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Ramirez placed on waivers

Move could signal end of his career in Boston

Offered to the first taker: Top-level major league hitter. Available with power, but has behavioral baggage. Asking price: $104 million.

In a surprising move, the Red Sox put Manny Ramirez up for grabs, placing the All-Star outfielder on irrevocable waivers last night, according to the websites of The New York Times and the Boston Herald. That means any team can have him if it is willing to pay his salary. Ramirez has five years and $104 million remaining on a $160 million, eight-year contract, and is scheduled to make $20.5 million in 2004.

"The waiver procedure is a confidential procedure, and we're prohibited from commenting on it. We're not permitted to say whether a player is on or is not on waivers," Red Sox spokesman Kevin Shea told the Associated Press.

Ramirez's agent, Jeff Moorad, did not return calls to the AP.

If a team, including the free-spending Yankees, claims Ramirez by tomorrow's 2 p.m. deadline, Ramirez's time with the Sox will be up. Unlike regular waivers, the Red Sox cannot pull Ramirez back if he is claimed. If he is not claimed, Boston will keep him, but can try to trade him.

If there are still no takers, then the move will have backfired; the Red Sox will be stuck with a Ramirez who knows he is not wanted by the club. That could create some interesting scenarios, based upon Ramirez's past behavior.

Perhaps the only team that can afford Ramirez is the Yankees, and coming off their World Series loss to the Florida Marlins, George Steinbrenner just might take on Ramirez, a native of Washington Heights in New York. By ridding themselves of Ramirez, the Sox would have more money to spend on other players, such as pitcher Pedro Martinez, shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, right fielder Trot Nixon, pitcher Derek Lowe, and catcher Jason Varitek, all of whom become free agents at the end of next season. It would also allow them to dabble in a free agent market that includes Montreal right fielder Vladimir Guerrero, and pitchers Bartolo Colon of the White Sox and Kevin Millwood of the Phillies.

Ramirez finished this season just one point behind Bill Mueller for the batting title, hitting .325. He hit 37 homers and knocked in 104 runs. During the 2003 post-season, his first with the Red Sox, Ramirez batted .265 with three homers and seven RBIs. He is widely regarded as one of the most feared hitters in the game, but his off-field shenanigans and aloof behavior created a nuisance in the Boston clubhouse.

Perhaps the most notable episode came in early September when Ramirez missed a weekend series against the Yankees with a sore throat and fever, but was spotted with New York infielder Enrique Wilson at a Boston hotel bar. He also failed to show up for an appointment with the team doctor.

When former manager Grady Little - let go by the Sox earlier this week -- asked Ramirez to pinch-hit in Philadelphia the next day, the outfielder said he was too weak. Little benched Ramirez the following evening in Chicago, a move the players applauded.

Former Sox GM manager Dan Duquette signed Ramirez in the winter of 2000 after Duquette lost out on acquiring Baltimore free agent pitcher Mike Mussina, who signed with the Yankees. After his $20.5 million salary in 2004, Ramirez is scheduled to earn $20 million in 2005, $19 million in 2006, $18 million in 2007 and $20 million in 2008. His club options for 2009 and 2010 are each worth $20 million.

Manny Ramirez Manny Ramirez heads back to the dugout after striking out during the ALCS vs. the Yankees. (Globe Staff Photo / Jim Davis)
Ramirez's career stats

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