The Texas Rangers are the latest team to give mercurial slugger Manny Ramirez another shot at the big leagues.
The Rangers agreed to a minor-league deal with the 41-year-old on Wednesday, and he will report to Triple A Round Rock today. Ramirez will work out for a few days before being activated as the designated hitter.
Ramirez joins the team on a deal worth the league minimum with no bonuses or incentives.
General manager Jon Daniels views it as a low-risk deal that could pay dividends at the big-league level as the club could use another right-handed bat.
“Obviously with our history, we like giving guys second chances,” Daniels said. “We know on and off the field the good and the bad in Manny’s career. We’re inclined to give him an opportunity here.”
The Rangers won’t be the first organization to give Ramirez a second chance.
In 2010, the Chicago White Sox claimed him off waivers and he batted .261 with one home run over the final 16 games. The Tampa Bay Rays signed him prior to the 2011 season to serve as their DH, but he played in only five games before abruptly retiring with a 100-game suspension looming after a second positive test for performance-enhancing drugs (Ramirez also had tested positive in 2009).
The Oakland A’s then rolled the dice on him before last season and intended for him to be their DH when he became eligible, but released him on June 15 before he made the big-league team.
Ramirez, who has fulfilled all of his MLB-related suspension obligations, was playing this season in Taiwan, batting .352 with eight home runs, 13 doubles and 43 RBIs for the EDA Rhinos. He left the team on June 19, hoping to get the kind of big-league opportunity the Rangers have given him.
The Rangers did not scout Ramirez in Taiwan, and also weren’t present at a few workouts he went through since leaving the team.
“We’ll evaluate him as we go,” Daniels said. “There are no deadlines, no end dates. If he’s productive and we feel he’ll fit our culture in the clubhouse, we’ll give him an opportunity. If either of those ends don’t pan out, kind of no harm, no foul.”
Ramirez has agreed to abide by the Rangers’ rules for minor leaguers, which will mean cutting his well-known dreadlocks.
Ramirez has crossed paths with several acquaintances within the Rangers organization.
John Hart, senior advisor to baseball operations, was with the Indians when they drafted Ramirez in 1991 and was the GM of the team when Ramirez helped them reach the World Series in 1995 and 1997. Hitting coach Dave Magadan worked with him on the Red Sox from 2007-08, and catcher A.J. Pierzynski was a teammate briefly in 2010.
“The way everybody talks about [Miguel] Cabrera now is how everybody talked about Manny back then,” Magadan said. “He had a nose for driving in runs. He was a guy, as far as my sandbox was concerned, who did all the work that you asked of him.
“It turned out ugly in the end and there were some bridges burned in Boston. ... As far as I was concerned, he was always on time, always in the cage, always open for advice.”
The players welcomed the signing, too. They all know that Ramirez could be an impact bat off the bench given his track record. He is a 12-time All-Star who has 555 career home runs and 1,831 RBIs.
“If he can help, I’m all for it,” Pierzynski said.
“I saw him play in winter ball this year, and he hit two line-drive home runs to right-center and left-center,” Nelson Cruz said. “He looked pretty good. Hopefully he can contribute.”
Lance Berkman was on board with the signing, too, even though it could potentially take away some of his at-bats.
“This business is as fair as any on the planet,” Berkman said. “If you play well, you’re going to be in there. If you don’t, somebody else is going to take your job.
“If he’s as good as he’s been in the past, I say bring him on. Why not?”