Llenas confirmed the news (hat tip: USA TODAY’s Steve Gardner). Apparently, his recent arrest on battery charges for hitting his wife won’t stop him from leaving the US.
Ramirez would almost certainly still have to serve that 100-game ban if he tried to return to MLB at some point. However, he wouldn’t be the first player to hang around playing winter ball for years after retiring from MLB. Fernando Valenzuela was done in the majors in 1997, but he pitched in Mexico up until 2006. Vinny Castilla played two seasons in Mexico after retiring from MLB following 2006.
Tim Tebow isn’t letting go of his major league dreams just yet. The former NFL quarterback is slated to appear with the Mets during spring training this year, extending what initially looked like an ill-fated career choice for at least one more season. Per the club’s official announcement on Friday, he’ll join a group of spring training invitees that includes top-30 prospects like Peter Alonso, P.J. Conlon, Patrick Mazeika and David Thompson.
Tebow, 30, hasn’t taken to professional baseball as gracefully as expected. He batted a cumulative .226/.309/.347 with eight home runs and a .656 OPS in 486 plate appearances for Single-A Columbia and High-A St. Lucie in 2017. While that wasn’t enough to compel the Mets to give the aging outfielder a big league tryout, there’s no denying that Tebow brought substantial benefit to their minor league affiliates — in the form of increased attendance figures and ticket sales, that is.
Even after the Mets were booted from the NL East race last September, they resisted the idea of promoting Tebow for a late-season attendance boost of their own. That’s not to say they’re planning on taking the same approach in 2018; Tebow will undoubtedly get his cup of coffee in the majors at some point, but for now, a Grapefruit League tryout is likely as close as he’ll ever get to playing with the team’s big league roster on an everyday basis.