General managers convene, Boras presides

Tim Brown
Yahoo! Sports

Scott Boras is only a day away from what he calls, "setting up my little Popsicle stand" at baseball's general manager meetings, which will be held at the St. Regis Resort Monarch Beach in Dana Point, Calif., once home to the AIG bail-out party and new home to the Manny Ramirez coming-out party.

Among Boras' other freezer flavors: Mark Teixeira, Derek Lowe, Oliver Perez, Jason Varitek and Eric Gagne.

In a wobbly global economy, at a time New York Yankees officials are said to be genuinely concerned about the pace of season-ticket sales in their new ballpark, and with GMs looking at a bottom-heavy free-agent class, Boras believes he has the financial remedy in Ramirez and, to a slightly lesser degree, Teixeira.

"It is a rare market where you have two position players that will pay for themselves," said the agent, whose Newport Beach office is a short drive from Dana Point. "And these are franchise players who not only pay for themselves, but make a difference on the field."

In going on three decades of player representation, Boras said, only two of his previous clients – Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez – have held similar "iconic value."

Ramirez, in particular, he contended, would bring an organization revenue at least equal to that of his salary, whatever that might be. Hard to argue after witnessing Ramirez's three-month impact as a Dodger. Boras wouldn't speculate, but it's fair to assume he expects Ramirez to draw offers of $25 million or more over at least three years.

As Manny gleefully said on his way out of L.A. after batting nearly .400 for the Dodgers in the regular season and more than .500 in the postseason, "Gas is up and so am I."

He earned $20 million in 2008 and his contract held $20 million options for the next two seasons until extricating himself from them at the trading deadline.

Along with Teixeira and lefty CC Sabathia, Ramirez, even at 36 years old, stands at the front of this free-agent class. The roster drops rather quickly after those three, from team-altering to useful and finally to passable.

Assuming the well-heeled franchises believe the new Manny is here to stay, expect the early activity around Ramirez to be healthy.

The Dodgers are in, or at least in enough to ensure they finish second in the bidding. Dodger fans have been trudging dutifully to Dodger Stadium for years with little in return and expect Manny in left field as payback for their loyalty. It could have some bearing that Ned Colletti had a hand in extending Bonds' contract in San Francisco by five years when Bonds was 38, a deal that worked out in terms of revenue and production if not necessarily overall organizational happiness. Ramirez, like Bonds, brings the bat that lasts forever.

Having lived a season without a formidable bat in the middle of their lineup, the Giants are believed to be considering Barry II, in the form of Manny I. Especially at a time of Zito 126,000,000.

The New York teams have to, at least, price out Ramirez, as they both need outfielders, though not nearly as much as they need pitching.

The Mets' priorities, in something like this order, are for a closer (Francisco Rodriguez or Brian Fuentes), starting pitching that doesn't cost as much as Johan Santana (which leaves them out on Sabathia, but in on Lowe, A.J. Burnett, Perez and Ryan Dempster), middle relief and a left fielder. Omar Minaya was strangely passive regarding an available Ramirez at the trading deadline and the organization has great hope for prospect Fernando Martinez, but the Mets might not be able to resist Ramirez in free agency. They soothed the previous September by acquiring Santana. Now there's another September to soothe and, like the Yankees, a new ballpark to fill.

The Yankees' plan is to go hard on Sabathia, Burnett (if he opts out of his contract with the Toronto Blue Jays, as he is expected to do), Fuentes and Teixeira. Expiring contracts have left them a $90 million surplus. They also seem ready to act like the Yankees again after a season in which the new organizational philosophy left them out of the playoffs. They bring a new, assertive Steinbrenner who, like the old man, never saw a hole he didn't think couldn't be stuffed with money. There are questions as to whether Sabathia could be content pitching in New York, and Fuentes would willingly enter into a set-up role until Mariano Rivera retires. Regardless, the Yankees will again be huge players in free agency, nothing over until the Yankees say it's over. Just like the old days.

Indeed, if Sabathia is willing, it is difficult to imagine him anywhere but in the Bronx. The Yankees are desperate for him and almost certainly will top the six-year, $137.5 million contract Santana received across town last offseason. The Milwaukee Brewers will take their shot. So will everyone else with a financial pulse and a void near the top of their rotation, organizations such as the Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers, Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox.

But, as usual, Ramirez will run the Popsicle stand, or at least provide the flavor. If not the Dodgers or the Giants or in some corner of New York, then, the Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles, White Sox or Philadelphia Phillies. He undoubtedly is better suited for the American League, where his legs – and enthusiasm for chasing balls into the gap – would be allowed to die in peace. That's where the longer-term contract offers – four and five years – probably lie.

But, the Dodgers also stand to lose Lowe, Rafael Furcal, Casey Blake and Brad Penny, along with various other sometime contributors (Jeff Kent, Nomar Garciaparra, Greg Maddux, etc.). After Ramirez conducted the late-season run that drove them to the NLCS, the Dodgers simply couldn't return to Andruw Jones and Juan Pierre, could they? They couldn't return to the gloom of the previous 20 years, could they?

Not in these times. Not when the price of a Popsicle just went up again. Not to mention gas.

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