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Dodgers say they will continue pursuing Manny Ramirez

Colletti says the club still has 'an interest in signing Manny.' No deadline has been set in negotiations with the All-Star outfielder.

February 04, 2009|Bill Shaikin and Dylan Hernandez

On the day after Manny Ramirez said no to the Dodgers, a host of potential suitors all but lined up to say no to him.

As owner Frank McCourt warned Tuesday that the Dodgers might soon end talks with Ramirez and predicted the team could return to the playoffs without him, the Dodgers appeared confident that no other team would offer him a lucrative long-term contract.

A day after Ramirez rejected the Dodgers' third bid to sign him -- a one-year offer for $25 million -- the club did not engage in contract discussions with outfielders Bobby Abreu and Adam Dunn or infielder Orlando Hudson, players they could pursue should they move on from Ramirez.

Peter Greenberg, the agent for Abreu, said he called Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti Tuesday morning. Colletti renewed the Dodgers' interest in Abreu but indicated they had not abandoned hope of retaining Ramirez, according to Greenberg.

Colletti said he did not talk Tuesday with Greg Genske, the agent for Dunn and Hudson, and had not had any recent discussions "of substance" about those players. Genske did not return a call for comment.

McCourt declined to say whether the money reserved for Ramirez could be spent on other players. He said he did not foresee Ramirez getting a long-term contract and expressed frustration with Scott Boras, the agent for Ramirez.

"His agent is challenging to work with," said McCourt, speaking at the City of Hope Hospital in Duarte as part of a Dodgers' community outreach program. "It's been over three months, and [we're] two weeks away from spring training, and we still have not received a specific number from the agent.

"At some point in time, it's time to move on."

If the Dodgers move on from Ramirez -- or vice versa -- the market for the All-Star outfielder appears limited at best. The San Francisco Giants have expressed interest in Ramirez, but not in the long-term contract Boras continues to seek.

And, in an extraordinary series of comments from around the country, the teams widely considered most likely to jump into the Ramirez sweepstakes followed his rejection of the Dodgers' latest offer by declaring their lack of interest in signing him.

From Angels spokesman Tim Mead: "No Manny Ramirez for us."

From Washington Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden, to mlb.com: "We are not pursuing Manny Ramirez."

From New York Mets General Manager Omar Minaya, to reporters at a news conference announcing the signing of Oliver Perez: "That's it. There aren't going to be any more big moves after this."

From New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman, to the Associated Press: "We're not planning on any major league free agents."

In November, the Dodgers offered Ramirez two years and $45 million, then withdrew the offer. In December, they offered a one-year contract via salary arbitration. On Sunday, they offered one year for $25 million.

"This offer was rejected, the arbitration was rejected and the first offer, we didn't even get an answer for that one," McCourt said.

"We very much want this player back and we're trying hard to do that, which is why we came up with something that we thought was creative, that gave him a lot of money -- well-deserved money -- in a very, very challenging economy but also gave him flexibility.

"I don't see the long-term contract happening in this particular baseball market that we're in."

Boras, who said last week that he was negotiating with several clubs on behalf of Ramirez, declined to say Tuesday whether that still was true. He said his agency had communicated with the Dodgers "at least 40 times" this winter, and that he expected to resume contract talks with Colletti today.

Boras said Ramirez merited a long-term contract, noting that economic conditions did not prevent Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Derek Lowe and Ryan Dempster from signing deals this winter, each worth more than $50 million.

The agent also said Ramirez should be paid comparably to Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez averages $27.5 million for 10 years, Teixeira $22.5 million for eight years. Boras is believed to be seeking at least four years for Ramirez.

McCourt called it "inevitable" that the Dodgers soon would move on, although he hinted that he might be willing to extend talks beyond the opening of training camp.

"We have tried to bring closure to this," McCourt said. "Three times, we've tried to bring closure to this. It's not for a lack of effort.

"What should be clear to everyone is that signing Manny was -- and remains -- a priority. How long that remains a priority will depend on other things that happen as we get closer and closer to the real season."

McCourt said he believed the Dodgers could repeat as National League West champions, even without Ramirez. The Dodgers are negotiating with Randy Wolf to join an inexperienced starting rotation headed by Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda and Clayton Kershaw, now that veterans Lowe and Brad Penny have signed elsewhere.

"I think the team right now is a better team than we started last season with," McCourt said. "When Raffy [shortstop Rafael Furcal] got injured, things changed on our team. Right now, we're a stronger and better team, and that doesn't include the maturation of our younger players."

Dodgers Manager Joe Torre, at a New York news conference to promote his new book about the Yankees, downplayed Ramirez's rejection of the latest contract offer.

"It doesn't mean he's not coming back," Torre said.

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Times staff writer T.J. Simers contributed to this report from New York.

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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Don't have to read between the lines

Torre's tour hits New York, where reporters are never at a loss for words, T.J. Simers writes. PAGE 2

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Baseball's cold market is hot topic

It's every free agent for himself, so some wonder if owners are in it together, Bill Shaikin writes. PAGE 8

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