FROM LAS VEGAS — Ned Colletti ran into CC Sabathia in the hallway here, and this is what Sabathia said: I want to be a Dodger.
This, remember, is what Manny Ramirez said the last time anyone with the Dodgers saw him: "I want to see who is the highest bidder."
And this is what Frank McCourt has often said: He wants players who want to be Dodgers, and he wants the Dodgers to weave themselves into the fabric of the community.
So McCourt ought to back up his words with a contract offer, one that would make Sabathia the highest-paid player in franchise history.
The New York Yankees met with Sabathia here, and so did the Boston Red Sox and Milwaukee Brewers. The Angels did not, but they're not short on pitching.
The Dodgers did not, Colletti said.
What are they waiting for?
The Dodgers need an ace in the starting rotation, in the clubhouse and in the community. Sabathia dedicates himself to all three.
He wants to come home, to pitch in California, to play in the National League, although not so desperately that he'll sign a three-year contract when the Yankees have offered him six.
The Dodgers have been burned so often by Colletti's multiyear free-agent signings -- injuries to Jason Schmidt, Rafael Furcal, Nomar Garciaparra and Bill Mueller, poor performances by Andruw Jones and Brett Tomko and the superfluousness of Juan Pierre -- that McCourt understandably is wary of the kind of proposal Sabathia would take seriously.
Yet Colletti said a "special circumstance" could compel the Dodgers to extend an offer beyond their general limit of three years.
He said he has discussed the possibility of bidding five years -- or longer -- with McCourt, but with no authorization to actually do so.
"We haven't gotten to that point yet," Colletti said.
The Yankees are at $140 million, and they could go higher. The Dodgers should come close, on behalf of the crowds that pack their stadium year in and year out, on behalf of the fans asked to pay regular-season prices for spring training games, on behalf of the customers seated anywhere above field level who must wait at least until 2010 for long-promised upgrades to concourses, restrooms and concession stands.
Ramirez isn't going to sign before Mark Teixeira does. Do the Dodgers want to hold their winter hostage to a guy whose loyalty lies with the dollar bill?
Sabathia wants to be a Dodger. If that really means something to McCourt, then he should go get him. Sabathia devotes himself to reviving youth baseball in urban areas, so the Dodgers couldn't beat this deal: Sign him for $130 million, and he'll build 50 youth fields by himself.
in Vegas . . .
News and chatter from Major League Baseball's winter meetings, today through Thursday, on the Fabulous Forum.
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