Ramirez is too big a gamble now

Claiming Manny Ramirez off waivers would be nuts. Trading for him — even if the Dodgers covered most of Manny’s remaining salary — would be only slightly less insane.

This isn’t 2008, when Manny went off in the final two months after the Dodgers acquired him from the Red Sox. He received a 50-game suspension for violating baseball’s drug policy the following season. Whether he simply avoided getting caught in ‘08, no one knows.

What we know now is this: Manny is 38. He has been on the disabled list three times this season due to leg injuries. And while he still can hit, he is not the same threat he once was, and all but useless in left field.

There also is this: Manny still is owed about $4.25 million for the rest of the season, much of which is deferred. The number will diminish only slightly before the Aug. 31 deadline for setting postseason rosters.

Any team that would dare claim Ramirez had better be prepared to get stuck with the entire bill. The Dodgers, who have not yet put Manny on waivers, would let him go faster than you can say, “female fertility drug.”

If Ramirez cleared waivers, potential trade partners would be in better position to negotiate a more favorable financial arrangement — they could ask the Dodgers to include cash and offer better prospects in return.

But even then, we would be talking about a player who A) might spend the entire month of September on the DL; B) is not certain to produce even if healthy and C) becomes the center of attention, for better or worse, wherever he goes.

Oh, Manny was a regular Prince Charming during those first two months with the Dodgers, playing the L.A., angling for a new contract, batting a ridiculous .396/.489/.743. He presumably would be on his best behavior again as he prepares for his next shot at free agency.

When motivated, he is not a bad guy, just an odd one. Still, the only reason for the Texas Rangers, Tampa Bay Rays or any other interested team to mess with its chemistry would be if Ramirez could make an impact offensively. Then, the risk would be worth the potential reward.

No right-minded GM could take such a chance unless Manny started looking like the old Manny real soon. And even then, the questions would persist: Is Manny healthy? Is he happy? Can he play in back-to-back games? Will he play hard today? Will he check out tomorrow?

Ask the Red Sox. Ask the Dodgers.

The experience can be rather draining.

At the moment, Manny makes the most sense for the Rays, who could use him as a DH and entrust him to their touchy-feely manager, Joe Maddon. But the Rays are not in position to add more than $4 million in payroll; they would need financial assistance from the Dodgers.

The Rangers are not as good a fit — they would need to use either Manny or Vladimir Guerrero in the outfield, compromising them defensively. Their idea would be to grab the lead after six or seven innings, then insert Julio Borbon for defense. Easier said than done.

The White Sox, like the Rays, pursued Ramirez before the non-waiver deadline. Problem is, the Sox are now five games behind the Twins, and their top left-handed reliever, Matt Thornton, is dealing with soreness in his left forearm. GM Ken Williams is aggressive, and one source said Tuesday the White Sox will claim Manny. Still, such a move might be difficult to justify.

Among NL clubs, the Cardinals represent the most intriguing possibility, if an unrealistic one. Their offense has performed below expectations, and a hot Ramirez in combination with Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday would be frightening. The problem, again, would be defense. Holliday would need to move to right field, a position he has never played in the majors.

All these possibilities are fun to consider, but Manny played all of five innings Saturday night in his latest return from the DL. Manager Joe Torre rested him Sunday and the Dodgers were off Monday. Let’s see Manny stay on the field. Let’s see what magic, if any, he has left.

I wouldn’t claim him. I wouldn’t trade for him. I wouldn’t trust him, not mentally and certainly not physically, even for five or six weeks.