Unless Manny is traded before the winter meetings, we can expect several more days of feverish speculation on whether or not the best right-handed hitter of his generation will be playing in Boston next year. Right now, both the local and national media are saying Manny won’t be patrolling left field at Fenway come April; the Globe‘s Gordon Edes reports that while talks with AL teams have cooled off, the Sox are deep in discussion with the Padres, Giants, and Dodgers, while the Herald‘s Michael Silverman says the Angels and the Rangers are still the frontrunners in the Manny sweepstakes.
Regardless of where he ends up, if Manny isn’t batting behind Papi next year, there’s sure to be outcry among the natives. And without knowing anything more than your average schmuck on the street (or at least your average schmuck on the street who spent a year living with the team), color me confused. Back in June, I explained why I thought this year’s anemic free agent market meant it was more likely that Manny would stay in Boston, a sentiment which was later echoed to me by Red Sox execs. And even if Manny is threatening, as he has many times over the past five years, to shut it down, history would seem to indicate the likelihood of that happening being close to nil. Whatever happened last year could make this offseason different, but until I hear otherwise, it’s hard for me to see why you’d jettison a player who now seems like a relative bargain…especially if the offensive replacement has a healthy history of not being healthy. (If some variation of these deals do go down, it’ll be a gutsy move by the Sox: if Manny came back to Boston in ’07 and performed below expectations, the outcry wouldn’t be nearly as severe as if Manny left and smacked the shit out of the ball…especially if nominal replacement J.D. Drew had a tough acclimation period in Boston.)