Tampa Bay Rays
Reports: Manny, Damon to sign with Rays
After watching their 2010 division championship team dismantled by free agency this winter, the Rays appear poised to strike back. Jon Heyman of si.com reported Friday night that the Rays reached an agreement with free agents Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez on one year deals. The report was confirmed by mlb.com and espn.com. Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said in a text message that he could not comment either way. According to Heyman, Damon will receive $5.25 million with another $750,000 tied to an attendance bonus. Ramirez will receive $2 million.The contracts, according to Heyman, won't be finalize until each player passes a physical. The deals likely won't be completed until after the weekend. If true, the Rays will fill two needs - a leadoff hitter and a power bat for the middle of the lineup. And if true, the Rays added two players with impressive credentials. The 38-year-old Ramirez is a 12-time All-Star with 555 career home runs and a .313 career batting average. He was a member of Boston's two World Series championship teams during the last decade, earning MVP honors in the 2004 World Series. Ramirez also led the American League in batting (2002), home runs (2004) and RBIs (1999). A left fielder by trade, Ramirez will likely serve as the Rays' designated hitter, a spot that has lacked production for the Rays during the past two seasons. He can bat cleanup and offer protection for Evan Longoria. But Ramirez comes with baggage. He played his way out of Boston in 2008 when it was believed he quit on his team and was dealt to the Dodgers at the trade deadline. Ramirez hit .396 with 17 home runs and 53 RBIs over the final two months of the season to lead the Dodgers to the playoffs. Ramirez was suspended 50 games in 2009 after failing Major League Baseball's performance-enhancing drug policy. Last season, Ramirez made three trips to the disabled list and was waived by the Dodgers. He was claimed by the White Sox, and he hit .261 with a homer and two RBIs in 88 at-bats in Chicago. When he's on top of his game, Ramirez is one of the best hitters in baseball. When he's not, he can be trouble. That's why it is believed agent Scott Boras, who represents both players, shopped them as a package. Damon, 37, has a reputation as a good locker-room presence who can keep an eye on Ramirez, his former Red Sox teammate. Damon, who was raised in Orlando and now lives in Windermere, has said he would like to play for the Rays so he can be close to his home. In Damon, the Rays would get a two-time All-Star with a .287 career batting average and 2,571 hits. The left-handed Damon won World Series titles with the 2004 Red Sox and 2009 Yankees. He can play left field while Desmond Jennings spends another season developing at Triple-A Durham. He can also serve as the legitimate leadoff hitter, something the Rays lacked last season. Damon will become the highest-paid member of the team. Both contracts are reasonable, pushing the payroll that currently stands at close to $26 million, to around $34 million.