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.

Noah Syndergaard: ‘I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency’

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Yankees starter Luis Severino and Phillies starter Aaron Nola both signed contract extensions within the last week. Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a 2023 club option. Nola inked a four-year, $45 million deal with a 2023 club option.

While the deals both represented significant raises and longer-term financial security for the right-handed duo, some feel like the players are selling themselves short. It has become a more common practice for players to agree to these types of deals in part due to how stagnant free agency has become. Get the money while you can.

Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is in a similar situation as Severino and Nola were. He and the Mets avoided arbitration last month, agreeing on a $6 million salary for the 2019 season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility left. A contract extension with the Mets would presumably cover both of those years plus two or three years of what would be free agent years. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, however, Syndergaard plans to test free agency when the time comes.

Syndergaard said, “I trust my ability and the talent that I have. So I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency and not do what they did. But if it’s fair for both sides and they approach me on it, then maybe we can talk.” He clarified that he would be open to a conversation about an extension, but the Mets thus far haven’t approached him about it. In his words, “There’s been no traction.”

Syndergaard, 26, has been one of baseball’s better starters since debuting in 2015. He owns a career 2.93 ERA with 573 strikeouts and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings. Among pitchers to have logged at least 400 innings since 2015 and post a lower ERA are Clayton Kershaw (2.22), Jacob deGrom (2.66) and Max Scherzer (2.71). Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 yet still ranks seventh among pitchers in total strikeouts since 2015.

If Sydergaard doesn’t end up signing an extension, he will be entering free agency after the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021 and a new one will likely be agreed upon around that time. Syndergaard will hopefully have better prospects entering free agency then than players do now.