PHOENIX (AP) — The Oakland Athletics still have strong interest in signing slugger Manny Ramirez, who presents a low-risk investment for the rebuilding franchise.
If things come together, the 39-year-old would sign a deal for slightly more than the league minimum of $480,000.
He first must serve a 50-game suspension without pay for violating baseball's drug policy for the second time. With no rainouts, the first game Ramirez would be eligible to play is June 2 at Kansas City.
The sides could reach agreement as soon as the next few days or sometime next week, and Ramirez then likely would travel from Florida to Arizona to undergo a physical before joining Oakland's spring training camp for full-squad workouts starting Feb. 25. Pitchers and catchers report to camp Saturday.
Oakland recently sent representatives to Florida to observe workouts by Ramirez, who retired from the Tampa Bay Rays last season rather than serve a 100-game suspension. For Ramirez, this could become a chance to help repair his reputation and serve as a positive clubhouse influence on a young team — that's sure what the Oakland brass hope, anyway.
The A's last week agreed to terms on a $36 million, four-year contract with highly sought after outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, a Cuban defector who has expressed interest in playing with Ramirez.
At baseball's winter meetings in December, it was announced that Ramirez had applied for reinstatement. He had his suspension for a second failed drug test cut to 50 because he sat out nearly all of last season. MLB had announced his retirement on April 8, saying he was notified "of an issue" under the drug program.
Ramirez, who will be 40 on May 30, ranks 14th on the career list with 555 home runs. He went 1 for 17 (.059) in five games last season for Tampa Bay, which had signed him to a one-year deal worth $2.02 million.
This would be the 20th major league season for Ramirez, a career .312 hitter with 1,831 RBIs. Oakland, which traded away its top three pitchers this offseason including two starters, sure could use a power bat in the middle of the order in a tough AL West that already has seen the key additions of Albert Pujols on the Los Angeles Angels and star Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish for the two-time reigning AL champion Texas Rangers.
The A's haven't reached the playoffs or had a winning season since being swept by the Tigers in the 2006 AL championship series.