A's have nothing to lose with Ramirez

On June 2, assuming none of Oakland's first 50 games are rained out, Manny Ramirez will be eligible to join the A's. He may need a few games in Triple-A to get ready, but signing Ramirez makes Oakland's intention clear: He'll be the club's designated hitter sometime in early June.

The critics will say: Why bring in Ramirez? This team isn't going anywhere, he's not exactly known for his leadership skills and why take away at-bats from young players like Brandon Allen, Chris Carter or Seth Smith?

I say: Why not?

For $500,000, the A's take a flyer on one of the game's all-time great hitters. They'll earn that back with just a few extra ticket sales. Yoenis Cespedes supposedly has said he wants to play with Ramirez, so that helps establish a happy relationship with the highest-paid player on the team; nothing wrong with that. But the big bonus, of course, would be if Ramirez actually hits once he returns. If he does, he becomes possible trade bait for a team looking for a DH or a bat off the bench. So for $500,000, if the A's get lucky, they flip Ramirez for a Grade C prospect. Maybe that prospect becomes somebody who can help the team in a couple of years.

The question, of course, is: Does Ramirez have anything left? He went 1-for-17 with Tampa Bay in 2011 before retiring after testing positive for a PED.

Ramirez turns 40 in May, but it certainly isn't unprecedented for a hitter his age to turn in a big season. Here are the 10 best OPS+ seasons by a 40-year-old (minimum 150 plate appearances):

Willie Mays, 1971 Giants: 158 (.271/.425/.482, 537 PAs)

Carlton Fisk, 1988 White Sox: 155 (.277/.377/.542, 298 PAs)

Jason Giambi, 2011 Rockies: 142 (.260/.355/.603, 152 PAs)

Edgar Martinez, 2003 Mariners: 141 (.294/.406/.489, 603 PAs)

Moises Alou, 2007 Mets: 137 (.341/.392/.524, 360 PAs)

Dave Winfield, 1992 Blue Jays: 137 (.290/.377/.491, 670 PAs)

Harold Baines, 1999 Orioles/Indians: 135 (.312/.387/.533, 486 PAs)

Darrell Evans, 1987 Tigers: 135 (.257/.379/.501, 609 PAs)

Ty Cobb, 1927 A's: 134 (.357/.440/.482, 574 PAs)

Brian Downing, 1991 Rangers: 132 (.278/.377/.455, 476 PAs)

Just missing the list is Jim Thome's 2011 season, when he hit 15 home runs in 277 at-bats. (Barry Bonds missed most of his age-40 season). One thing most of these 40-year-olds had in common: excellent plate discipline. Mays led the league with 112 walks; Martinez drew 92 walks; Winfield drew 82, the second-highest total of his career; Evans had 100 walks; Baines had more walks than strikeouts. Only Alou was a free swinger.

In his last season in 2010, Ramirez hit .298 but drew enough walks to post a .409 on-base percentage. While it would seem unlikely that he could provide the power bat that Thome did a year ago, it's certainly feasible that he could hit .275 with a .375 OBP. That would be enough to make him attractive to a playoff contender at the trade deadline. It's also certainly feasible that he's done and will wash out after two weeks.

For the A's, it's a no-lose situation with little investment needed. And there's this: With Cespedes and Ramirez, the A's may actually be worth checking out in 2012. There's nothing wrong with stirring up a little interest in your club, especially in a rebuilding year.