Rangers gamble on Ramirez with minor league deal

ARLINGTON, Texas — The way Texas general manager Jon Daniels looks at it, the club signing Manny Ramirez to a minor league deal was a no-risk flier.

It’s a risk the club is taking on one of the most productive right-handed bats in major league history.

Texas agreed to terms with Ramirez on a deal Wednesday. Ramirez will report to the club’s Triple-A Round Rock Express on Thursday and begin working out for a few days before he’s activated.

Once he begins playing for the Express, there are no guarantees for Ramirez.

Ramirez, 41, last played in the majors in 2011, playing five games with the Tampa Bay Rays before it was revealed that he tested positive for elevated levels of
testosterone. Ramirez faced a 100-game suspension but retired instead of
serving it.

That would have been his second suspension. He served a 50-game suspension while with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2009, after testing positive for a banned substance.

Ramirez returned in 2012 and agreed to serve a reduced, 50-game suspension while playing in the minors for the Oakland Athletics. He was later released before ever making the A’s roster then signed to play in Taiwan this season.

“Obviously with our history we like giving guys second chances,” Texas general manager Jon 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. When it comes to playing for the Rangers, two things are critical to us. One obviously you have to be talented and productive and just as important, you’ve got to fit our winning culture here in Arlington and throughout our organization.”

Once he gets to Round Rock, he’ll be the DH for the Express and have to comply with the same rules as the other minor league players, which means his dreadlocks will be no more.

Texas did not have anyone scouting Ramirez with Taiwan’s EDA Rhinos of the Chinese Professional Baseball League, where he hit .352 with eight home runs and 43 RBI before leaving the team last month.

Ramirez has played for Cleveland, Boston, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Chicago White Sox and Tampa Bay. Whether or not he’ll be able to add Texas to that list of teams remains to be seen.

“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 is 14th all time with 555 home runs and 18th in RBI with 1,831. Ramirez worked out for some clubs in Florida but the Rangers weren’t one of them. They talked to him about what his potential role would be if he made the Rangers, and Ramirez was good with that.

Daniels said the club could use a right-handed bat. He also said the move had nothing to do with the struggles and injury concerns surrounding Lance Berkman, who was back in the lineup for Texas for the first time in a week Wednesday.

Daniels doesn’t know Ramirez personally but hitting coach Dave Magadan was his hitting coach in Boston. Daniels talked with Ramirez on Wednesday, and Ramirez told him he hadn’t slept in a couple of nights hoping the deal could get done.

“Hopefully, he shows up to Round Rock and shows still shows some capabilities to be able to swing the bat,” said Magadan, who has talked to Ramirez a few times since his Boston career ended on a bad note in 2008. “I told Jon (Daniels) the truth. His last season in Boston there was a lot of turmoil to say the least. I know Manny has changed in a lot of ways. We’ll see how it goes.”

While no one in the current Rangers clubhouse has much of a playing history with Ramirez, the back of his baseball card speaks for itself.

“He’s one of the greatest right-handed hitters of all time,” Ian Kinsler said. “He wants to prove that he can still play in this league and be productive. Any time you can add one of the greatest hitters of all time I think you take a chance.”