UPDATE: Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com reports that Orioles manager Buck Showalter and longtime scout Fred Ferreira watched Ramirez take batting practice shortly after the Winter Meetings. It isn’t clear whether they have legitimate interest or this was just a matter of due diligence.
4:00 PM: Manny Ramirez is scheduled to hold a workout for MLB teams later this month, but a couple teams are already getting a headstart on their evaluation process.
Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes reports (link in Spanish) that the Orioles and Blue Jays have sent scouts to watch Ramirez hit in an indoor hitting cage in Miami.
Ramirez was officially reinstated from the voluntary retirement list last month. While he was initially expected to serve a 100-game suspension for a second positive test related to performance-enhancing drugs, MLB has since ruled that because he sat out nearly the entire 2011 season, he’ll instead serve a 50-game penalty. However, the clock on his suspension won’t begin until he signs with a team. Not surprisingly, interest is lacking.
Ramirez turns 40 in May and considering the wealth of alternatives among aging free agent DH-types, a minor league deal is probably the best-case scenario.
Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.
That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.
Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.