Ramirez, Dodgers closer, but deal still not imminent; more notes
The Dodgers and Manny Ramirez have reportedly compromised in their talks
The team is willing to make Ramirez among the highest paid players in the game
More thoughts on Alex Rodriguez's press conference and his latest press dealings
PORT ST. LUCIE -- Both Manny Ramirez and the Dodgers have done some compromising in recent days, according to people familiar with the negotiations, as the two sides seem to now understand that they aren't going to get exactly what they want in a potential deal.
But as to whether the Dodgers ultimately get Ramirez, well, that remains uncertain, even now as spring has sprung.
Ramirez has to understand by now he isn't getting a four-year deal (nor certainly five or six), and the Dodgers probably know that their offers of $45 million over two years or $25 million over one year aren't going to get it done, either.
There are indications the sides may be slightly closer. But that doesn't mean they are close.
As recently as a few days ago, Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, perhaps in a fit of frustration, was said to be telling friends he just might fly to Pensacola, Fla. to confront the Man-child himself.
Most baseball people believe a Dodgers deal will eventually get done for Ramirez. But both sides appear fairly firm in their beliefs.
The Giants are the only other team known to be in the bidding, and perhaps discouraged after being ripped for giving Edgar Renteria $18.5 million over two years, they've stated many times that they aren't up for a bidding war. Even so, their presence may provide Ramirez the resolve he needs to hang tough.
The Dodgers, who always prefer short-term deals anyway, say they are willing to make Ramirez the second- or third-highest paid player in the game despite a dreadful economy. But so far they seem to be stubborn about sticking to a deal of one or two years. Ramirez can counter by pointing out that he saved the team last year by reinvigorating the franchise, hitting a ton (.396 with 53 RBIs in 53 games, and an outrageous .520 in October) and leading them into the NLCS after coming to a .500 team. He knows the Dodgers aren't the same without him. But is that enough leverage?
The market has been dreadful, especially of late. And since Oliver Perez signed with the Mets for $36 million over three years, none of the stars to sign has even broken the $10 million per year barrier. Excellent players such as Bobby Abreu and Orlando Hudson signed for $5 million and $3.38 million guaranteed.
However, Ramirez's case is somewhat different in that he affects the team on the field and at the gate (though owners will dispute the claim that he pays for himself, especially if he's making north of $20 million). It's true he needs a job. But, as one competing executive pointed out, "They need him, too.'' Ramirez is a prideful and patient guy, not to mention a fellow who doesn't especially treasure spring training.
The negotiations, already difficult thanks to the determination of Ramirez and agent Scott Boras, a down economy and an owner who isn't exactly flush with cash, also have the hurdle of the recent history between McCourt and Boras. Their latest dealings include at least three tough outcomes in fairly high-profile cases: the failure to sign top draft choice Luke Hochevar, the opt-out decision by outfielder J.D. Drew and the free-agent signing of Andruw Jones, an unmitigated $36.2 million disaster from Day 1 due to Jones' bad shape and underperformance.
However, Boras and the Dodgers have gotten past that history to make two deals this winter, one a minor-league deal for veteran pitcher Jeff Weaver, the other an unusual separation agreement for Jones. So any belief that the hard feelings will prevent a deal is unfounded.
Here's a look at some of the other better remaining free agents ...
Orlando Cabrera. Word is that he's asking for too much money from the A's, who obviously would like to replace their injury-prone shortstop Bobby Crosby. Or, are they offering too little? It's believed Oakland would pay $2 to $3 million, which if he agreed would rank him as an all time bargain. Cabrera is an excellent all-around player who may be hurt by a spotty relationship with some of his White Sox teammates and a reputation as a solid player who gets traded more than he should. There aren't too many starting jobs out there. But he could try to wait for an injury to get closer to what he wants.
Juan Cruz. Major League Baseball has sent a memo approving sign-and-trades as a way to get past the fact that teams just do not want to surrender a No. 1 draft choice to sign a middle reliever, even an excellent middle reliever such as Cruz. Even with the new relaxed rule designed to help players like Cruz, it's still going to take a lot of work, as the Diamondbacks would have to agree on trade compensation with the team Cruz can make a deal with, and the D'backs would also have to feel that whatever they're getting is commensurate with a No. 1 pick (or at least close to it). The Twins were reported to be one team interested in such an arrangement, but people involved with the talks say there are a few teams that have made a play.
Ivan Rodriguez. He's got a couple possibilities but apparently at very low rates. The catching market is dreadful as the teams with a need for a catcher also happen to be teams without cash to spend, teams like the Marlins and Astros. I-Rod will use his performance in the WBC for his native Puerto Rico to try to show he's better than he played for the Yankees. I-Rod played well at times for Detroit, but his best bet, ultimately, may be the Mets, who are shopping backup catcher Ramon Castro. Castro's stock plummeted in the eyes of the Mets when he declined a chance to becoming the starter a winter ago, seemingly because he preferred being a backup and having more days off. Castro is very talented, but the problem is that the teams that seek catchers aren't apt to want to trade for someone making $2.25 million.
Pedro Martinez. Like Pudge, Pedro plans to use the WBC to show everyone he's still got it. While he was mostly hurt in 2008, this guy should never be counted out. The Indians made an early run at him, and the Pirates have called. With Livan Hernandez looking good in Mets camp, it's uncertain whether old friend Omar Minaya will have room. The Dodgers could become a possibility. And if all else fails, he always has the Pirates.