Pedro's most likely landing spot, Manny's next contract and more
The Dodgers probably lead the race for Pedro, but don't count out the Mets
Word is that Manny Ramirez will shoot for a three-year deal after this season
Reasons why the U.S. team is clearly looking at the WBC as an exhibition
JUPITER, Fla. -- While the Dodgers may be the most likely landing spot for Cooperstown-bound pitcher Pedro Martinez, the Mets can't quite be ruled out yet. And though one Mets person said a significant gap remains between Pedro's asking price and the Mets' target figure (probably $5 million vs. about $2 million), an NL executive said over the weekend, "I wouldn't be shocked (if the Mets get him) ... Omar loves him."
GM Omar Minaya does love Pedro, and more important, the Mets don't love their No. 5 starting options right now.
Steady, innings-eating veteran Livan Hernandez is the leader for now, although there are some in the organization who remain curious about top prospect Jon Niese, a left-hander with a superb curveball who probably has to become a more consistent strike thrower to wrest the job from Hernandez. There's still some question as to whether Freddy Garcia will be ready at the start of the year after 2008 shoulder surgery, while Tim Redding, who looked like a solid pickup at the time, came to camp with a sore shoulder and 20 pounds overweight. Redding has been shut down and is out of the running entirely, upsetting Mets higher-ups, since that $2.25 million could have been used elsewhere.
The Dodgers' situation at the back end of their rotation may actually be even more dire. "We need another starter," one Dodgers official said, flat out.
Right now Eric Milton, Claudio Vargas and James McDonald are among several candidates for the Dodgers' No. 5 starting job, but 20-year-old phenom Clayton Kershaw, who's penciled in to one of the four certain spots, so far is still "hit and miss," according to another Dodgers official. The Indians and Pirates are known to be two more teams monitoring Pedro's progress, and agent Fern Cuza said there are a couple others in the mix after Pedro looked great in three innings in the World Baseball Classic, but a person close to Martinez said that he would favor the National League and is insistent on playing for a contender, which may mean it'll come down to the Dodgers and Mets.
It's no surprise that the Mets and Dodgers are both interested in Martinez (the Dodgers were first mentioned as a possibility in this space at the beginning of last month), but so far both teams are only interested at their price, which might be as much as half of the $5 million deal that Pedro seeks (Martinez actually has told people that he's looking for $5 to $8 million).
Pedro obviously noticed that John Smoltz and Brad Penny received $5 million deals from the Red Sox. But that was well before teams stopped spending. Officials with both the Mets and Dodgers are adamant that they won't accede to Martinez's contractual requests. Perhaps that explains why Cuza said, "We're in no hurry."
Manny will shoot for three years next winter
If you thought Manny Ramirez's negotiations with the Dodgers were interesting and drawn-out this winter, just wait until next winter. Word is he's going to be shooting for at least three years, and this time he's going to mean it.
Ramirez is said to love the idea that it's his option at year's end whether to stay or go after making $25 million in 2009. In fact, some close to him suggest that the two-year deal including the second-year player option is actually better than the three-year deal the Dodgers wouldn't give him. A monster year could give Ramirez the three-year deal he seeks for big bucks, while the $20 million 2010 salary provides nice insurance in case he gets hurt, shows age or reverts to his Bostonian behavior. But of course there are no guarantees that the option will bring him extra riches.
The opt-out clause has in some cases become a major boon to the ultra-talented, such as Alex Rodriguez, who turned it into an additional $275 million (and quite likely $305 million), J.D. Drew, who turned it into another $70 million, and A.J. Burnett, who turned it into another $82.5 million. Manny hopes to repeat those stories. But while he has the talent to do it, a few factors are working against him. One is a reputation for quirkiness (Red Sox reliever Jonathan Papelbon went so far as to call him a clubhouse cancer). Another is an economy that may not be much better next winter than it was this past winter.
Yet another issue is Manny's now well-known love for L.A. He made that abundantly clear at his Dodgers press conference after spending the season and winter being noncommittal about where he wanted to play. Although the New York teams will be viewed as other potential targets, considering Manny's negative comments about Boston (which is much more like New York in terms of intensity) and uniformly positive ones about L.A., it will be somewhat difficult to envision him easily leaving Mannywood now.
In Manny's favor is his popularity in Los Angeles. Should Ramirez have another huge season, the pressure will be even greater on Dodgers owner Frank McCourt to keep him. The incentive will be there, too. The Dodgers sold 12,000 more tickets the first day that single-game tickets went on sale, according to the Los Angeles Times, which attributed the boost to Manny, based on interviews with ticket buyers.
MLB Truth & Rumors