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BILL SHAIKIN / ON BASEBALL

There's still no sign of Manny Ramirez

Dodgers made an offer almost three months ago, the slugger's agent rejected it, and now neither seems about to blink.

January 24, 2009|BILL SHAIKIN

Jeff Kent had cried his last tear. He gathered his family and went on with the rest of his life, and the Dodgers went on with the rest of their business.

And so it was that, after Kent announced his retirement at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, Ned Colletti went back to work. As he walked along a corridor, a fan stopped him.

"Hope we get Manny," the fan said.

"Me too," the Dodgers' general manager said.

That, Dodgers fans, is your Manny Ramirez update. There is so much interest, so little news.

It has been 80 days since the Dodgers offered Ramirez a two-year contract, for a guaranteed $45 million.

It is 22 days until the Dodgers report to spring training. Ramirez has not signed here, there or anywhere.

If he has another offer, no one has said so -- not even Scott Boras, the agent for Ramirez.

The Dodgers aren't blinking. Boras isn't blinking.

The Dodgers do not believe the San Francisco Giants are serious about Ramirez. The Giants are happy to let the Dodgers think that way.

Colletti and Boras say they talk regularly. Hard to imagine what they say, after the first 30 seconds, when nothing seems to change.

"I'm hoping he'll give us a counter," Colletti said.

If two years and $45 million doesn't work, the Dodgers say, tell us what does.

"We have let the Dodgers know what Manny's position is," Boras said. "They are fully aware of the terms he feels are fair."

The Dodgers do not equate an asking price with a counteroffer. Colletti said the Dodgers would not consider sweetening their offer without a signal from Boras that he would yield as well.

"It's tough to do without knowing where it's going to get you," Colletti said. "If you get a sign you can do something, you might be inclined to do it."

Boras wouldn't say whether he has any teams interested beyond the Dodgers and Giants. He wouldn't say whether Ramirez might accept a contract of fewer than four years. He wouldn't say whether Ramirez might sit out part of spring training -- or even part of the season, a la Roger Clemens.

He did wonder why an owner -- hello, Frank McCourt -- would not make all of this moot.

"This is a franchise player," Boras said. "He means a lot to teams economically. If you're interested in winning, you will attempt to sign Manny Ramirez.

"For teams that need a No. 3 or No. 4 hitter and want to win, their fan bases know this player will make that kind of difference."

Ramirez did that last year, for the Dodgers.

He could do that for the Giants, for a pitching-rich team built to win 2-1 games and a starting outfield that combined to hit 32 home runs last season -- five fewer than Ramirez.

He could do that for the New York Mets, a team that coughed up a playoff spot in each of the last two Septembers. They claim they'll chase the World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies with Daniel Murphy and Fernando Tatis in left field.

The Giants are biding their time. The Mets say they aren't interested. The Dodgers could be bidding against themselves.

But Boras bided his time with Derek Lowe, and all of a sudden the Atlanta Braves needed a starting pitcher after John Smoltz defected. No one thought Lowe could do better than three years and $36 million, and he wound up with four years and $60 million.

No one thinks Ramirez will get four or five years at "A-Rod money," the asking price according to a baseball source not authorized to discuss that price publicly. Alex Rodriguez makes $27.5 million a year; neither Boras nor Colletti would discuss the asking price.

The Dodgers threw up two flares last month, expressing interest in outfielders Adam Dunn and Bobby Abreu. No more.

"We're concentrating on two things right now -- pitching and Manny," Colletti said.

They'll sign a fourth starter -- probably Randy Wolf or Jon Garland, possibly Braden Looper. They'll add a veteran reliever -- maybe Luis Ayala, possibly Dennys Reyes or Russ Springer.

And they could play Juan Pierre in left field. When Colletti signed Pierre two years ago, remember, he talked about the potential impact of speedsters Pierre and Rafael Furcal in the same lineup. For the first time since then, Pierre and Furcal could be healthy together.

The Dodgers would essentially be making this bet: We can't fall too far out in the National League West, so we could add a bat when losing teams start shedding veterans.

For now, they are making this bet: We're the lead horse in the Ramirez derby, in a one-horse field. Three weeks until spring training, and we'll see whether Ramirez saddles up at Camelback Ranch.

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bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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