It was mid-June. The Austin Bats were in the thick of another tough divisional race, and general manager Trey needed a break. The team’s owner had offered Trey his summer cabin for a few days to clear his mind. Trey agreed, hoping it would relieve some of the stress.
A few hours after arriving with his mistress, Carrie Underwood, Trey met the neighbors for the first time. The old man was a retired pharmacist, and his wife had been a botanist. They seemed nice enough. They were very excited to meet a star like Carrie Underwood.
After an enjoyable few days away, Trey was packing up and getting set to leave when the old man came running up to him. Part of the roof had collapsed directly on top of his wife, who was trapped. The old man needed Trey to help. The pair sprinted into the bedroom, but the old man slipped and hit his head, knocking himself out. Trey ran to the man’s wife, and with all the force he could muster, managed to lift the roof a few feet off the ground. The old withered woman took what seemed like forever to crawl out of the small hole, but Trey was able to hold it for long enough to save her.
The old man was over joyed. He told Trey he had something to help with the stress, and something very special his wife had grown. The old man told Trey to simply “use it when you need another chance.” Trey was spooked, but thanked the old weirdo anyway.
Austin, TX – The Austin Bats and Hanley Ramirez had been in negotiations on a new contract since he arrived, it seemed. Hours before Free Agency was set to begin, sources close to Austin insisted Ramirez would be allowed to test the market. His increasingly poor defense was cited, although his bat was still quite impressive. Austin was confident they could retain him for less than he currently expected. They still wanted to keep him.
It was time to celebrate, Hanley Ramirez thought. He’d just signed a 5 year, $85 Million contract extension with Austin, days before he was set to be a free agent.
“Joey, let’s go out! I’m coming back!”
Joey Votto was pleased.
“Hell yeah! Let’s go to the King Bee Lounge, they love us there.”
The pair of superstars enjoyed an evening out, getting the red carpet treatment from the club owner, as always. Joey got their first drinks upon arrival, but the pair were given bottle service the rest of the night. They had a blast.
They were poised to be the anchors of the Bats lineup for at least another season, or at least Votto hoped. Rumors had persisted that the Bats had been quietly shopping him after the Premier Cup, although nothing was confirmed.
A few days into Free Agency, Hanley’s market hadn’t quite developed as his agent had hoped. A few teams had expressed at least some interest, but no official offers had been made. Finally, on day 3, the Minneapolis Millers offered Ramirez a 5-year, $62MM contract with a plan to teach him first base. He would split time between 1B and DH, and play a few games at 3B even while he still could. His bat was enticing.
Days after the Premier Cup, Votto saw the rumors on CBLTradeRumors.com. ‘Austin considering moving Votto’ He didn’t want to leave. He’d loved his time in Austin, and he felt the fan base liked him. He was hoping to sign an extension in the near future, not be traded.
Votto set up a meeting with the GM, and was surprised when Trey took his meeting.
“I get it, you don’t want to be traded,” Trey told Votto as he sat down. “But we can’t just keep spending money, we’re getting close to budget. We screwed up offering what we did to Hanley.”
Votto was confused. Trey continued speaking.
The next day, the offer from Minneapolis was rescinded. People were confused. Hanley’s agent trashed the organization, claiming Hanley would never sign with them following their “elementary antics.” Minneapolis refused comment.
“We want to keep him, don’t get me wrong. But we think we can get him cheaper. We already agreed to a 5-year, $85MM contract, and he’s going to sign it tonight. We think his market is closer to $70MM, and it might even be around $60MM if we’re lucky. So here’s the deal: He’s going to want to celebrate after, I’m sure of it. He’ll call you. Have a normal night, go wherever, just put this little pill in his first drink. It’s the only one you’ll have to get all night.”
Votto was outraged.
“Why the hell would I do that? That’s his money!” He shouted.
Trey laughed, a bit maniacally.
“Because we won’t trade you if you do it.”
Votto had what he wanted. He agreed. When he got the first drink, he put the pill in Hanley’s drink. He remembers nothing after that. Neither does Hanley.
“It’s like someone deleted that part of my memory. I don’t remember anything,” Hanley tells me a week later. “I swear I signed for $85MM, but it must have been a dream, right?”
Hanley eventually re-signed with Austin on a 5-year, $60MM contract. Sources close to Minneapolis suggested they pulled their offer because they felt Ramirez’s agent was simply using them as leverage to get the most money out of Austin, who wanted Ramirez back. Minneapolis chose to try and spend that money on a few other players rather than wait out Hanley’s market.
Ramirez will likely be Austin’s starting third baseman again next season, a position he feels more comfortable at than first base. Even if the league insists he’s a poor defender, Hanley surely feels differently. He’s going to be motivated to show his doubters wrong. Austin is undoubtedly pleased to have him back for $60MM.