From Comcast SportsNetPHOENIX (AP) -- Manny Ramirez found a taker in Oakland -- at a bargain price. The suspended slugger agreed on a minor league contract Monday with the Athletics that is worth approximately 500,000 if he's added to the big league roster. The A's announced the deal and said Ramirez is expected to report to spring training by the end of the week, in time for Oakland's first full-squad workout Saturday. He is a non-roster invitee. The 12-time All-Star is due to serve a 50-game suspension for his second positive drug test before he can play for the A's. Barring rainouts, his first game could be May 30 -- on his 40th birthday. But that didn't deter general manager Billy Beane and the Athletics. "I am very pleased Billy was able to add Manny to our team," owner Lew Wolff said in an email. "I look forward to welcoming him and the entire team that Billy and his people have assembled for the coming season." ESPN first reported earlier in the day that the sides had reached an agreement, speaking directly to Ramirez. The A's made public their interest in the enigmatic outfielder, who had been working out in Florida this winter. Starving for offense, Oakland finished third in the AL West last season at 74-88 and ranked 12th out of 14 American League teams in runs. For the small-budget A's, Ramirez presents little financial risk. They don't have to pay him during his suspension and will give him per diem money during the club's spring training stint in Phoenix, which is shorter than usual because of two season-opening games in Japan next month. Oakland sent representatives to Florida this winter to watch 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 mend his reputation -- at least a little bit -- and serve as a positive clubhouse influence on a young team. The A's recently agreed to terms on a 36 million, four-year contract with highly regarded 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 games 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 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.
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John Fox on Friday sought to clarify some comments he made earlier in the week about Tarik Cohen that seemed to follow some spurious logic. Here’s what Fox said on Wednesday when asked if he’d like to see Cohen be more involved in the offensive game plan:
“You’re looking at one game,” Fox said, referencing Cohen only playing 13 of 60 snaps against the Green Bay Packers. “Sometimes the defense dictates who gets the ball. I think from a running standpoint it was a game where we didn’t run the ball very effectively. I think we only ran it 17 times. I believe Jordan Howard, being the fifth leading rusher in the league, probably commanded most of that. I think he had 15 carries.
“It’s a situation where we’d like to get him more touches, but it just didn’t materialize that well on that day. But I’d remind people that he’s pretty high up there in both punt returns, he’s our leading receiver with 29 catches, so it’s not like we don’t know who he is.”
There were some clear holes to poke in that line of reasoning, since the question wasn’t about Cohen’s touches, but his snap count. Cohen creates matchup problems when he’s on the field for opposing defenses, who can be caught having to double-team him (thus leaving a player uncovered, i.e. Kendall Wright) or matching up a linebacker against him (a positive for the Bears). The ball doesn’t have to be thrown Cohen’s way for his impact to be made, especially if he’s on the field at the same time as Howard.
“They don’t know who’s getting the ball, really, and they don’t know how to defend it properly,” Howard said. “… It definitely can dictate matchups.”
There are certain scenarios in which the Bears don’t feel comfortable having Cohen on the field, like in third-and-long and two-minute drills, where Benny Cunningham’s veteran experience and pass protection skills are valued. It may be harder to create a mismatch or draw a double team with Cohen against a nickel package. It's easier to justify leaving a 5-foot-6 running back on the sidelines in those situations.
But if the Bears need Cohen to be their best playmaker, as offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said last month, they need to find a way for him to be on the field more than a shade over one in every five plays. As Fox explained it on Friday, though, it’s more about finding the right spots for Cohen, not allowing opposing defenses to dictate when he’s on the field.
“We have Tarik Cohen out there, we're talking about touches, not play time, we're talking about touches so if they double or triple cover him odds are the ball is not going to him, in fact we'd probably prefer it didn’t,” Fox said. “So what I meant by dictating where the ball goes, that's more related to touches than it is play time. I just want to make sure I clarify that. So it's not so much that they dictate personnel to you. Now if it's in a nickel defense they have a certain package they run that may create a bad matchup for you, that might dictate what personnel group you have out there not just as it relates to Tarik Cohen but to your offense in general. You don't want to create a bad matchup for your own team. I hope that makes sense.”
There’s another wrinkle here, though, that should be addressed: Loggains said this week that defenses rarely stick to the tendencies they show on film when Cohen is on the field. That’s not only a problem for Cohen, but it’s a problem for Mitchell Trubisky, who hasn’t always had success against defensive looks he hasn’t seen on film before. And if the Bears are trying to minimize the curveballs Trubisky sees, not having Cohen on the field for a high volume of plays would be one way to solve that.
This is also where the Bears’ lack of offensive weapons factors in. Darren Sproles, who Cohen will inexorably be linked to, didn’t play much as a rookie — but that was on a San Diego Chargers team that had LaDanian Tomlinson, Keenan McCardell and Antonio Gates putting up big numbers. There were other options on that team; the Bears have a productive Howard and a possibly-emerging Dontrelle Inman, but not much else.
So as long as Cohen receives only a handful of snaps on a team with a paucity of playmakers, this will continue to be a topic of discussion. Though if you’re looking more at the future of the franchise instead of the short-term payoffs, that we’re having a discussion about a fourth-round pick not being used enough is a good thing.