December 28, 2010
Just not as much as the shingle hung this offseason by a guy who 1) definitely won't be welcomed back by his last team (the Chicago White Sox), 2) will probably have to take baseball's biggest paycut and 3) carries the most risk and reward of the bunch. He could be a clubhouse-crushing albatross, just as easily as he could have a big comeback season full of doubles and a healthy OBP.
When and where he signs is still anybody's guess, but it's not hard to eliminate a lot of possibilities.
The only National League team crazy enough to park him in the outfield would probably be the St. Louis Cardinals. But they already nabbed Lance Berkman(notes), so let's take the 16 teams of the Senior Circuit out of the mix.
The White Sox don't want or need him, nor do the Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers or Kansas City Royals. ESPN's Buster Olney reports that the New York Yankees' interest was wildly exaggerated and Travis Hafner's(notes) hefty salary is blocking the pipe dream of a reunion with the Cleveland Indians.
The Oakland Athletics just brought Hideki Matsui(notes) aboard while teams like the Toronto Blue Jays (Edwin Encarnacion(notes)) and Seattle Mariners (Jack Cust(notes)) have opted for hitters with less baggage (and power).
But if you figure that the Twins could re-sign Thome and the Rangers could bring back Guerrero, that eliminates another two teams.
And the Angels already have enough immobile types and need a place to stick Bobby Abreu(notes) or Juan Rivera(notes) now that Peter Bourjos(notes) is getting playing time in the outfield. So there goes another.
That leaves the Rays and Orioles to flip a coin to see who gets the privilege of taking the $5 million or so gamble on a space case who will turn 39 in May. It's not the worst risk in the world given the potential reward, but you already get the feeling that we're going to watch a huge game of hot potato with Scott Boras and teams hungry for offense in the weeks ahead.
Indeed, it's not too hard to imagine a scenario in which Manny's weighing a late February choice between swallowing his pride and playing for a small, incentive-heavy contract and starting the 2011 season on the sidelines.
What do you think?