Is There Any Reason to Prefer Vladimir Guerrero to Manny Ramirez?

Because if Jon Heyman is to be trusted, that is how the Rays feel about Vladimir Guerrero and Manny Ramirez.

Cost

There is no way for an outsider to know. Scott Boras is Ramirez’s agent and given the contracts he has previously negotiated for him, there is reason to believe Ramirez is more expensive. Guerrero made $5.5 million last season and Ramirez has not made fewer than eight figures since before George W. Bush took office. If the team is serious about adding another bat and pitcher on top of one of these fellows, then the cost definitely becomes the biggest hurdle.

Performance

Over the last three seasons, Ramirez hit .311/.421/.548 while splitting time between Boston, Los Angeles, and the south side of Chicago. He turns 39 in late May. During that same time span, Guerrero hit .300/.350/.496 between Anaheim and Texas. He turns 36 in three weeks.

You have to stretch reality pretty far to suggest Guerrero has outhit Ramirez in any facet of the game since 2008. Even last season –where a third of Ramirez’s games represented no power whatsoever – he still managed to hit .298/.409/.460. One point of on-base percentage is worth about 1.8 points of slugging percentage, so the 59-point on-base percentage difference between Ramirez’s 2010 and Guerrero’s 2008-10 is far worse than the 36-point differential in slugging percentage.

Maybe you can say the club wants fewer strikeouts, but does it really matter when the guy gets on base more than 40% of the time? Further, the two are basically identical in the percentage of base runners they score (think of it as a rate form of RBI; both are at 17% since 2008) and Guerrero knocks into far more double plays – 32 more since 2008, or 19% to 10% in rate form.

Injury concerns

I think this might be the biggie. From 1995 and 2008, Ramirez averaged 142 games a season. He’s averaged 97 games over the last two seasons. A move to the designated hitter position may assist in keeping him healthy, but it might be too late as well. Impossible to say without access to his medical charts and someone who knows what to make of those charts.

For Guerrero’s part, despite running like a dying horse at times thanks to decaying knees, he’s played in at least 100 games each season since 1998 and at least 140 in every season since 2004 except one (2009). Who knows how playing any time in the corner would affect his leg health, so he might be restricted to mostly DH work too.

Character concerns

Easily the most overblown. It’s hard to think of a non-suspension issue Ramirez has been involved in since leaving Boston. Anyone who makes a big deal out of the PED aspect but did not make a huge deal when the club acquired Gregg Zaun (who was named in the Mitchell Report) is using selective memory. For whatever reason, Ramirez had issues in Boston, yet if any manager can handle him, it’s Joe Maddon. And yes, Maddon is familiar with Guerrero from their time together in Anaheim (2004-2005).

Bottom line

Without access to the medical files or contract demands, it’s really difficult for me to prefer Guerrero. If Ramirez is asking for $10 million and Guerrero $5 million, then it becomes an entirely different comparison (or if Ramirez’s charts looks worse, etc.). I think one of these two will land here and will make the team better. It’s just a matter of the factors above combining into the best choice.

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4 Responses to Is There Any Reason to Prefer Vladimir Guerrero to Manny Ramirez?

  1. Hatfield says:

    Great article.

    I’m still leaning heavily towards Manny, but if the price difference really is a 10/5 type deal that would potentially prevent the Rays from signing a Rauch/Branyan combo (or a similar package), then I am certainly ok with Vlad.

    • R.J. Anderson says:

      I’ll note those numbers are pure conjecture, but I do wonder if perhaps we’ve all been underestimating how much Boras is asking for, especially in light of the Soriano deal. He’s won at nearly every turn this offseason, so why would he stop trying to win now?

      Also, another thought about this pair came to mind — specifically why you’d choose Vlad over Manny. I hope to have that post up by Monday, but it’s something I’m a disappointed that I originally overlooked.

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