PHOENIX -- The A's agreed to terms with free-agent designated hitter Manny Ramirez on a minor league contract Monday, tying themselves to one of baseball's most productive -- and controversial -- sluggers of all time.
The deal is pending a physical, but Ramirez is expected to report to spring training by the end of this week. He must serve a 50-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball's drug policy for a second time, meaning he would become eligible for a May 30 game at Minnesota, on his 40th birthday.
A's general manager Billy Beane, who had been looking for a veteran D.H. for several weeks, is expected to address the signing with the media Tuesday. If Oakland adds Ramirez to the major league roster after his suspension, his salary is expected to be around $500,000.
"A guy like that can only help out," second baseman Jemile Weeks said. "Being loose, him having his goofy side -- if he still has it, that helps the camaraderie of the team.—
Ramirez ranks 14th on the majors' all-time list with 555 home runs and carries a .312 career batting average. But considering his age, it's fair to ask how much impact he can make, especially since he'll miss almost a third of the season.
Ramirez hasn't played since last April, when he abruptly retired after playing five games for the Tampa Bay Rays. He tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs for a second time, then gained reinstatement in January when his 100-game suspension was reduced to 50 games.
His signing assures the A's will get plenty of national attention in the next few weeks. They're also expected to finalize a four-year, $36 million deal with highly touted Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes in the next week or two.
Ramirez brings a carnival-like atmosphere on his own, thanks to his "Manny being Manny" persona and frequent oddball behavior. His effort on the field also has been questioned, raising the question of how he'll affect the A's clubhouse chemistry.
But former A's first baseman Scott Hatteberg, who played alongside Ramirez with Boston in 2001, had nothing but praise for him.
"He's about the best hitter I ever played with," said Hatteberg, who counted Ken Griffey Jr. among his teammates during a 14-year major league career. "I have no doubt he's going to have a great work ethic. He's not a great communicator, but he walks the walk."
Starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy is taking a wait-and-see approach.
"If it's the Manny we all know, it'd be nice -- a middle-of-the-order bat that can make an impact," McCarthy said. "I know it's a long time until we'll get to see him (because of the suspension). I'm curious to see how it all works out."
A's reliever Grant Balfour said he welcomes Ramirez's addition.
"He might have messed up a couple times," Balfour said, "but as long as he's willing to come in here and give it all he's got, and just, you know, stick by the books like we're all supposed to do, it would be awesome to have him around.—
According to a recent Fox Sports report, Ramirez can play in spring training games and extended spring training games while on suspension. He can also train with the major league club or a minor league affiliate during the regular season but must leave before the gates open for a game.
As his suspension nears an end, Ramirez can participate in a 10-game minor league assignment.
The A's seemingly face long odds to compete in the American League West this season. Will they still be close enough to first place to benefit from Ramirez's presence once he returns?
When Cespedes joins the outfield, it will leave Seth Smith and Jonny Gomes as a potential left/right platoon at D.H. What if one or both are hitting well when Ramirez is eligible?
Because he's on a low-cost deal, the A's could simply release Ramirez if they like the way their offense is clicking. Time will tell if this high-profile experiment is worth the fuss.