Rangers wrong to gamble on Manny Ramirez

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It’s been three years since Manny Ramirez was last a worthy major leaguer, hitting .311/.405/.510 in 66 games for the Dodgers in 2010. They then shipped him to the White Sox, where he was a disappointment in 24 games, hitting .261/.420/.319.

In 2011, Ramirez signed a cheap deal with the Rays, played five games and then retired rather than face his second steroids suspension, this one for 100 games. He was arrested for domestic battery in September of that year. He later had second thoughts about retirement (not that he did much thinking about it in the first place) and attempted a comeback with the A’s in 2012, hitting .302/.348/.349 in 17 games in Triple-A before walking away again.

Now, after a successful stint in Taiwan, Ramirez is being granted another chance, this one from the Texas Rangers. He’s 41, and he’s probably no longer any sort of option in left field. For him to be useful to a major league team, he’d have to go back to hitting like he did at 38, which doesn’t seem likely.

How unlikely? Well, here are the 10 most similar players to Ramirez through age 38, according to Baseball-reference: Ken Griffey Jr., Rafael Palmeiro, Gary Sheffield, Frank Robinson, Jim Thome, Chipper Jones, Frank Thomas, Mel Ott, Willie Mays and Sammy Sosa. Every single one of those guys put up Hall of Fame numbers, yet only two were still going at 41. Thome had 163 at-bats last year in his age-41 season, hitting .252/.344/.442. Mays hit .250/.400/.402 in 244 at-bats for the Giants and Mets at 41. He played one more season, hitting .211/.303/.344 in 209 at-bats, before wrapping up his illustrious career.

Raul Ibanez obviously excepted, there just aren’t many good 41-year-old players. Hence, I don’t see the upside for the Rangers here. All of the Ramirez baggage would hardly be worth overlooking if Ramirez were a guaranteed 850-900 OPS. As is, he’s far, far from it. Now, sure, it’s only a minor league deal. The Rangers took no financial risk by bringing in Ramirez today. They did, though, lose the ability to take the high ground, at least for as long as Jon Daniels is running the team. The message is that winning is the only thing. Does anyone think Ramirez is a repentant cheater? That he’s full of regret? I’m not sure he even considers what he did to be cheating.

I don’t see why Daniels and the Rangers had to lower themselves this far. Better bets than Ramirez will be available in trade talks this month, and some of them might even be upstanding citizens.

Report: Pirates to convert JB Shuck into two-way player

JB Shuck
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Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reports that the Pirates have decided to convert outfielder JB Shuck into a two-way player. Recent comments relayed from the club’s director of player development, Larry Broadway, indicated that the outfielder would be coached in developing his pitching skills while working at Triple-A Indianapolis.

Per Broadway, the change would be enacted to help the veteran outfielder develop some much-needed versatility in the majors, where he’s only ever been limited to outfield and DH responsibilities. Well, except for the two games in which he pitched an inning of relief: once, against the Nationals in a blowout 11-4 loss in 2016, then in a similarly painful loss to the Diamondbacks this past April. During the latter outing, he finished the game with a 13-pitch ninth inning after allowing just one hit and one walk.

Add to that one minor-league outing in 2012, and the 31-year-old Shuck has pitched just three times over the course of his 12-season career in pro ball. While he has three years of experience on the mound from his college days, he’ll need quite a bit of preparation to handle the kind of workload expected from a two-way outfielder/reliever: 20+ innings pitched over a season and 20+ games played as a designated hitter or position player.

Still, his lack of experience doesn’t seem to faze Broadway, at least not this early in the process. There’s no word yet on how soon Shuck would be expected to debut his new skillset on a major-league level.