With negotiations between the Dodgers and Manny Ramirez having reached a temporary impasse, a new potential home for the controversial slugger emerged Wednesday, and it's freeway close.
Angels owner Arte Moreno may have shut the door on record-setting closer Francisco Rodriguez when he said, "We're turning the page on this one," but he did not rule out the possibility of pursuing Ramirez if the Angels are unable to retain free-agent first baseman Mark Teixeira, their top priority this winter.
"He single-handedly took L.A. to the promised land," Moreno, in an interview with AM-830 at the Angels Baseball Foundation Golf Classic in Newport Beach, said of Ramirez, 36.
"He did a heck of a job, he hit great, he was a fan favorite, he did a great job with their young players. At the end of the day, you want people who can hit, and he may be one of the top right-handed hitters ever."
Ramirez can start fielding financial offers from other teams Friday. Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti told the agent for Ramirez that the team's proposal for a two-year, $45-million deal with a third-year option that could push the package to $60 million, could be withdrawn by then.
But Scott Boras, who represents Ramirez, made it clear that the Dodgers would need to sweeten their deal when he said, "On behalf of Manny Ramirez, we will, for the first time, begin accepting serious financial offers on Friday."
There are indications the Dodgers' efforts to re-sign Ramirez, who led the team to its first National League Championship Series in 20 years, won't end Friday.
A team source, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the negotiations, said that owner Frank McCourt would be open to improving his offer by guaranteeing a third year.
"It's not surprising that he would want to test the market," Colletti said of Boras. "It's in his history, and it was expected."
Ramirez has a big fan in Moreno, who might have a substantial void in his lineup if Teixeira, another Boras client, departs.
The switch-hitter batted .358 with a .449 on-base percentage, 13 homers and 43 runs batted in for the Angels after a July 29 trade from Atlanta, and he could be the object of a bidding war between the Angels, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals.
Could Ramirez, who hit .396 with 17 homers and 53 RBIs in 53 games with the Dodgers after a July 31 trade from Boston, replace Teixeria's big bat in the Angels lineup?
Could the oft-maligned left fielder, who was accused of not playing hard last summer to force the Red Sox to trade him, fit in with the Angels?
"That's a question for Mike and Tony," Moreno said, referring to Manager Mike Scioscia and General Manager Tony Reagins. "For us, Manny hits. He's a clutch guy. He did a great job with Boston, and he did a great job with the Dodgers. Some people just hit, whether they're 30, 32 or 37. And I think he's better fitted for the American League because we have the designated hitter."
Moreno's feelings toward Rodriguez weren't as warm and fuzzy. The chances of the Angels retaining the closer went from slim to virtually none Wednesday, the Angels appearing to have exhausted their efforts to retain the free-agent right-hander.
The Angels thought they had an agreement with Rodriguez on a three-year, $34-million deal last November, but he turned it down after Yankees closer Mariano Rivera signed a three-year, $45-million contract.
Rodriguez, who was 2-3 with a 2.24 earned-run average in 69 games in 2008 and set a major league record with 62 saves, is looking for a deal of four or five years at $15 million a year.
"Believe it or not, we really spent a lot of time and effort trying to re-sign Frankie," Moreno told AM-830. "There were six different offers on the table at different times, and this time last year, we thought we had him signed. Then Rivera got his deal. I'm not one of these never-never people, but I think as a whole, it's time to turn the page and move forward and get to things we need to do."
The Angels plan to offer Rodriguez arbitration Dec. 1 so they can receive a first-round draft pick and a sandwich pick after the first round as compensation for losing the 26-year-old, who is expected to draw heavy interest from the New York Mets.
The arbitration offer also leaves a crack in the door for a possible return for Rodriguez, who could sign a one-year deal with the Angels if he is unhappy with the offers he receives elsewhere.
If Rodriguez departs, a pair of right-handed setup men, veteran Scot Shields and rookie Jose Arredondo, would be in line to replace him, but Moreno said the Angels would also pursue another reliever in free agency or by trade.