Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Manny takes physical, completes deal
LOS ANGELES -- The winter of discontent in Mannywood is over.
Manny Ramirez and the Los Angeles Dodgers officially agreed Wednesday on a $45 million, two-year contract that keeps him with the NL West champions. The slugger can void the second season of the deal and again become a free agent.
The stalemate was broken during a 6 a.m. meeting that brought the sides face-to-face at owner Frank McCourt's Malibu home. The gathering came after weeks of protracted negotiations that led to starts, stops, offers and subsequent rejections.
At times, McCourt's frustration with Ramirez's agent Scott Boras surfaced, with the owner describing the agent as "challenging to work with."
All that was forgotten on a rainy late-winter morning when Ramirez surfaced in the Malibu mist to rejoin the team and city that embraced him after he left Boston at the July 31 trade deadline.
"We got a great meeting," Ramirez told KCAL-TV as he emerged from a mandatory physical in suburban Inglewood. "I'm happy to be here. We got some unfinished business, and that's why I'm here."
The Dodgers confirmed the deal shortly after Ramirez passed the physical. He was set to meet with the media Thursday morning in Phoenix.
Ramirez gets $10 million this year, and $15 million in deferred money with no interest. A plan the sides discussed would have it payable in $5 million installments each from 2010 through 2012. If it winds up as a two-year deal, the plan called for $10 million each season, with three payments of $8,333,333 each from 2011-13.
Ramirez has until November to decide whether to void the second season.
"Throughout his free agency, Manny directed me to pursue a deal with the Dodgers, and in the final moments it was clear both sides wanted to complete the process," Boras said.
Los Angeles' original offer was for $45 million in guaranteed money, including a $4 million buyout of a 2011 option, and gave the Dodgers the ability to maintain control of Ramirez over three years. It also did not include the no-trade provision.
Ramirez will make a $1 million commitment to the Dodgers Dream Foundation as part of the deal.
"We are thrilled that Manny wants to be a Dodger and that he has made such a tremendous commitment to the Los Angeles community," McCourt said in a statement. "We witnessed something very special last year in the way that our fans connected with him and the manner in which the team came together. Now, we focus our complete and undivided attention on our primary goal, winning a world championship."
The left fielder was believed to be seeking a four- or five-year deal that would take him through the end of his career. He turns 37 in May.
When the Dodgers were eliminated, he said he wanted to see the highest bid.
"Gas is up and so am I," Ramirez said at the time.
But Ramirez found it tough going in a recession-plagued free agent market, with the Dodgers the only team to acknowledge pursuing the 12-time All-Star. Boras said aggressiveness by teams "was certainly accompanied by a focus on the economy."
"When you're a free agent, you always have to adjust to variables and that may include a different team or circumstance or a different event," he said. "And certainly, my advice to my clients is that the time and the place and the amount are always predicated more on market dynamics than often a player's truest value as measured by statistics in the major league system."
Ramirez helped Los Angeles win the division by hitting .396 with 17 homers and 53 RBIs in 53 regular-season games. In the playoffs, he batted .520 with four homers, 10 RBIs, nine runs and 11 walks in eight games.
"We all wanted the same thing and that's what was apparent to me," said Dodgers manager Joe Torre, who left spring training in Arizona with general manager Ned Colletti to attend the Malibu get-together.
"After last year and the time he spent with us, we knew we wanted him back. It was just a matter of finding that common ground," Torre said. "As Ned said, you talk on the phone and to different people, you need to get face-to-face. It was a real good meeting. There was a lot of comfortable conversation."
Torre, Colletti and McCourt joined Boras and the agent's assistant at the session that took about three hours for the deal to fall into place.
"There was not one uncomfortable moment," Colletti said upon returning to Arizona later in the day. "It was more designed to put the personality back into the picture instead of just the negotiations. Manny seemed very happy and excited about the possibility, and I thought it was very good."
Torre described Ramirez as "chomping at the bit" to rejoin the Dodgers.
"We're trying to build a team here that fights together and sticks together and so it was imperative that we sit down with who would obviously be a very important member of the team," Colletti said.
Los Angeles announced last week that Ramirez declined its latest offer, a $25 million, one-year contract with a $20 million player option for 2010. That deal would have included deferred payments of $10 million each in 2011 and 2012 and $5 million in 2013.
Boras countered with a proposal that included no deferred money, leaving the sides about $3 million apart in present-day value.
At the time the Dodgers acquired him from Boston, Ramirez's contract was amended to eliminate the $20 million team options it included for 2009 and 2010. The new agreement leaves him with a small increase but likely fell short of what Ramirez hoped to gain on the free-agent market.
Colletti initially tried to re-sign Ramirez, offering a two-year, $45 million deal with a buyout or a club option that was ignored by Boras and later withdrawn by the team.
The Dodgers' second attempt involved salary arbitration in December, but Ramirez said no to that, too.
Ramirez was MVP of the 2004 World Series -- Boston's first championship since 1918 -- and helped the Red Sox to another title in 2007. But he often failed to run hard to first base on grounders and repeatedly said he didn't want to play for Boston, which lured him from Cleveland after the 2000 season with a $160 million, eight-year contract.
But it was a different story after Ramirez arrived in what quickly became known as Mannywood.
Besides his hitting, he made a huge impact on the Dodgers' bottom line, with a big boost in attendance and souvenir sales, including No. 99 jerseys and fake dreadlocks.
Preparations for Ramirez's arrival at Camelback Ranch were already under way. The nameplate on the clubhouse locker next to shortstop Rafael Furcal's went from being blank to having "Reserved #" attached to it.
"I had people calling me from the Dominican saying that Manny had signed but how they know, I'm here and I don't know. Then I came in and saw [the nameplate], and I knew something was up," Furcal said.
"A guy like Manny, you learn a lot of stuff from him. He's the best hitter in the game. Everyone is happy."
Ramirez's fun-loving attitude created a noticeable change in the Dodgers' clubhouse last season, and infielder Blake DeWitt expects the same again.
"He's one of, if not the best, hitter in the game, and a guy like that has a ripple effect," he said. "We have a great group and when you add a guy like that who has fun and keeps everyone loose it's just going to make it that much better. It rubs off."