Manny Ramirez, reportedly, has drawn a line in the sand. He wants $25MM in 2009 with a player option for $20MM in 2010, none of it deferred, and he won’t accept a penny less.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, are reportedly ready to start decreasing their offer to Ramirez, to bring it more in line with his actual market value. They’ve realised, finally, there’s no point in bidding against themselves.
Who’ll blink first?
The danger for the Dodgers is that the team will get off to a slow start and the fans’ clamoring for Ramirez will become such a distraction that it will torpedo the season.
The danger for Ramirez is that the Dodgers will get off to a fast start and he’ll end up sitting on the sideline all season long, or have to settle for significantly less money than he was originally offered.
There’s also this: if Ramirez sits out long enough, the Dodgers might decide to wait to trade for an impact bat instead of forking over millions of dollars for an aging left fielder with a history of erratic behavior and absolutely no defensive value.
That’s what I’d do.
Now, one of the advantages of signing Ramirez is that you don’t have to forfeit a draft pick. But with the economy tanking it’s increasingly likely that a slew of teams will be looking to move expensive contracts. The Dodgers, if they don’t sign Ramirez, could be in a position to take on one or more expensive players, and their willingness to do so will probably mean the cost in terms of young talent will be very low.
Who’s going to be available this summer? Baseball Prospectus projects the White Sox will finish in last place. If they’re far behind in June or July you can bet Jermaine Dye will be traded. He’s got a mutual-option for 2010 that likely won’t be picked up by the team.
The Astros are projected to finish in fifth place in the six-team NL Central and are acting like a team with serious financial concerns. Could Lance “Big Puma” Berkman be available midseason? He’s signed through 2010 with a $15MM club option for 2011. That’s a lot of money, but it’s a fraction of what Ramirez is demanding. And Berkman is a far more versatile fielder than Manny.
The Padres will trade Brian Giles before the end of the year. Meanwhile, another bad start for the Tigers and Magglio Ordonez will likely be sent packing.
If the Rays can’t keep up with the Red Sox and Yankees then Carl Crawford could be on the move. Billy Beane’s done a lot of good work in Oakland, but if the A’s struggle Matt Holliday is a goner. Then there are the Cardinals, who might decide to trade Rick Ankiel even if they’re playing well. Gotta make room for Colby Rasmus somehow.
In other words, there will be plenty of trade options.
Beane says the first half of the season is for figuring out what you need and getting it. The Dodgers have three months to get a good idea of their strengths and weaknesses. They could rush into signing Ramirez before the end of spring training, but I think it would be a lot smarter to wait.