Manny rejects Dodgers again for the fourth time

Ed. Note: The post originally scheduled for the overnight — about the new patch on the Yankee hats — will be back at 9:30 a.m. Since Manny’s rejection is timely, we wanted to toss this up as soon as we could.

I’m beginning to wonder if Manuel Aristides Ramirez actually wants to play baseball this year. For the fourth time this winter, Manny and Scott Boras have rejected an offer from the Dodgers. The latest one was a one-year offer for $25 million with a player option for 2010 at $20 million, and from the sound of it, Frank McCourt isn’t too keen to jump back to the table.

“We love Manny Ramirez,” the Dodgers owner said in a statement last night. “And we want Manny back, but we feel we are negotiating against ourselves. When his agent finds those ‘serious offers’ from other clubs, we’ll be happy to re-start the negotiations. Even with an economy that has substantially eroded since last November, out of respect for Manny and his talents, we actually improved our offer. So now, we start from scratch.”

While the Giants remain on the periphery of the Great Manny Chase, I’m beginning to wonder if Manny isn’t going to be somewhat forced to sit out. By rejecting the Dodgers again, Boras has made sure that he won’t get a comparable offer from any time. Maybe Manny should stay in top shape and wait until teams come a-knockin’ in June for that playoff drive push. Who knows which team might be able to use one of the game’s best right-handed sluggers ever by then?

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The life and times of Scott Boras

A year ago, Scott Boras and Alex Rodriguez suffered through a public and personal divorce. While A-Rod‘s opt-out resulted in a $270-million, 10-year deal from the Yanks, his timing — in the middle of Game 4 of the World Series — earned him universal baseball scorn. With another top client jobless as Spring Training begins, Boras is again on the receiving end of some bad press.

According to a report in the Dominican-based Impacto Deportivo, Manny Ramirez may be on the verge of jettisoning Boras as his agent this week. The free agent could attempt to handle negotiations himself.

For Scott Boras, losing Manny Ramirez at this point in his career wouldn’t be the biggest loss to the agency business. After all, Mark Teixeira, also a Boras client, just landed himself a $180-million, eight-year deal. Boras will draw a far bigger commission from that one Teixeira deal than he will throughout the rest of Manny’s career.

But on the other hand, Boras seems to play a dangerous game with his clients. He tried to steal the spotlight for A-Rod in 2007, and he completely misread the Manny market this year. Teams seem to be getting wise to his dealings. It’s tough to convince a GM that some unknown team is also in on the GM’s top target when the GM is expecting Boras to drop that line.

So instead, Boras the agent tells his clients that he can get them a better deal. Turn down the two-year, $40-million option; turn down the two-year, $45-million offer; turn down the one-year, $25-million offer. Somewhere out there is a three-year offer, and somewhere out there are a bunch of fans who aren’t going to look too kindly on a player haggling over a few million dollars while the American economy hits a recession.

Manny will probably land with the Dodgers. Joe Torre is expecting him, and the team is holding open a locker for the slugger. But he looks bad, and Boras’ players are finally deciding that perhaps the bad press just isn’t worth it. As teams grow tougher, it will be interesting to see how Boras maintains his empire. He didn’t get to the top without smarts, and he’ll have to adapt. It’s all part of the game of the business of baseball.

Cash: Yanks at payroll limit

The Yanks may have won the winter, but it didn’t come cheap. Speaking at a charity event last night, Brian Cashman addressed the Yanks’ off-season spending and said that the team is done with the big contracts this year.

David Waldstein from The Times covered the Yankee GM’s appearance:

Cashman spoke for nearly two hours to a capacity audience of 164 people at the Jacob Burns Film Center on behalf of Ed Randall’s Bat for the Cure foundation to benefit prostate cancer research. He talked at length about George Steinbrenner, Manny Ramírez, the 2004 collapse against the Red Sox, the Yankees’ center-field situation and past failures regarding pitching and minor-league development…

Regarding the current Yankees, Cashman said he was looking only to sign some nonroster invitees to spring training, and did not expect any major moves between now and the beginning of camp. “I fully expect to go to spring training with what we’ve got,” he said. “And that’s a good thing.”

Cashman took a question about why he was not pursuing Ramírez, and he said that he simply could not afford it after spending so freely during the off-season. “People expect us to get in on Manny, but it’s not going to happen,” Cashman said. “We’re in the nonroster invitee mode…He’s a great player, but when you look at our payroll, we’re tapped.”

Considering how the Yanks’ payroll appears to be right around $192.5 million heading into Spring Training, Cash’s words ring true. This time, there will be no stealth, 11th-hour signing of Manny Ramirez, and as Scott Boras and the Dodgers square off, Manny is in danger of losing his negotiating leverage.

Meanwhile, with the Yanks committed to their current roster, that means the starting center fielder come Opening Day will be either Melky Cabrera or Brett Gardner. Cashman expects the two to fight it out and egg each other on this season. I’d be more comfortable with a better player anchoring that spot.

But that’s that. Now bring on Spring Training.

The Manny/Matsui divide

It’s been a while 24 hours since we last checked in on Manny Ramirez, and, well, there have been some interesting developments that could impact the Yanks.

According to the latest from various sources, succinctly summarized for us by MLBTR, the Dodgers have extended a one-year, $25-million offer to Manny. The Dodgers have also made this a conditional offer: Manny and Scott Boras have 48 hours to accept it or Ramirez will once again be left offer-less with around ten days left until pitchers and catchers report.

In a way, a one-year deal from Los Angeles would be exactly what the vocal group of Yankee fans who want to see Manny arrive in the Bronx want. As iYankees noted earlier, the Yankees will be looking for a full-time DH following the 2009 season. Hideki Matsui will be a free agent, unlikely to return; Johnny Damon will be a free agent, unlikely to return; and Xavier Nady will be a free agent with his return contingent upon his 2009 season. Manny would, to quote Buster Olney, be a perfect fit for the Yankees in tens months.

For now, though, it seems highly unlikely that the future Hall of Famer will wind up in the Bronx. Next off-season, we can debate the virtues and pitfalls of courting a then-37-year-old Manny, but for now, let’s look at production just because. Last year, splitting his time between L.A. and Boston, Manny hit .332/.430/.601 with a combined 164 OPS+ in 153 games. He was by and large the best offensive player in the game last year.

Meanwhile, in the American League, DHs hardly fulfilled half of their collective role. AL DHs as a group hit .256/.339/.435, and the Yanks’ various DHs hit .282/.378/.461. That’s a respectable total, but is it a realistic goal for 2009?

Last year, in limited duty, Matsui hit .294/.370/.424 with a 108 OPS+. This year, he’ll be the Yanks’ primary DH with Jorge Posada, Damon, Nady and Nick Swisher filling out the rotation. This disparity — 50 OPS+ points and a whopping .140 slugging difference — is why, if the Yanks had the money and the will to land Manny, they should. When a player offers that much of an upgrade, a GM deals with a logjam on the roster after improving the team.

Of course, this is reality and not fantasy baseball. As rich as the Yanks are, they are still constrained by the realities of the economy in Feb. 2009. They’ve spent a lot of money and can’t spend more. But if Manny takes this one-year offer and excels in L.A. this year, the Yanks, with money coming off of their books, and their fans can have this debate all over again.

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Update: Manny has already turned down the Dodgers’ offer. Twice, Los Angeles has put an offer out there, and twice, the Ramirez camp has turned it down. No other team has yet to offer the slugger a deal this winter.

Musings on Manny

As the Steelers sealed the Super Bowl deal tonight, pitchers and catchers started eying their calendars. In less than two weeks, these players will head to points warm for the annual Spring Training rite. While their position player brethren will join them a few days later, a few key players remain unemployed.

Former Yankee Bobby Abreu is still waiting for a job, and Adam Dunn remains unsigned. But the one of the bigger on-field catchers of the Hot Stove League is still out there. After ensuring that options worth a combined $40 million wouldn’t be exercised, Manny Ramirez is still a free agent looking for work.

It’s surprising, in a way, that Manny is still out there. He’s a career .314/.411/.593 hitter with a 155 OPS+. Age hasn’t slowed him down too much, and had Mark Teixeira landed in Boston, he’d probably be Bronx-bound right now. But as fate would have it, Manny, persona non grata on the one team that could really use him, has suffered from the poor economy.

According to the latest reports, Manny may find that a two-year, $30-million offer is the best he can do. It’s hard to imagine Ramirez happy with that deal. It does seem to be all about the money for him.

So I have to wonder about the Yanks. I know the team is, according to GM Brian Cashman, done with their free agent signings. I know they want to get younger all around and better defensively. I know they have too many outfielders. Could the team really pass up Manny at $15 million per though? Travis at Pinstripe Alley pondered this question over the weekend, and I’m almost tempted to agree. Manny the bat is an appealing target, and if the price drops, who could say no?

Manny and the Yanks, revised

In a meandering column on the potential landing spots for Manny Ramirez, Bill Madden revisits the Yankees as once and former potential destination for the slugger. On page two of the column, he writes that the Yanks were “ready to go at least two years and an option for Manny” had they not signed in Mark Teixeira. As we all know, Teixeira landed in New York, and in my opinion, the Yanks were better off for it.

Manny probably won’t retire after all

Now that Manny Ramirez and Scott Boras know that the market for the slugger isn’t as robust as they hoped, the dynamic duo has gone crawling back to the Dodgers. While Boras still contends that a market for Manny will soon materialize, I wonder if they’ll be able to get the Dodgers to put that generous two-year, $45-million offer back on the table. Everyone in baseball knows that Ned Colletti will be competing with himself for the services of Ramirez.