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Yes, I’m about two weeks behind the time on this one. You might as well poke fun at me now before I get to the meat of my argument. However, the Manny Ramirez-Jason Bay trade is not the Red Sox downgrading at left field, rather them cutting an enigmatic persona they’ve tried to get rid of practically every chance they’ve had since Theo Epstein took over as GM.
When it comes to offense, I think we can agree that Jason Bay is not quite the powerhouse that Manny Ramirez is, even at Manny’s ripe age of 36. And while there were accusations of Manny dogging it at the plate in July, his numbers refuted that (.347 BA, .473 OBP and .587 SLG). In fact, May was the only down month of this year for Manny. So even though last year certainly gave the impression that a decline had begun, Manny has shown that not to be true.
It may be a very small sample, but Manny has shown anything but a decline to be true with the Dodgers, as well (On a side note, can anyone wait for Manny’s first trip to Coors with the Dodgers? He may make the humidor weep).
Jason Bay does not make as much contact as Manny and is migrating from the NL to the AL, which means he’s going to the tougher league, as well. However, Bay has age on his side, as he is much closer to his prime than Manny is. So I think we’ll see that Bay will be a small downgrade on offense.
On defense, the Yankees will really miss Manny’s attempts to field the ball, though they’ll be happy to see his arm in the other league. Manny Ramirez is a pretty awful outfielder, even when he is not cutting off Johnny Damon’s throws, rolling around on the baseball or high-fiving fans instead of completing a play.
Most defensive metrics invented after 1990 and based on trying to mathematically measure the value of fielders find Manny Ramirez to be one of the worst outfielders when it comes to covering ground, even after adjusting for Fenway. While he is not much better, Jason Bay does rank better and he has the added advantage of generally not making crazy mistakes that make you wonder if he realizes if he’s playing baseball.
As I noted, though, given Manny’s arm, the Red Sox will certainly lose the ability to hold a lot of hits off the Monster to singles. Also, Manny’s many years of experience taught him how to properly play balls off the wall, something Bay will have to learn over time. Simply put, there is a small gain here, but not anything that will be notable this year.
Another factor in the trade is that the Red Sox now have a left fielder for next year. However, they gave up a valuable bench bat in Brandon Moss and admitted to rushing Craig Hansen by dealing him too. However, given that finding outfielders is not a like searching for a needle in a haystack and given the development of some of the Red Sox pitching prospects, both players were expendable to the team. So, this does not do much to hurt the team’s depth.
So when you look at this season, given how any games are left from the point that the trade was agreed to, I don’t see much of a change in Boston’s talent level. As for next year, Bay’s much smaller salary may enable Boston to make a run at a big free agent, so that could factor in to the equation. However, if it does not, Bay would likely represent a tiny downgrade over Manny, but not enough to make a difference of even a win.