Manny Ramirez will have to produce in minors before call-up

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Manny Ramirez is eligible to return from his 50-game suspension on May 30, but manager Bob Melvin indicated yesterday that the A’s aren’t committed to adding him then unless he actually starts hitting in the minors first.

Ramirez is currently on a 10-game rehab stint at Triple-A, but so far the 39-year-old hasn’t shown many signs of life by going 3-for-12 (.250) with zero extra-base hits in four games and he also sat out a game with wrist soreness.

Melvin told Jane Lee of MLB.com that the A’s would like to see Ramirez get around 40 at-bats in the minors before making a decision on his status, adding: “We’re not locked into the 30th.”

If/when Ramirez does join the A’s it will be as a designated hitter and their DHs have combined to bat just .209 with three homers and a .639 OPS this season, so in theory at least there should be plenty of room for him in the lineup instead of Daric Barton or Kila Ka’aihue.

In practice, however, Ramirez sat out essentially all of last season and hasn’t been productive since mid-2010, so whether or not he can still be an impact bat is definitely unclear. The return date for his suspension is just part of the equation.

Evan Longoria: “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.