Fault of Troy

Manny Ramirez for Troy Glaus? What, Mark Bellhorn isn’t available?

Ah, you’ve got to love this time of year, when trade proposals more outlandish than the Black Eyes Peas’ popularity ooze into our general consciousness. Just like every edition of baseball’s winter meetings, the Dallas Wyndham Anatole will have more rumors percolating in its lounges, hallways, and conference rooms than a girls’ high school locker room the Monday after Homecoming.

Some of the more implausible ones, like someone actually giving Paul Byrd $7 million a season, will incredibly come to fruition. Some, like Manny for Glaus…well, let’s just say even without a general manager, the Red Sox can’t screw up that badly.

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Troy Glaus, who would come to Boston as part of a three-way deal that would send Ramirez to the Los Angeles Angels and prospects to Arizona, is Bellhorn with more power. Like the former Boston second baseman, who went from hero to zero in 2005, his career on-base percentage is 100 points higher than his batting average (.358 to .253). Like Bellhorn, he strikes out an awful lot (145 times last season in Arizona). But he averages 20 more home runs a season than the former second baseman, hence his $9 million salary versus Bellhorn’s $2.5 million.

We don’t have to revisit the terms on which Bellhorn left this town last summer, the fans given the ol’ tsk tsk by team captain Jason Varitek for mercilessly booing the strikeout artist. Now imagine that player came here in exchange for one of the preeminent righthanded hitters of his generation. Troy Glaus’ act would play here about as well as the Teddy Bear Picnic pavilion at a Best of Al Qaeda convention.

The oft-injured third baseman’s best season came in 2000, when he hit .284 with 47 home runs, 102 RBIs, and a .404 on-base percentage. Ramirez, whose career on-base percentage is .409, had two less home runs in 2005, hit eight points higher, and with 42 more runs batted in, in an “off-year.” In 2002, Glaus’ last fully healthy season in the American League, he batted .250. Ramirez hit .349, .099 points higher.

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If you insist on not getting 75 cents on the dollar, this is indeed not the deal you make. Not to worry, the Red Sox won’t, or at the very least will get more back in any deal that yields them Glaus, one of baseball’s most overrated players this side of Chan Ho Park. If you have to take Glaus in order to get Ervin Santana, well then that’s different. As Lou Gorman would say, you have to pay Piper to get Paul. Or something like that.

Still though, is that a package for which the Red Sox would be comfortable trading away their premier hitter? Probably not, but then again, what’s comfort when you’re trading away 144 runs batted in?

There are, however, some conflicting reports out there today that deny the existence of such a deal. Adam Rubin in the New York Daily News says that “Boston’s suitors might have dwindled by one last night, with Angels’ brass privately saying they were not interested in the Washington Heights product.” Then again, Rubin tries to keep Omar Minaya’s Mets alive in the matter by writing, “Since Minaya sees the lineup as otherwise settled, the Red Sox will have to be modest in their demands in order for Ramirez to become a Met, an insider said. That means Boston brass absorbing a sizable portion of the $57 million owed to the slugger and ideally allowing the Mets to keep prospect Lastings Milledge and pitcher Aaron Heilman.”

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Oh. I see.

Meanwhile, back in the land of the sane, Arizona GM Josh Byrnes told the Arizona Republic early last evening that he had had no discussions about a three-way deal. And while a source tells the LA Times there is “some substance” to the rumors, Tracy Ringolsby of the Rocky Mountain News has apparently heard something else entirely, as he floats that ”Boston has talked to the Los Angeles Angels about a deal sending Manny Ramirez to the Angels for Darin Erstad and Casey Kotchmann [sic].” Despite the inclusion of the high-priced Erstad, and the lack of an arm like Santana, that supposedly would be a deal a bit more to the Red Sox’ liking. The 23-year-old Kotchman was rated the Angels’ top prospect by Baseball America in 2002, ‘04 and ’05.

But Jay Mariotti brings up an interesting scenario. With Chicago basking in the afterglow of a White Sox World Series title on its south side, the Cubs need to make a splash this offseason, something they couldn’t do in their failed pursuit of Rafael Furcal, who signed a three-year, $39 million deal with the Dodgers. It appears that they’ve also come up short in their pursuit of Milton Bradley, rumored to be headed to Oakland for…not Barry Zito, but Kirk Saarloos.

So wouldn’t Ramirez to the Cubs make a whole lot of sense?

“Instead of trying to match what the Sox did last season, the Cubs will spend the winter meetings trying to save face and stay afloat,” Mariotti writes. “If they want to gamble on character with Bradley, why not take their Furcal bucks and pursue Manny Ramirez, who will cost $57 million over the next three years? Ramirez is a goofy guy who takes pride in his ”Manny Being Manny” persona and might become the first outfielder to disappear permanently in the Wrigley Field vines. But he never has hurt a soul, never has thrown a bottle and never has been considered a clubhouse cancer. And hitting between Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez, he would give the Cubs a monster 3-4-5.”

The Cubs can certainly afford him, it would allow the Red Sox to trade him outside of the American League and not feel his presence impact them in any way. Plus it would be humorous to see Ramirez play a handful of games in Minaya’s backyard.

The Sox have reportedly shown unrelated interest in Corey Patterson (who had a horrible season in 2005, batting just .215), but would the Cubs be willing to deal off someone like Carlos Zambrano as well? Are they fed up enough with Kerry Wood’s and Mark Prior’s injuries over the years to include one of them, and is each of them worth any sort of risk?

Are the Cubs desperate enough for a splash that they would do a perennial Triple Crown possibility in Ramirez for a perennial Cy Young possibility in Zambrano (14-6, 3.26 ERA, 223 1/3 innings pitched in 2005)? Red Sox fans, even the ones in denial over at keepmanny.com, should hope that possibility exists. According to Phil Rogers of the Tribune, the Cubs may deal one of their aces only if they can land another starter like free agents Kevin Millwood or AJ Burnett. But Burnett is headed to Toronto for more Ricciardi dollars (five years, $55 million) and Millwood is rumored to be in hot negotiations with the Mariners. And the Cubs probably aren’t going to take Matt Clement, thank you very much.

Ramirez might very well end up going to the Angels in the end, but it won’t be solely in exchange for someone like Troy Glaus, that much is for certain. Even Byrnes, knowing the landscape here, probably wouldn’t allow that to happen for the safety of his old friends here in town.

Then again, when the Toronto Blue Jays are the offseason’s big spenders, who knows which direction is up anymore.