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Manny Ramirez is drawing the most notice as all teams are eligible to negotiate with free agents starting today.

November 14, 2008|Bill Shaikin on baseball | Shaikin is a Times staff writer.

We come to talk about Manny Ramirez, and the Dodgers, and free agency. Yet we must first talk about cool scented towels.

This is because the Dodgers have forfeited the chance to cite the economic crisis should Ramirez sign elsewhere. If they offer him three years and he takes four years somewhere else, the Dodgers cannot claim they held the line on behalf of their fans.

The Dodgers are freezing prices on season tickets. So are the Houston Astros and the Pittsburgh Pirates -- and the Boston Red Sox, who have sold out every game since 2003. The NFL is cutting the price of playoff tickets.

Commissioner Bud Selig has warned teams not to "get too cocky" on prices in these rocky times. Yet the Dodgers have done just that in setting the prices for their new spring complex in Glendale, Ariz.

For an exhibition game -- for three innings of Matt Kemp and six innings of A.J. Ellis -- the Dodgers are charging $90 for the best seats in the house, $30 and $26 and $24 for everything else between the bases.

The perks of the $90 seats, according to the Dodgers' website, include "complimentary water, sunscreen [and] cool scented towels."

Scott Boras will love that. He'll ask Frank McCourt how the Dodgers can charge their fans beyond top dollar for practice games, then submit a low-ball offer for Ramirez.

And that's too bad, because the Dodgers' offer to Ramirez is perfectly reasonable as a first offer, entirely respectable even as a best offer.

Boras, as the agent, is entitled to scoff at the Dodgers' bid of two years and $45 million. But McCourt, as the owner, is just as entitled to scoff at highly publicized wishes for six years, or for $30 million per year.

We'll see what the market holds for Ramirez starting today, when every other team can bid on him. You don't read breathless reports about such wishes with regard to Mark Teixeira. There is no need to float them. The market will be there for him.

The market does not appear to be there for Ramirez, at least not now, not among the traditional big spenders. The New York Yankees want CC Sabathia. The New York Mets want a closer. The Detroit Tigers want whatever pitching they can get, and cheaply.

The Chicago Cubs have Alfonso Soriano in left field. The Philadelphia Phillies prefer to bring back Pat Burrell. The Boston Red Sox would rather take back Bill Buckner than take back Ramirez.

And, although Angels owner Arte Moreno said a lot of nice things about Ramirez's abilities Wednesday, he said he would let Manager Mike Scioscia and General Manager Tony Reagins discuss whether Ramirez would fit in Anaheim.

"That discussion hasn't taken place," Reagins said Thursday. "Our priority is elsewhere."

So there is no urgency for the Dodgers to "compromise" at four years at $100 million, when they might be bidding against themselves, when even in 2010 no major league outfielder is scheduled to make more than $19 million in base salary.

In the binder Boras prepared for teams, he pitches that "Ramirez joins baseball's uppermost echelon in 2014," projecting him to pass Babe Ruth in home runs in that year and become the all-time leader in runs batted in.

That would come true if, as Boras projects, Ramirez maintains his production of the last four years. But Ramirez turns 37 next year, and he would need 204 homers and 684 RBIs over the next six years to meet those projections.

No player has hit 204 home runs from 37 on, according to Cap Anson is the only player to drive in 684 runs from 37 on -- and he played until he was 45.

This is not to say that the Dodgers can sit tight on their offer. The Mets might well jump in, since the asking price of closers might drop given a supply that expands by the day. The Toronto Blue Jays might bid too, or the Baltimore Orioles, or the Washington Nationals, or the San Francisco Giants.

And Boras could do one thing to help the Dodgers free up more Manny money, and to put a smile on McCourt's face: He could broker a deal to get Andruw Jones out of town. He could see if the Atlanta Braves would take him back, or if the Giants or Kansas City Royals would take another shot after bidding on him last winter.

The Dodgers would have to authorize Boras to broker a trade, then decide what portion of the $22 million still owed to Jones they would pay.

"I can't say it won't happen," Boras said. "I can say there haven't been any suggestions made to us."

The Dodgers have more to handle than Ramirez this winter, much more. They have two vacancies in their starting rotation, with no plan to submit an immediate bid on Sabathia today.

They need a second baseman, shortstop and third baseman, although the Dodgers expect Blake DeWitt could fill second or third. They would like to bring back Rafael Furcal, although they appear more likely to sign Orlando Cabrera to a short-term deal.

So you might need a scorecard to figure out who all the new players are in spring training, from those pricey seats.

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