Just a couple of weeks until spring training is in full swing, and one of the premier righthanded hitters in the game's history remains without a team.
So goes the saga of Manny Ramirez, who on Tuesday turned down a one-year, $25 million offer from the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team he nearly singlehandedly carried into the postseason after forcing his way out of Boston at the July trade deadline.
However, the Dodgers -- for whom Ramirez batted a staggering .396 with 17 home runs, 53 RBIs, and a 1.232 OPS in 53 games last season after coming over from the Red Sox -- have indicated that they are still hopeful of bringing the slugger back to Chavez Ravine this season. And Ramirez's agent, Scott Boras, told MLB.com he expects to resume contract discussions with Los Angeles sometime today.
Ramirez and Boras didn't respond to the Dodgers' two-year, $45 million contract offer earlier in free agency and declined an offer of salary arbitration. Various reports have indicated that Ramirez is looking for at least a four-year deal for approximately $25 million per season. Despite the slumping economy, Boras still expects that Ramirez, by far the best free agent without a job, can still land a multi-year deal.
“Manny is doing fine,” Boras told Yahoo! Sports.com's Tim Brown Tuesday night. Asked if he still believed Ramirez would have a contract by the start of spring training, Boras said, “I don’t really think about a timetable. Anything can be done any day. You just don’t know.”
Then, apparently referring to the Dodgers' 48-hour deadline to accept or reject the one-year offer, Boras said, “What I do know, you better watch out when you’re playing chicken,” Boras reportedly rejected the offer within minutes.
According to the MLB.com report, Boras noted that free agents CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira received lucrative contracts for seven and eight years, respectively. He said that supports Ramirez's desire for a longer deal from the Dodgers. Of course, Ramirez comes with baggage -- he turns 37 in May, and his tumultuous exit from Boston may be a concern to some potential suitors.
"We still have interest in signing Manny," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti told ESPN.com yesterday after the one-year offer was rejected. "Right now we don't have a deadline, but that doesn't mean we're not going to have a deadline. These situations can change in an instant, and anybody can change them in an instant."
But Dodgers owner Frank McCourt seemed to suggest that a long-term offer from the Dodgers is unlikely.
"Two things are clear to me," McCourt told MLB.com Tuesday. "We very much want the player back and we're trying hard. We came up with what we thought was a creative proposal to give him a lot of money, and well deserved in a challenging economy, and give him flexibility if he feels it's important to test free agency next year. I don't see long-term contracts happening in this market we're in.
"The other thing is, the agent [Boras] is challenging to work with and we've tried hard. We've made three efforts and we still have not received a specific number from the agent, and I don't know what to tell you. At some point, you have to move on and start to get ready to win a championship."
"There needs to be closure to this," McCourt added. "We're not done looking at options to signing the player for this season. We'll just take it a step at a time. It should be clear that signing Manny was and is a priority."
The Dodgers are the only team known to have offered Ramirez a contract, although Boras has insisted that other teams are interested. The San Francisco Chronicle's Bruce Jenkins reported this morning that "a source close to the club has indicated the Giants are willing to offer Ramirez two years," but did not offer further details.
The $25 million offer would have made Ramirez the second-highest-paid player in the majors in 2009, behind only the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez.