Imagine Manny Ramirez hitting behind Josh Hamilton.
It's a far-fetched idea, to be sure, but let's first look at how it would have to happen.
After the conventional July 31 Trade Deadline, any player on a 40-man roster must first clear revocable waivers in order to be dealt. If he clears, he can be traded without limitation. If he's claimed by one team, he can only be traded to that team -- or pulled back and not traded at all (or his existing team can unilaterally stick the claiming team with the player's contract). If he's claimed by multiple teams, he can still only be traded (or unilaterally conveyed) to one team -- the one with the worst win-loss record in the league the player plays in, or if no such team claims him, then the one with the worst win-loss record in the other league.
So for Texas to even have a shot at Ramirez, he'd have to go unclaimed by the 15 National League teams he doesn't play for, and then by every American League with a worse record than the Rangers. At the moment, that would mean 24 teams would have to pass on Ramirez for this discussion to even get to the next step.
Once a team puts a player on revocable waivers, the remaining teams have two days within which to place a claim. Once the waiver period closes, if the player is claimed then another two-day window opens, during which any trade has to be worked out. Because of these brief, finite periods of time, teams strategically time when to put certain players on revocable waivers in August. Some are run onto the wire early in August. Others later in the month.
In Ramirez's case, the Dodgers have been limited as to when they could place Ramirez on waivers, because players must be active in order to be run through. Ramirez, who has been on the disabled list since July 17 with a strained calf muscle, headed out on what should be a brief Minor League rehab assignment yesterday. Once he's deemed ready to go, he could return to Los Angeles and be activated -- and placed on revocable waivers (though some reports suggest he could be placed on waivers while on rehab, as long as Los Angeles is able to certify that he's physically able to play).
So the first hurdle is that Los Angeles hasn't even been able to put the Ramirez tires out to kick yet. But there's a series of added hurdles to clear.
Whom can the Dodgers trade Ramirez to?
It would stand to reason that only teams legitimately in contention would have any interest in acquiring the slugger, or blocking another team's ability to do so. While we can't rule out the possibility that a National League team might be interested (San Francisco has been mentioned), it seems more likely that an American League club with postseason aspirations would entertain the idea of giving Ramirez at-bats down the stretch and into October without having to play him defensively every day. If he does get by all NL clubs on waivers, the American League clubs who could potentially benefit this summer from Ramirez with reasonable shots at the playoffs probably include -- in order of claim priority as of today -- Chicago, Texas, Boston, Minnesota, New York, and Tampa Bay.
As discussed above, if multiple AL clubs were to place claims, the one with the worst win-loss record would have the prevailing claim. Here's where it can be a little tricky: The standings are viewed for the purposes of claim priority as of the time the claim window closes, which is two days after the player is placed on waivers, not when the window opens. In other words, Los Angeles wouldn't necessarily be able to time the waiver request to steer Ramirez to the team it wants to deal with.
Who will want Ramirez?
If Ramirez does go unclaimed in the National League, the White Sox may very well make the prevailing claim. Recall that Chicago reportedly made a run at Ramirez on July 31 (after failing to get Washington to part with Adam Dunn) but got nowhere with its demand not only that it wouldn't give up any player of consequence but also that Los Angeles would have to cover all but $1 million of Ramirez's remaining salary.
Ramirez earns $20 million in 2010, the final year of a two-year, $45 million contract he signed in March 2009. Of the $20 million owed for 2010, only $5 million is actually payable this year, with the remaining $15 million deferred without interest ($3.33 million due in June 2011; $3.33 million due in June 2012; and $8.33 million due in June 2013). Deferred compensation would be prorated based on when the dollars are earned (not when payable), and so any team picking Ramirez up for what amounts to the final fifth of the season would be obligated to him for about $1 million over the remainder of the season, and about $3 million more spread out over the next three seasons (with the Dodgers on the hook for the rest of the deferred portion). But in the event of a trade, those allocations could be negotiable.
The point of the dollars discussion is that the money shouldn't be a major impediment. So if Chicago decided not to put in a claim, then Texas, Boston (surely only to block), Minnesota, New York, and Tampa Bay might find reasons not to do so themselves, but probably not fiscal ones. And again: If Ramirez were to go fully unclaimed, Los Angeles would be free to discuss a trade with any club.
Would Texas claim Ramirez?
Ramirez, who is hitting a robust .317/.409/.516 in 2010, could resuscitate what right now is a decimated, lifeless Rangers lineup. Bringing him aboard would be a bold statement by the new ownership group. A Ramirez-Hamilton-Nelson Cruz playoff outfield with Julio Borbon available to run and play defense late, and David Murphy on the bench, would be strong, notwithstanding the issues on defense you'd have playing either Ramirez or Vladimir Guerrero on a corner. (And what would you do on the road in the World Series?)
No matter what his off-the-field reputation is, the Texas clubhouse is probably one that could withstand the Ramirez baggage. And the dollars aren't prohibitive.
But there are still other hurdles.
If Ramirez were claimed, would the Dodgers trade him?
The Dodgers, 11 games back in the NL West and seven games (and four teams) back in the Wild Card hunt, are saying they're not ready to concede the season. They've added, not subtracted, in the last three weeks, bringing Ted Lilly, Octavio Dotel, Scott Podsednik, and Ryan Theriot aboard.
But they've played only one game more with Ramirez than without him in 2010, and if they've decided they don't want him back in 2012, they might decide they're just fine rolling now with Podsednik in left field and flip Ramirez for prospects.
What would the Dodgers expect in return?
A lot. Considering Ramirez will be a Type A free agent who will probably get at least a two-year deal somewhere if he decides to play next season, the Dodgers would likely offer him arbitration (unless the risk of him accepting the offer is one the club is simply unwilling to take) and recoup a supplemental first-round pick plus either a first- or second-round pick if he were to sign elsewhere. They'll expect a trade offer that beats the promise of two first-round picks, and won't trade him if they can't get it.
Would you trade Engel Beltre and Robbie Erlin for Ramirez? What about Tanner Scheppers and Miguel Velazquez? It might take more, but if it didn't, would that deal make you squirm -- even knowing you'd be the team to get the two 2011 compensatory picks back if you didn't re-sign Ramirez yourself?
That's still not the final hurdle.
If the Dodgers would trade Ramirez, and the parameters are agreed to, would he consent to the trade?
Ramirez has a full no-trade clause. It doesn't mean Los Angeles can't go down the path we're describing (see what the Cubs did with Derrek Lee yesterday), but it does mean that if the Dodgers and another team come to an agreement on a deal, Ramirez can kill it unilaterally by refusing to give his consent.
But you'd think that the prospect of going to an American League club zeroing in on post-season play, and getting an opportunity to reassert his offensive value heading into winter free agency, would be enough to convince Ramirez to waive the no-trade protection and join a new club.
The possibility of Ramirez becoming a Ranger in the next 12 days is a huge longshot. A Ramirez trade of any sort is probably unlikely. Trades do happen every August, and sometimes big ones, but a series of procedural obstacles facing teams who want to sell and teams who want to buy after July 31 make it obvious why most impact deals tend to get done before August ever rolls around.
Jamey Newberg is a contributor to MLB.com. A Dallas lawyer, he has been an insane Texas Rangers fan since the days of scheduled doubleheaders, Bat Nights when they actually handed out a piece of lumber instead of a grocery store voucher, and Jim Umbarger. He has covered the Texas Rangers, from the big club down through the entire farm system, since 1998 on his website, www.NewbergReport.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.