The 40-year-old Ramirez, who broke into the majors in 1993, still wants to play, but does it make sense for any team to sign him at this point?
Interested teams would have to deal with several risks. First, Ramirez has already violated MLB's drug policy twice. One more failed test, and he's looking at a lifetime ban. In addition, Ramirez hasn't seen extended action at the major league level since 2010, so it's fair to question at what level Ramirez would return if he does catch on with a club. Even if he did make an MLB roster, there's doubt that he could stay healthy from now until October — remember, he's 40 years old and hasn't played a full season's worth of games since 2008.
Finally, there's the question of Ramirez's quirky personality, which has worn thin on more than one organization. The Red Sox put up with it back when he was hitting 40 home runs a year, but as he's gotten older, Ramirez' leash has grown shorter. He's played a total of 29 MLB games for his last three teams, and his next club would be his sixth in five seasons.
Although he did hit .302 in 17 games at Oakland's Triple-A affiliate in Sacramento, the Athletics released him because they said he would not be receiving a call-up anytime soon. For a 30-35 team carrying Coco Crisp (.194 batting average, .256 on-base percentage) and Josh Donaldson (.153 BA, .160 OBP), to keep him in the minors suggests that Oakland wasn't impressed by whatever it saw from Ramirez.
Still, Ramirez is one of the premier hitters of his generation — even if that generation is pretty old at this point — and that may convince some club to take a chance on him. A return to the Red Sox may provide the chance to heal some old wounds, but the reality is that Boston doesn't need him. The outfield at Fenway is already crowded as it is, and when Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford come back from the disabled list, there simply won't be room.
So who would be a good fit?
Baltimore is one team that could use him. The Orioles are down to one starting outfielder after Endy Chavez joined Nick Markakis on the disabled list on Thursday, and Ramirez would fit in with the O's offensive-minded approach. Even if his skills have declined, it's worth taking a flier on Ramirez. He won't cost much — he was slated to make just $500,000 with Oakland — and if he doesn't pan out, he can be released. No harm, no foul. And Ramirez's upside is promising to a team like Baltimore who, even when Chavez and Markakis return, still needs another bat off the bench. Ramirez can also be helpful as a designated hitter.
If he doesn't sign with the Orioles, plenty of other teams could use Ramirez's help. The Indians, Tigers, Blue Jays, Mets and Pirates could all use more depth in the outfield, and Ramirez offers a potential solution to those problems without the need to surrender a prospect in return.
This isn't to say that Ramirez is a sure thing — in fact, he's about as far from a sure thing as possible — but there's no reason for a club on the fringe of contention to take a chance on him. He's a classic high-upside pickup and if he starts acting up, he can be cut quickly before he has a chance to poison the clubhouse.
Photo courtesy of Facebook/Manny Ramirez