What if, over the winter, we pulled the trigger on the Manny Ramirez trade? Manny is having a great year. That is to be expected, he's a great hitter, but its a much better season than he had last year. At age 34, it should be a bit of a surprise that Ramirez has gone from "great hitter" back to "best hitter in the league".
What if he was doing it in an Angel uniform?
The Red Sox at one point offered us ManRam for Figgins, Santana, and either Wood or Kendrick. At the time I was disgusted. Here's how I think it would have worked out:
Ramirez is a +59 hitter so far (using a quickly thrown together linear weights formula). He would play either corner OF, splitting time there and DH with Vlad and GA. Rivera would have to move to center. Tim Salmon's (+3) role would be eliminated, perhaps he didn't even make the team and retired. Ramirez mostly replaces Figgin's (-1) AB's, since Figgy played some 3rd base those AB's would have to go to an average hitter like Quinlan or McPherson. Defensively, Rivera over Figgins probably costs ten runs. Ramirez costs another 5 - My previous posts suggest he's not as bad as previously thought in the OF, plus he's spending some time as a DH. Offensive gain: +52 (take 5 runs off Manny for hitting in a tougher park). Defensive loss: -15.
Now what about pitching? Santana has not been great, allowing 4.75 runs per 9 innings, but he's above average, and has taken every turn in the rotation. If he was traded, Jered Weaver would not have been sent down after starting 4-0, Joe Saunders may have been called up earlier, but that doesn't fill all 159 innings. Jeff Weaver would likely still be an Angel. Dustin Mosely might have a few more starts. Maybe more work for Gregg & Carrasco, who are better in the bullpen.
It gets real hairy trying to figure out what the rotation would look like at each point of the season with no Magic. A shortcut would be to look at runs over replacement. Using lg average R/game and adding one (an old Bill James trick) I get Santana as +21 over replacement. Checking Baseball Prospectus for VORP, I get +23. Close enough, I'll split the difference.
With that trade, we'd be 15 runs better overall. Yes, we'd be a bit closer to Oakland, 2 or 3 out instead of 4. But Manny is not going to get better. Santana most likely is. And Wood hasn't done anything in the majors yet, still could be a fine player, if he can solve his contact problems. And Manny costs about 15 million more than the other players. Also, we wouldn't be the same team. We'd be more like the Yankees and Red Sox, powerful, high run scoring teams that can't stop anybody else from scoring. The defense is bad enough this year without Manny. I prefer the team that can finish a game before the Red Sox and Yankees, even if we spot them 2 hours.
We have a better future without doing that deal. I can live with having an extra 2 games to make up vs Oakland.