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Looks like Manny Ramirez’s playing days aren’t over just yet. The 39-year-old veteran outfielder, who immediately retired at the beginning of last season following his second known positive test for performance enhancing drugs over his career, signed a minor league deal worth $500,000 with the Oakland Athletics on Monday.
Ramirez had one hit in just seventeen at-bats and five games with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011 before calling it quits. He was well aware that with this being his second violation of MLB’s drug policy that he would have been required to miss 100 games, and therefore, decided to apparently walk away from the game on April 8.
At MLB’s winter meetings this past December, word got out that Ramirez had applied for reinstatement back into the league. The Commissioner’s Office granted it to him and decided to cut the original suspension he faced in half, down to 50 games, after considering the fact that he essentially sat out the majority of last season anyway, which was a punishment in itself.
Not many teams showed interest in Ramirez, but the A’s figured there would be no harm in giving him a low-cost minor league contract and an opportunity to make the Major League club. Oakland expects Ramirez to join the team at their spring training facility in Arizona this Friday. Manager Bob Melvin certainly supported the signing.
“I watched some video of him and saw the swing. It didn’t look any different, and it looked like he was in good shape,” said Melvin on Tuesday. “He’ll be ready to go with the position players, and we’ll see what he has to offer.”
Ramirez is easily regarded as one of the greatest offensive players of both his generation and of the entire modern era. Since beginning his career with the Cleveland Indians in 1993, the 12-time All Star, 9-time Silver Slugger Award winner, and 2004 World Series MVP has hit .312, driven in 1,831 runs, and ranks 14th on the all-time home run list with 555 long balls.
“He is one of the best right-handed hitters I’ve ever seen,” said A’s general manager Billy Beane. “This is a guy who combines power with on-base percentage along with a high batting average. He’s a unique player.”
Ramirez is best known for his time in Boston with the Red Sox from 2001 to part of 2008, where he played a key role in the team breaking its 86-year World Series drought with a sweep over the St. Louis Cardinals in 2004, along with its 2007 World Series sweep of the Colorado Rockies.
The Red Sox front office and Ramirez no longer saw eye-to-eye by 2008, and he was subsequently traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He remained in L.A. until he was traded to the Chicago White Sox in 2010. He would sign with the Rays the following year. Despite all of the bouncing around during the latter part of his career, Ramirez believes he can still be a productive Major League player.
“I’m feeling really good, mostly on a spiritual level. I’m very confident with the shape I’m in heading to spring training,” said Ramirez in an interview on a Dominican radio station. “There were three teams interested, but I left God to decide, and that’s why I signed with the Oakland A’s. I’m only coming back because I always loved baseball, ever since I was little kid. I have a passion for the sport, and I know I can still play.”