If you enjoy rampant rumors, false reports, misguided sightings, and a whole heck of a lot of nothing going on in a hotel lobby, then get thee on the next Blue flight to Orlando.
As baseball's general managers mingle this week down on the Disney boardwalk, the reports surrounding Manny Ramirez are coming in so many different directions that sifting fact from fiction is more daunting than trying to figure out whether Ramirez will approve any potential deal. Who knows, by the time the Sox get this thing done, the slugger might go through another one of his epiphanies.
"Heck, they don't even know why Ramirez has asked to be traded through his agent Greg Genske," writes Peter Gammons, "and, since he hasn't talked to anyone with the club they don't know if he'll even go if they do get something done. It would shock no one if, after weeks of bartering, the Red Sox got a deal with a team like the Dodgers and Manny exercised his 10/5 rights or held up the deal, pressuring Genske to get 2009 and 2010 guaranteed at the $20 million per year, per the contract option."
So, here we go, I suppose. Let the Manny Ramirez sweepstakes officially open.
Let's examine the likelihood of some of the possible trading partners…
Dodgers: He could be headed to Los Angeles, which most had assumed was the most likely destination. But after weeks of hearing names of possible players coming to Boston in return, the Red Sox and Dodgers only met just last night to discuss a trade. Ken Rosenthal floats the idea that a package of Brad Penny, third baseman Andy LaRoche and first baseman James Loney might entice the Red Sox.
But there is serious doubt as to whether that's asking for too much from the Dodgers. The LA Times’ Steve Henson appears to be of the thought that this might be a deal that doesn't get done at the meetings in Florida this week, hinting that "the demands might drop as the season approaches," requests he labels "outrageous." He also points out though, that there could be a tug of war going on in the front office. Dodgers manager Grady Little is salivating over the thought of being reunited with Ramirez, while the scouting department would rather not trade outfielder Matt Kemp or Jonathan Broxton.
"I know how to handle Manny Ramírez," he said. "I respect him as a player, and he was a marvelous ballplayer in Boston. There aren't many like him, and the Dodgers need a player of his stature.
"Manny would be a great Christmas present. Who wouldn't want a gift like that?"
This might be the most likely trading partner, but is Toby Hall's inclusion the deal-breaker? More importantly, can you believe we're breathing the words Toby and Hall in thinking about a Manny Ramirez deal?
Likelihood: Most likely among the scenarios
Mariners: The new team on the rumor horizon is a surprise, as the Seattle Times reports the Red Sox might try to pry prospect Adam Jones from the Seattle Mariners in a Ramirez deal. Jones, one of the Mariners’ top prospects, has played center field recently, but could be seen in the Red Sox' mind as a shortstop, which he originally came up as. If Jones is able to be had, one would expect this as a three-way deal of some sort, as expansive Safeco Field isn't exactly an attractive option for Ramirez, while the Mariners are really in the market for pitching.
Likelihood: A longshot
Angels: Despite signing Gary Matthews Jr., the Angels aren't going away either. And frankly, just signing Gary Matthews Jr. shouldn't exactly classify your winter as successful. Writes Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register:
Any deal might force Stoneman to trade from the Angels' area of greatest strength - pitching. A healthy return by 2005 Cy Young award winner Bartolo Colon at some point early next season could swell the starting rotation to six (Colon, John Lackey, Kelvim Escobar and youngsters Ervin Santana, Jered Weaver and Joe Saunders). Speier joins Scot Shields, Brendan Donnelly and Hector Carrasco as setup options in the bullpen.
Too much pitching you say? Sure, so too did the '06 Sox. How'd Bronson Arroyo fare anyhow?
Likelihood: Strong possibility
Padres: Let's forget Peavy, as sources out of SD have confirmed that the Padres won't surrender him in a Manny deal. Bill Madden of the New York Daily News (who says Brian Cashman privately will feel he's had a good winter if he does nothing more and Ramirez is no longer on the Red Sox) brings up Scott Linebrink and Adrian Gonzalez as likely Red Sox targets. Don't buy it.
The San Diego Tribune's Chris Jenkins writes: "Quite absurdly, the Padres are being mentioned among the five teams with interest. Uh-huh. Never mind the more distant fences in San Diego. The goofy slugger would need a GPS and side airbags to navigate an outfield such as Petco's."
Intriguing, but not going to happen.
Likelihood: Highly improbable
The White Sox: If you believe the rumors, Chicago GM Kenny Williams might be in the market for one of Alex Rodriguez, Vernon Wells, or Ramirez. Chicago has the pitching depth to pull a deal off, but the possibility that A-Rod and Wells might be trade bait can't sit well with the Red Sox, who'll face stiff competition from the Yankees and Blue Jays in not being able to maximize the returns for Ramirez. Demand too much, and what's to stop the likes of the Dodgers from turning to one of the other two options, without the "Manny being Manny" headaches. At the very least, the Yankees and Blue Jays will want to float the names of their star players just to limit what Boston gets back.
Likelihood: It’s a possibility
Phillies: Randy Miller of Phillyburbs.com says forget it: "Besides, the Phillies were told by Boston's big wigs last month that Ramirez will not be given away. So even if the Phils decided to make a run at Ramirez, they might have to part with young left-hander Cole Hamels to get a deal done, and there's no chance they'll go that route."
Likelihood: No way
Red Sox: Hey, crazier things have happened. Like every year for the past three when we start talking about this same topic.
Likelihood: Like we said, stranger things have happened