Ramirez could be looking for six-year deal on open market
At least three teams in addition to the Dodgers are considering a run at Manny
News and notes from around the major leagues
LOS ANGELES -- There are some early signs that the Dodgers' negotiations involving Manny Ramirez, who almost single-handedly lifted the storied franchise to the postseason, will not necessarily go smoothly. Ramirez is believed to be seeking a six-year deal for as much as $25 million per year, and Dodgers owner Frank McCourt is said to be skeptical that the competition will be keen for the controversial but ultra-productive superstar he acquired for virtually nothing a minute before the trade deadline.
Ramirez's agent, Scott Boras, declined to name a target price in an interview with SI.com on Wednesday. That $150 million total price tag is an estimate based on Boras' use of the word "iconic'' to describe the 36-year-old Ramirez, combined with Ramirez's own constant mention of a "six-year deal'' during frequent media interviews this postseason. Another factor is the reminders from those close to Manny that the 10-year deal Alex Rodriguez signed last year calls for him to be paid his regular $30 million salary from ages 38-42.
Ramirez apparently isn't kidding with his occasional hints about a six-year deal. If that sounds like a stretch, the Dodgers will have to consider the alternative, which is to present a Manny-less team the year after the hitting savant saved them in the regular season, then carried them in October.
"He pays for himself. You've got a free player with Manny,'' Boras said. "He's an iconic player who's changed the face and fortunes of the franchise.''
The Manny Derby surely will be limited by the stratospheric price, but at least three teams are emerging as potential suitors. The Yankees' will "take a look at Manny,'' according to someone familiar with their thinking, the Mets are said to be weighing a run despite deep pitching needs, and the pitching-strong Blue Jays are also believed to be considering a run. While it's hard to imagine Ramirez embracing New York after complaining for 7 1/2 years about Boston's fishbowl existence, the Yankees and Mets have an inherent financial advantage over L.A. in owning their own TV networks (McCourt, meanwhile, is said to have a poor relationship with Fox) and introducing new stadiums. It shouldn't be forgotten that Ramirez followed the money when he took $160 million over eight years from Boston before the 2001 season.
The Orioles are another team that has been suggested as a possible landing spot, but they are more than one player away from competing in the ultra-tough AL East. Besides, new baseball chief Andy MacPhail appears to be getting away from the big-ticket buys of the Orioles past, and if they do go for a major free agent, it's more likely to be Severna Park, Md., native and Angels star Mark Teixeira. The Angels make some sense for Ramirez, but are more likely to try to keep the much younger Teixeira, whom they love.
Some are whispering that Ramirez may not love L.A., a very likely false rumor fueled by reminders humorously dropped by him lately that he's a free agent and ready to pounce on any opportunity. Indeed, Boras disputed that notion, saying of his client, "He's very comfortable in L.A. and his performance reflects that."
It's more likely that Ramirez likes L.A. but has become aware that the cost-conscious McCourt -- who according to high-ranking baseball sources spent the pre-Ramirez part of the year complaining about revenues but should be thrilled by the extra monies produced by Ramirez ($6 million a month, according to one estimate) -- isn't quite ready yet to meet his demands after being burned by a string of free-agent signings, including those for Andruw Jones, Jason Schmidt and Juan Pierre. (With also Jeff Kent and Nomar Garciaparra, a majority of the Dodgers' payroll is going to non-contributors.)
McCourt, who reportedly has unusual financial issues for the owner of a marquee team, is said to have been apoplectic over Jones' putrid performance and at one point is believed to have considered the extraordinary but absurd step to request a refund of Jones' $18.1 million salary. Ramirez's asking price will be much higher than that, but at least two prominent, competing executives say they expect the dollar-driven McCourt to still make the call to re-sign his popular new superstar. Indeed, the pressure to retain Ramirez at almost any price in intense. As one friend of Manny's put it, "There's going to be a deep depression inside and outside the clubhouse -- among the manager, players, fans, everyone -- if Ramirez leaves.''
"I think they'll sign him,'' said one AL executive, "and it will be a mistake.''
"I don't know how [McCourt] doesn't bring him back. It's got to be as much a business decision as a baseball decision. He's got the Dodgers by the ....'' another AL executive said.
That same executive predicted a deal for either three years plus an option or four years for $20 to $25 million annually, which would represent a major windfall from the two $20 million option years Ramirez found so onerous before working hard to get those club options dropped from his just-expired contract.
While Ramirez's behavior in his final days in Boston was less than admirable, he's been a model employee and incredible money maker for the Dodgers. Beyond providing off-the-charts performance both in the regular season and the postseason, he has enhanced TV and gate monies, injected energy into the clubhouse, positively influenced a young (and in some cases immature) clubhouse with nonstop work, provided an exemplary attitude and removed pressure from others by becoming the go-to postseason media man.
Ramirez' performance on the field was so spectacular that he made himself an MVP candidate in two incomparable months (the view here: He deserves the award but it will probably go to Ryan Howard or Albert Pujols since they spent the full year in the NL). Ramirez's outrageous regular season (17 HRs, 53 RBIs, .396 in 53 games) is only topped by his seven postseason games, where he's batting .500 with three homers and nine RBIs -- not to mention a 1.656 OPS (1.000 slugging percentage plus .656 on-base percentage). The performance is that much more remarkable since opposing pitchers are giving him no more than two or three pitches to hit per playoff game.