Let's look at this realistically, admittedly a bombastic venture when it comes to baseball's Hot Stove.
In the wacky, annual tradition of anticipating the next landing spot for Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez, we've reached some unfamiliar territory. After years of desperately seeking anyone to hook up with them, the Red Sox all of a sudden have multiple suitors on their hands, which, now that we think of it, bears an uncanny resemblance to the script to "Can't Buy Me Love."
But, just as in years past at this time, as next week's winter meetings approach, it's usually the teams you don't hear about that end up being the major factors. Notice you haven't heard the Atlanta Braves mentioned all that much?
Just three years after Boston placed the slugger on irrevocable waivers, teams are actually coming to the plate to discuss acquiring Ramirez, whose $38 million owed over the next two years is actually viewed as a bargain in this cash sweepstakes offseason. And so, as a result, the Manny rumors have circulated widely, proving it difficult to separate fact from fiction, likelihood from speculation.
Foxsports.com's Ken Rosenthal writes that four teams, the Dodgers, Padres, Giants, and Rangers, appear to be the frontrunners to land Ramirez this offseason. ESPN's Buster Olney says that Ramirez could be dealt soon . Boston area columnists spark new ground with consecutive "Trade Manny" columns. In other breaking news, Billy likes soda.
What has been most disturbing to Red Sox fans in this process hasn't been the fact that Manny might be on the move -- a factor many of whom have to had conceded by now was a possibility after last summer's quitting episode -- but rather the potential players the Sox might get in return. Bullpen help? Omar Vizquel? Prospects? Pat Burrell? No, really, Omar Vizquel?
That's no putdown of Vizquel, really, but can you imagine the response in Boston to a Manny Ramirez for Vizquel (reportedly deemed "untouchable" even for Ramirez) and a prospect deal? The rotten bananas from Yawkey Way would have already reached Theo Epstein's office before he could get the word "value" out with a straight face.
If we're going to seriously sit here and define value for Ramirez, there's little that can be said to convince anyone that, as good as he is, Scot Shields represents a fair exchange. And the Red Sox can spare the "we needed a shortstop, closer, backup catcher, fill in the blank, and we feel that ___ really fills that void," mostly because the ensuing sentence is, "and J.D. Drew really complements our lineup," an inevitability that is so maddeningly imprudent, we still need time to digest the inanity of it all.
So, let's define it. What realistic possibility would you deem acceptable in a Ramirez trade? Michael Young? Sure, but not likely. Jake Peavy? I'd argue yes, but if 75 percent of Red Sox Nation was up in arms last summer over the unlikely thought of trading Mike Lowell for the righty, can you imagine the uproar over Manny Ramirez for Peavy? Pat Burrell? Only if the Red Sox are truly desperate to rid themselves of Ramirez. Andruw Jones? Ah, now we are getting somewhere.
There was a time, perhaps, when the Red Sox might have been happy to get anything for the burdensome contract and headache that is Manny being Manny. But while the outrageous dollars that free agents are commanding this winter will hit them in the wallet for a guy like Drew, the market has created an opportunity for the Red Sox to truly make out in any Ramirez deal. The Dodgers, in part, are out of it because, according to the LA Times, the Red Sox asked for three players, including Matt Kemp, the top outfield prospect in the organization. Compare that to the whispers around the Giants, who in truth have next to nothing to offer, and, as Glenn Dickey puts it, they don't even believe in their own prospects. When it comes down to it, one has to wonder how San Francisco is even considered a serious suitor.
To that point, Henry Schulman of the Chronicle raises the likelihood that a third partner would be needed to land Ramirez in the Bay Area. "Boston also is looking for a closer, presumably more of a sure bet than Armando Benitez," he writes. That's a fairly good bet.
Whether or not that third team could be Atlanta remains to be seen. But let's connect the dots, shall we?
Andruw Jones, as a 10-5 player, has veto power.
Agent Scott Boras has said that his client is willing to stay in Atlanta and then test the free agent waters next year.
The Red Sox have been dealing at length with Boras in the Daisuke Matsuzaka and Drew negotiations.
If the Red Sox were in any way able to register Jones for Manny, they could rightfully point out to Boras the current market insanity for outfielders, and debate whether it will be similar come next offseason. And with the money they're dealing away with Ramirez they can devote it to a new long-term deal for one of the game's top sluggers, one that is six years younger than the Fenway incumbent.
It even makes the Drew signing look decent. Now you've got an outfield of Coco Crisp in left, Gold Glover Jones in center, and Drew in right. Even the biggest Manny apologists might start packing his bags if that's the result.
The Red Sox had looked into acquiring Jones last summer, but then it was with the intent to deal him to the Astros for Roy Oswalt. Now, with Ramirez a likely trade candidate, the situation is quite different. Jones might not be the hitter that Ramirez is, and in fact his on-base percentage of a season ago was nearly 80 points lower. But if, as many have opined, the Red Sox feel they can't get any total and true equal value for Ramirez, well this should be where they lowball themselves, not for the likes of Shields.
The Red Sox will strike a deal with Matsuzaka, and they will sign J.D. Drew, most likely sooner than later. That would put them in some sort of good spirits with Boras at least, who might direct his Atlanta client to where the money tree lies in the Northeast. The Giants get Ramirez, the Braves get San Francisco prospects, including pitcher Matt Cain, and the Red Sox land Jones.
Perfect. Now all they need is a shortstop, closer, backup catcher ...