How the Manny trade went down
When the Red Sox originally offered Manny Ramirez in trade to the other 29 teams, they went 0-for-29. Red Sox GM Theo Epstein made tens of calls and found no takers.
Things were looking bleak. Ramirez was apparently being viewed as an active, goofier version of Barry Bonds, an unwanted all-time great. At that point it appeared that the increasingly uneasy, unhappy marriage of the Red Sox and Ramirez might have to stay together for what would have been a messy final two to three months.
Then someone within baseball's best front office had an idea. The Red Sox, who had grown weary of Ramirez's antics and attitude and badly wanted him out of their clubhouse, decided to enhance their offer. When Epstein made his next round of calls, he was now offering to pay the remainder of Ramirez's $20 million 2008 salary. It was an unusual and unprecedented $7 million incentive for such a productive and vital player.
Despite that, only three teams showed even a modicum of interest: the Dodgers, Phillies and Marlins.
Ramirez, who never felt completely comfortable in baseball-crazed Boston's fishbowl existence, set the stage for a trade by signing an agreement in advance to go to whatever team agreed to drop his two $20 million club options, for 2009 and '10. Yet the field for a deal was oddly small.
Only three teams wanted him, and as it turns out only one of those three was willing to return enough to Boston to make it work. It didn't hurt that the one team happy to do the deal was run by a Bostonian, Frank McCourt, who makes it a hobby to collect ex-Red Sox players for his Dodgers. Sources say McCourt was extremely involved in this trade, and that he in fact was the driving force behind it: no surprise since he previously added ex-Red Sox Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Lowe, Bill Mueller and Grady Little.
But word was going around baseball that McCourt's Dodgers were difficult to deal with, that McCourt pulled back a trade for CC Sabathia, that the Dodgers had too many chiefs running the team and that they were too protective of every last youngster. One of many anti-Dodger columns was written here. But the Dodgers ultimately would prove me, as well as several others, wrong.
And by the way, it's a misconception that any team other than the Dodgers, Phillies and Marlins ever showed any interest. Neither the Mets nor anyone else wanted to deal.
As was presumably the case for many other teams, sources say that the Mets didn't want to risk bringing Ramirez and all his baggage into their clubhouse. But strangely, after the Mets had stood pat at the deadline, GM Omar Minaya suggested on a conference call that the reason they couldn't make a deal for Ramirez was that Boston had requested a big-league outfielder back. That claim must have come from Minaya's very vivid imagination and appears to have been an attempt to cover for the Mets or possibly refrain from exposing their true feelings about a Ramirez trade. In reality the Red Sox had called the Mets and were told no, and that was the end of that.
As we know now, the Dodgers ultimately didn't have to give up a big-league outfielder (or any sort of outfielder), and they still managed to get the deal done. It took until 3:59 p.m. ET on Thursday, one minute before the deadline, but the deal got done, and it enhanced the Dodgers' pennant hopes, relieved the Red Sox of their problem child and continued the rebuilding process for the depleted Pirates.
Red Sox people decided early on that the outfielder the Red Sox needed to get all along was coming from Pittsburgh. That was Jason Bay, a solid two-time All-Star. Boston realized early in the game that Bay was their best hope, and perhaps their only hope, to replace Ramirez's bat in their lineup. There may have been early flirtations with Atlanta regarding Mark Teixeira and Colorado about Matt Holliday, but those two superstars would have cost them way too much in terms of prospects and major leaguers.
Bay isn't nearly the same hitter as Ramirez, but he was as close as Epstein could come in this trade market. And what's more, Bay's reasonable contract ran another year for a well-under-market $7.5 million (he's probably worth twice that, making Boston feel better about paying the remainder of Ramirez's 2008 salary). So for giving away two months of a disgruntled Ramirez, Epstein got back at least eight months of a committed and eager Bay. That was something he could live with.
But, in order to get Bay, Epstein would have to get what Pittsburgh sought. He had three chances to do it: the Dodgers, Phillies and Marlins.
The Red Sox agreed to send Pittsburgh reliever Craig Hansen, a potential closer and solid young outfielder Brandon Moss. Then they went looking for the rest of the package.
Several days before the deadline the Red Sox first requested Matt Kemp from Los Angeles, a seemingly reasonable proposition considering that the ultra-talented Kemp was known to be frustrating some of his bosses, including manager Joe Torre, with his inconsistent play and baffling baserunning.
The Dodgers said no.
The Red Sox lowered their request to a combination of young outfielder Andre Ethier and third-base prospect Andy LaRoche. Considering L.A.'s excess of outfielders and LaRoche's falling stock, that seemed more reasonable.
The Dodgers still said no.
The Dodgers still were showing interest early in the week. But by Wednesday the Red Sox turned their attention to the Phillies and Marlins, leaving L.A. wondering whether it was now out.
The Phillies were a team said to excite Ramirez. They have a great lineup and an even better ballpark for him to put up big second-half numbers and enhance his free-agent value. The Phillies had interest but were apparently offering even less than L.A. They may have had concerns about how Ramirez would fit into the same outfield with Pat Burrell.
The low-budget Marlins were up next. They appeared to be sensing a kill, so they tried for a killer deal. Jeremy Hermida was one name talked about. Gaby Hernandez was another, but Hernandez went to Seattle for reliever Arthur Rhodes.
Slugging outfield prospect Mike Stanton would not be included by the Marlins. Other decent prospects would not be included either. Plus the Marlins wanted Boston to not only pay Ramirez's $7 million salary but also to ship them $2 million more to cover the draft choices they'd get when they let Ramirez leave as a free agent after the year. So in other words Florida wanted Boston to pay for three of its players for accepting the Cooperstown-bound Ramirez.
A lot of possible scenarios were discussed for days with Florida. But there never was an agreement on players and dollars.
The Marlins "overplayed their hand,'' in the words of one person familiar with the dealings.