Ramirez and the Dodgers could be closing in

PHOENIX – Manny Ramirez wants his money, and he wants it now. That’s what the late-night emails and last-minute posturing are all about. The Los Angeles Dodgers likely will fork it over, and Ramirez will be in uniform in time to get more than enough spring training at-bats.

Two-year, $45 million offers apparently come wrapped different ways, and Ramirez wants the package that would pay him $25 million in 2009 and $20 million in 2010, with an opt-out clause after the first year.

The Dodgers have put forth vastly different versions of 2/45. Their first offer in November would have paid Ramirez $15 million in 2009 and $22.5 million in 2010. It included a $7.5 million buyout on a $22.5 million club option for 2011.

Their 2/45 offer this week was far different, according to a baseball source. First reported by the L.A. Times, $10 million would be paid in 2009, another $10 million in 2010, and the other $25 million would be deferred over the following three years – without interest.

The Dodgers have been deferring salary and backloading contracts lately, a curious financial strategy when so many of their top young players will be due huge raises in a few years. Maybe owner Frank McCourt believes he’ll gain additional revenue from adding restaurants, retail stores, condos and, oh, a football stadium on his property next to Dodger Stadium. But that’s a topic for another day.

Ramirez won’t be anywhere near L.A. in 2011 and beyond, so none of that concerns him. One reason he wants to be paid more than $20 million in 2009 and at least $20 million in 2010 is because he already turned his back on those amounts when the Boston Red Sox traded him to the Dodgers in July. His contract that expired at the end of last season had club options at $20 million for each of the next two years, and as a stipulation to the trade he had them stricken.

He also fired his agent and hired Boras. So in order to make those moves appear rational in hindsight, Ramirez must get at least as much as he turned his back on. Plus a commission for Boras, thank you very much.

Which puts us back at $45 million over two years, but without the deferred nonsense. The Dodgers can cross this bridge – their payroll without Ramirez is only about $70 million, $48 million less than in 2007.

And speaking of nonsense, how about the emails to multiple media outlets Thursday night, first from the Dodgers, then from Boras? The Dodgers clearly believe that the best way to deal with Boras is to trumpet each of their offers from the highest mountaintop. They certainly didn’t do this during negotiations for non-Boras clients such as Rafael Furcal, Casey Blake, Orlando Hudson and Randy Wolf.

The Dodgers’ email neglected to mention the deferred money and certainly didn’t mention that all of the team’s offers to Ramirez this offseason included deferred money.

Contrary to his usual cards-close-to-the-vest M.O., Boras responded in kind, writing, “We are continuing to work within the scope of the parameters established during our discussion Wednesday afternoon at Dodger Stadium, which included a two-year term and ability for the player to void the contract after the first year.

“Per that face-to-face meeting, we agreed to continue to have discussions until Friday at noon, which included our two proposals today, our most recent at two years, $45 million. We are waiting to hear their response.”

Translation: Hey! We’ve backed off that four-year, $100 million request. We know the economy has tanked. We aren’t delusional. Manny will take the $45 million, already. Just give it to him over the next two years.

Boras felt the need to clarify because McCourt was quoted in the earlier Dodgers email as saying, “We love Manny Ramirez 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.”

Boras neglected to mention in his email that his first counter-offer Thursday – the one the Dodgers say prompted their email – was for more than $45 million. Only later in the night did he come back with the 2/45.

And McCourt couldn’t resist taking a slap at Boras’ response to the Dodgers’ November offer, when the agent referred to the fact that Ramirez would be able to negotiate with teams other than the Dodgers by saying, “Beginning Friday I will, for the first time, take serious offers.”

There were none, we all know. As hard as Boras tried to engage the San Francisco Giants, they aren’t biting.

Maybe McCourt’s wisecrack is a positive sign. Maybe that’s how he and Boras roll, after their rollicking negotiations the last several years for many players, from Derek Lowe and J.D. Drew to Greg Maddux and Andruw Jones. Some have been contentious, some disastrous, some gratifying.

None lasted as long or integrated the oddities of this one. But if the result is Manny Ramirez batting cleanup for the Dodgers, with the stands full of fans wearing faux dreadlocks and Ramirez jerseys, McCourt and Boras will be wearing something too – satisfied smiles.

Steve Henson is a Senior Writer and Editor for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter.
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Updated Friday, Feb 27, 2009