Two For the Price of One

Earlier this month, the Orioles signed Derrek Lee to a one year deal for $7.25m taking away what was believed to be the last affordable right-handed bat with talent that was in the Rays’ price range. There was some panic that set in with Rays fans as the memories of a struggling 2010 offense was fresh in their heads and fans were worried that the 25 man roster was not going to look much different than it did earlier today.

Worry no more.

All day long, rumors swirled about the Rays and Johnny Damon being close to a deal and then Ken Rosenthal threw out the note after lunch that a package deal of Damon and Manny Ramirez was a possibility. SI’s Jon Heyman broke the story late that both players were indeed signing with the Rays and Newsday’s Ken Davidoff learned that it was agent Scott Boras that presented the package deal to the Rays. In summary, the Rays get both Damon and Ramirez for the same base price that the Orioles paid Derrek Lee. Damon’s contract is at current market value which makes him a bit overpaid, but Ramirez comes at a discount as he looks for a spot to re-establish his worth to the open market next off-season.

Yes, it is not 2004, but these are still two very good additions to the lineup. Damon was covered earlier today, but Ramirez was not. Yes, he has had his off-the-field troubles, and his on-the-field troubles for that matter. That said, career 155 OPS+’s do not grow on trees  and he had a .311/.405/.510 slash line with the Dodgers before he was traded to the White Sox last season. While he did not hit with any power at all with the White Sox, he still got on base at a .420 clip.  He has hit just 28 home runs over the past two seasons but he still instantly becomes the best DH this club has seen since Jose Canseco was around. At $2m, if he gets 200 plate appearances and produces at league average, it will have been worth it.

How does this look for a potential opening day lineup?

  1. Johnny Damon – 1B
  2. Ben Zobrist – RF
  3. Manny Ramirez – DH
  4. Evan Longoria – 3B
  5. Matt Joyce – LF
  6. B.J. Upton – CF
  7. John Jaso – C
  8. Sean Rodriguez – 2B
  9. Reid Brignac – SS

This roster now has the potential to be the most potent offense in the history of the franchise. The starting pitching staff is still one of the better ones in baseball and the team defense is not a far drop-off from where it was last year. The signings all but relegate Desmond Jennings back to Durham to start the year and likely move Dan Johnson into a Willy Aybar role for the upcoming season. I also expect Leslie Anderson to return to AAA and someone on the 40-man roster will need to be designated for assignment to make room for both signings and that person could likely be Justin Ruggiano. I do not expect to see Ramirez using a glove outside of an interleague appearance but Damon could carry both an outfielder’s glove and a first baseman’s mitt this season as he joins a team full of players that are accustomed to playing multiple positions.

Using Hanselman’s  forecasting tool from the other day to include Damon and Ramirez and playing with the numbers, 90 wins does not quite seem like the pipe dream it was just this morning.

DRaysBay poster raysfaninminnesota framed the off-season up perfectly:

  • Collect 10 draft picks through free agent compensation
  • Subtract $11.4m in payroll in trading Matt Garza, Fernando Perez and Jason Bartlett
  • Add eight players making league minimum or less via trade
  • Add $11.25m in payroll in signing Joel Peralta, Kyle Farnsworth, Johnny Damon, and Manny Ramirez

That equates to 11 new faces on the 40-man roster and 10 draft picks in the upcoming June draft. R.J. Anderson wrote about those draft picks the other day and said the Rays may very well spend ~$10m to sign those 12 picks in the first two rounds of the draft. If you combine that figure with the $11.25m spent to sign Damon, Ramirez, Farnsworth, and Peralta, you come to a figure somewhere around $22m. That is 23 potential new faces in the organization for $22m – or less than what Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, Joe Mauer, Cliff Lee, Ryan Howard, and Alex Rodriguez each make in 2011.

The only beef I have with the off-season so far is the fact the club still lacks a proven impact solution for the later innings.  Friedman said that when the club traded Garza, the money saved there would be re-appropriated and he was a man of his word. I am guessing that the money they had slotted to sign Rauch was slid over to help out with these signings given the fact the open market for relievers is bone dry.

On a night when Angels’ GM capped off one of the worst off-seasons in recent history by trading for arguably the worst contract in the league, Andrew Friedman wrapped up the best off-season any rational Rays fan could have ever hoped for and delivered a reloaded roster to the fans just weeks prior to Fanfest proving once again good things come to those who wait.


About Jason Collette

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13 Responses to Two For the Price of One

  1. buddaley says:

    Incredible and wonderful. The upside so outweighs the risks that all the crazed comments we are sure to hear need to be ignored.

    • Exactly. Both of these players fit the approach of this offense quite well — and these patient hitters are going to wear out a lot of starting pitchers before the sixth and seventh innings. Damon, under Maddon’s lead foot, should steal 20+ bases again and Ramirez is motivated for another deal and every PA after #200 pays for itself.

  2. kirpuck34 says:

    Damon at 1B? Most likely they’d put Zobrist there and move Damon to LF and Joyce to RF. I’m also not sure they send Jennings down. He’s someone who can platoon with Joyce in RF and get a few AB’s for Damon and Manny and Zobrist and Rodriguez along the way. Johnson is the guy left out, but that’s not a major loss at all. If the team is not able to compete this year they can trade Damon and Manny in July and get even more prospects….good moves by the Rays! Now, they just need a closer….Jake McGee???

    • Frankly, it is a waste of Zobrist’s defensive abilities for him to play first base. Damon can range but he cannot throw and that is a liability in the east with guys like Crawford, Ellsbury, Gardner, et all going the extra base. Damon has some 1B experience and I’d rather use him there than stick Zobrist who some could argue is the club’s best defensive OF.

      I’m all for McGee closing but if the trade market presents a buying opportunity, the Rays have some wiggle room as I project their payroll to be somewhere just over $40m right now.

  3. tellrodt says:

    Yea I don’t see Zobeast at 1st. He even said during the season tht he wasn’t comfortable playing there. I do think BJ is by far our best defensive outfielder. That’s all beside the point though because I’m totally stoked about these two guys joining our Rays. It’ll be interesting to see where they play Damon but Mann-Ram should get around 400 PA’s and 18-25 homers which would be amazing for a Rays DH. Go Rays!!!

  4. I.Welsh-Art says:

    Goes to show you can’t have a weak heart when you’re a Rays fan. They will give you a heart attack if you do. This morning looked like we were looking at another underdog line up with alot of potential and BOOM! with a few strokes of a pen we have two veteran bats in the line up and alot of people giving the finger to the doubters.

    Friedman doesn’t show his hand til the river. He’ll drive ya crazy but I can say he’s seemed to make a move that’ll always give us hope.

  5. buccityboy says:

    I don’t think I could describe my feelings on this off-season without going into hyperbolic overdrive. We are incredibly lucky to have the the front office staff that we do. It doesn’t get any better than this folks.

  6. Jason Hanselman says:

    I was out at the bar last night when I heard this news. It didn’t come up on any of the TVs around the room, but thank Gawd for smart phones. I did a happy dance that rivaled all happy dances before it. If you’re not excited to watch this team take the field then check your pulse.

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