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Mad about Manny

Which team has the best chance at landing Ramirez?

Posted: Wednesday November 29, 2006 11:50AM; Updated: Thursday November 30, 2006 1:28PM
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Also in this column:
• MLB reviewing Lucchino trip
• Cubs pursuing Schmidt
• Alderson rips Soriano deal
• Around the majors

A number of teams in the AL and NL West may be willing to pay the money to get Manny Ramirez's bat in their lineup.
A number of teams in the AL and NL West may be willing to pay the money to get Manny Ramirez's bat in their lineup.
Damian Strohmeyer/SI

No team should be considered a favorite to land Manny Ramirez since Ramirez has veto rights over trades and is a human knuckleball, flighty and unpredictable. But if anyone has an edge, perhaps it could be the Dodgers, who are 1) about to lose right fielder J.D. Drew to the Red Sox, 2) working very aggressively this winter and 3) stocked with plenty of desirable young players such as Matt Kemp, James Loney and Andy LaRoche to offer, not to mention a stack of talented relievers, which just so happens to be Boston's biggest need.

You have to figure Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, a Bostonian, is interested, too. He has made it his hobby to collect star Red Sox like Nomar Garciaparra and Derek Lowe (maybe if they don't get Ramirez, they can take Trot Nixon). And maybe Manny will like playing again for Grady Little, who was generally beloved in the Red Sox clubhouse. Hey, it can't hurt.

All the Ramirez trade talks, which began more than a week ago at the GM meetings (as reported here first), have intensified. But also reported here a week ago, it won't be any sort of giveaway by the Red Sox. They are going to expect a haul in return, which will limit the field well beyond those that can afford his $19 million annual salary through 2008. Of course, we've been through this before (many times before -- is it three or four times, I've lost count), and Boston has in the past been unable to find the right deal for Ramirez. Plus, now they have to deal with the additional complication that Ramirez has earned veto power over trades as a 10-and-5 player.

The Angels and Rangers are two teams Ramirez might approve. However, Los Angeles of Anaheim, which definitely has the type of young talent that would interest Boston, is really more interested in a third baseman. And the guess here still is that Texas, which has balked at including Michael Young for Ramirez, may hold out for Vernon Wells, who is younger, plays center field and who happens to be from Arlington, Texas, which makes him more likely to want to sign there longterm.

The Giants and Padres are also seeking outfielders. But it's not known whether San Francisco has the pieces to construct a deal, and San Diego has been stupefied by the high price of quality free-agent outfielders (see club president Sandy Alderson's comments below). And if Ramirez's option years have to be picked up as inducement to a deal, his $38 million pricetag doubles to $78 million. The Padres do have the advantage of being a frequent trading partner with Boston, so we can't rule them out entirely.

Ramirez has once again requested a trade, but it isn't known whether he's expanded last year's preferred ultra-short list (Cleveland, Anaheim and Arizona) and it may take some doing to get him to go to the National League after he's dominated the AL. Who knows, if the Red Sox can pull off a deal with the Dodgers, maybe Boston can tell him he's going to L.A. and convince him it's the same L.A. that's on his original list.

Seriously, you have to think an acquiring team might have to guarantee the twin $20 million options (for 2009 and '10) to sway Ramirez. But then, they also may not mind doing so. After Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Lee got $136 million and $100 million, respectively, $78 mil for Manny could look almost like the bargain of the winter.

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