|Watching Manny hit his 500th HR off Chad Bradford|
Fifteen players since 1972 have played as designated hitters during their age 40 season with over 100 plate appearances. They break into four easy categories.
GoodWhat differs Manny from these players is that he did not see any significant time during his age 39 season with only 17 plate appearances over five games. In fact, it is actually quite rare for any starting caliber player at 1B, LF, RF, or DH to log in less than 50 plate appearances in one season and then come back for another. Since 1991, it has happened twice for players in their 30s. Darren Daulton lost his 1996 season to injury. His OPS+ in 1995 was 101 and it rose to 121 in 1997, which was his final season. Xavier Nady is the other occurrence. He slugged a 127 OPS+ in 2008 for the Pirates and Yankees, lost 2009 to injury, and then hit at a 75 OPS+ clip for the ChiSox in 2010. That is a sample size of two with one doing quite well and the retiring while the other probably should be retired. However, it should be mentioned that most players in their 30s who log less than 50 at bats do not come back the following year.
Dave Winfield (1992) - 3.7 rWAR
Edgar Martinez (2003) - 3.5 rWAR
Brian Downing (1991) - 2.5 rWAR
Harold Baines (1999) - 2.3 rWAR
Jim Thome (2011) - 1.4 rWAR
Paul Molitor (1997) - 1.4 rWAR
Reggie Jackson (1986) - 1.3 rWAR
Replacement Level and Below
Tony Perez (1982) - 0.3 rWAR
Frank Thomas (2008) - 0.0 rWAR
George Brett (1993) - -0.4 rWAR
Matt Stairs (2008) - -0.7 rWAR
Ken Griffey Jr (2010) - -0.8 rWAR
Eddie Murray (1998) - -0.8 rWAR
Hal McRae (1986) - -0.9 rWAR
Dave Parker (1991) - -1.4rWAR
From the older player who missed a year perspective, Manny does not look like a good buy. ZIPS projects Manny as a 241/342/363 hitter. If such a hitter was able to spend a full 695 plate appearances at that level as a DH, he would have earned near a replacement level with a 0.5 WAR. That is an upgrade from Vlad's 0.1 WAR over 591 plate appearances and 7.6MM. Manny's last full three seasons also show some reason for concern when looking at isolated power (ISO):
2008: .270That free fall is slightly worse than pre-Oriole Garrett Atkins (.185->.165->.116). Anecdotally, I have rarely seen a three season free fall in ISO turn around 180 degrees.
With this performance history it is difficult to see how a team could offer anything more than a Minor League invite without any promises. The Tampa Bay Rays looked at the same data set, minus the extra year of aging and not playing, and only gave Manny a 2MM MLB contract. They apparently were the only ones interested in promising him a full salary. Tampa Bay also did not have knowledge of the events that would transpire during the 2012 season.
The Suspension and Then it Got Worse
Most players in their 30s who play very little have injuries or performance issues as the cause for the reduction in playing time. Manny's issue was for testing positive for an unnamed (as far as I am aware) performance enhancing drug. It was the second time he had tested positive for a banned substance. He had served a 50 game suspension with the Dodgers in 2009. This being the second time, he was to serve 100 days. Instead of serving that time, Manny retired and fled the lime light. As it was reported, Manny's desire to evade any uncomfortable situations struck his teammates, the media, and the fans as him being extremely selfish and immature. It is the meme that has followed him throughout his playing career.
It got worse in September. Police in Weston, Florida were called to Manny's home. His wife had called and claimed that they were having an argument. That argument resulted in allegedly slapping her, causing her to fall and hit her head on the headboard of their bed. Upon arrival, she told the deputy that she called the police because she feared the situation would escalate. Manny was arrested on the charge of domestic battery. He entered a not guilty plea at a hearing in October. His next court date is schedule March 28.
The Orioles do not have much to gain or lose here. Manny could come to Spring Training, go to court at the end, and do whatever he may plea to while serving out a 50 game suspension (MLB and MLBPA compromise) as technically a minor leaguer. He would then spend a couple weeks in the minors trying to work off the rust. You could expect him in an Oriole uniform in mid-June. That would give him six weeks to show off any hitting ability that could reward the Orioles with a fringe prospect. Again, the best case scenario is that Manny plays six weeks, earns about 300-500k, and nets you a fringe prospect. The worst case scenario is that Manny is awful, but stays on the straight and narrow. This would force the Orioles to cut him and swallow 1-1.5MM.
Signing Manny should not cause a gnashing of teeth. This move would be a far cry from MacPhail's eagerness to send replacement level veterans off with a retirement package. However, I do not see much point in signing a 40 year old who took off last season, is in a downward trajectory, has alienated many of his previous teammates, and has an open court case on the charges of domestic battery.