Also in this column: New Angel in the outfield? Boras' other unspoken option Bonds market watch
NAPLES, Fla. -- In what one competing general manager calls an "annual event,'' the Boston Red Sox are again listening to trade offers for Manny Ramirez.
"We're keeping all options open, and we'll see what's out there,'' Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein told SI.com.
Teams familiar with the Red Sox's thinking say this will be no sort of fire sale and that they would want equal value back for Ramirez since his whopping $160 million contract is down to a very palatable two years for about $40 million. Discounting deferred monies, the actual annual value is $17 million.
While Ramirez's quirks may be wearying, the Red Sox recognize his importance to the lineup and are obviously going for the gusto this year, as evidenced by their monster $51.1 million bid to win negotiating rights for Japanese ace Daisuke Matsuzaka, not to mention their aggressive pursuit of free agent J.D. Drew.
"It would take a really creative deal'' to move Ramirez, Epstein said.
Ramirez, one of the game's best right-handed hitters, months ago made his third trade request (or is it his fourth?) since he's been in Boston. However, the 10-and-5 player has veto rights over trades, so Boston would have to get him to sign off on any deal. Anaheim is one destination that might interest Ramirez.
One person familiar with Boston's early round of talks reports only that teams have "poked around'' and that nothing serious is expected to happen until weeks later. "So far all the GMs are focused on free agents,'' Epstein said.
That's not such a bad thing for the Red Sox, whose executives believe that big numbers for free-agent outfielders Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Lee will reinforce the notion that Ramirez is a real bargain. Soriano could hit $90 million and Lee $75 million, or more.
As one competing GM said, "Manny at $40 million starts looking pretty good.''
New Angel in the outfield?
Angels owner Arte Moreno promised a "major'' move this winter, and sources indicate the Halos are ready to dive into the Soriano sweepstakes with a bold five-year offer. The Angels are a great organization but occasionally have had trouble selling stars on coming there, and it could happen again since there are some folks who believe Soriano would not only prefer the National League but also the East Coast.
The Cubs, Phillies, Orioles and Nationals are among others going after Soriano, and only the Phillies match the two criteria: NL and East Coast. However, Phillies GM Pat Gillick has been fabulously successful adhering to his own beliefs, and one of them is not to give no-trade clauses. That was an early sticking point for Soriano with the Nats, and history could repeat with Philly.
The Cubs, who could play Soriano in center field, made a nice move to add infielder Mark DeRosa for $13 million over three years and may be the closest to fitting the criteria among the serious Soriano players. The Mets have a need for a left fielder but will only check in and have targeted their biggest expenditures for pitchers.