This is a little delayed, as I made a trip to Connecticut to see my alma mater down Tennessee over the weekend, but it seems that an “Idiots” reunion is in the offing in Tampa Bay. The Rays have reportedly signed both Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon to one-year contracts (Damon to a $5.25 million deal with incentives and Manny to a $2 million deal).
It’s tough to imagine either returning to their 2004 form. Manny really struggled last season with injuries and was especially ineffective after his trade to the White Sox. In 24 games, Manny wasn’t Manny, hitting just one home run and batting in just two RBI. Overall, Manny had the worst statistical season as a full-time major leaguer, hitting .298 with 9 home runs and 42 RBI in 90 games. His OPS wasn’t terrible at .870, so all was not lost, yet there’s no denying Manny has not been the same since he was suspended for 50 games during the 2009 for violating the MLB performance-enhancing drug policy. For his career, Manny has hit .299 with 25 home runs and 72 RBI and a .623 slugging percentage and a 1.003 OPS at Tropicana Field. He’ll likely be restricted to DH duty to save wear and tear on his legs and hamstrings, but I would still be averse to drafting Manny after his performance last season. Best case scenario, he is the 2011 version of 2010 Vlad Guerrerro — a late round pickup who well exceeds expectations with periods of ineffectiveness.
Damon, meanwhile, is likely to be the Rays’ primary left-fielder. He had a decent 2010, hitting .271 with 8 home runs, 51 RBI and 11 stolen bases to go along with a .756 OPS. Damon’s steal totals have been under 15 for the last two years (he had 12 in 2009), but the Rays led the Major Leagues in steals in 2010 with 172. A lot of that came from new Red Sox outfielder Carl Crawford, but assuming Damon can stay healthy I could see Rays manager Joe Maddon giving him the green light to swipe a few bags. I think he also has the ability to get back over 100 runs scored hitting in front of Evan Longoria, B.J. Upton and Manny. In my opinion, Damon is probably a lower-level third outfielder or perhaps a solid bench option in fantasy leagues.
One thing both players may benefit from is familiarity with the AL East, with both having played a significant portion of their careers in the division with the Red Sox.
In the end, at the very least the duo should make things interesting in St. Pete and when they come to Fenway Sox fans should have a field day.