Manny signs with Dodgers

March 4, 2009 1:53:15 PM PST
The dawn of a rainy late-winter day brought a breakthrough in the stalemate between Manny Ramirez and the Los Angeles Dodgers. During a 6 a.m. meeting Wednesday at the Malibu beach house of Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, the sides reached a preliminary agreement on a $45 million, two-year contract.

The deal is subject to the outfielder passing a physical, a person familiar with the talks said. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because the contract was not final.

"We all wanted the same thing and that's what was apparent to me," said Dodgers manager Joe Torre, who left spring training in Arizona with general manager Ned Colletti to attend the session.

"After last year and the time he spent with us, we knew we wanted him back. It was just a matter of finding that common ground," Torre said. "As Ned said, you talk on the phone and to different people, you need to get face-to-face. It was a real good meeting. There was a lot of comfortable conversation."

Ramirez gets $25 million this year and has until November to decide whether to void the second season, which calls for a $20 million salary. The deal includes a full no-trade provision, and some of the salary will be deferred.

The Dodgers were the only team to acknowledge pursuing Ramirez, a 12-time All-Star who turns 37 in May. Ramirez helped the Dodgers win the NL West by hitting .396 with 17 homers and 53 RBIs in 53 regular-season games. In the playoffs, he batted .520 with four homers, 10 RBIs, nine runs and 11 walks in eight games.

Torre, Colletti and McCourt attended the early meeting with Ramirez; the player's agent, Scott Boras; and Boras' assistant, Mike Fiore. The parties took about 3 hours for the deal to fall into place.

"There was not one uncomfortable moment," Colletti said upon returning to Arizona later in the day. "It was more designed to put the personality back into the picture instead of just the negotiations. Manny seemed very happy and excited about the possibility, and I thought it was very good."

Ramirez was having the necessary physical later Wednesday.

Torre described Ramirez as "chomping at the bit" to rejoin the Dodgers.

Los Angeles announced last week that Ramirez declined its latest offer, a $25 million, one-year contract with a $20 million player option for 2010. That deal would have included deferred payments of $10 million each in 2011 and 2012 and $5 million in 2013.

Boras countered with a proposal that included no deferred money, leaving the sides about $3 million apart in present-day value.

At the time the Dodgers acquired him from the Boston Red Sox last July 31, Ramirez's contract was amended to eliminate the $20 million team options it included for 2009 and 2010. The new agreement leaves him with a small increase but likely fell short of what Ramirez hoped to gain on the free-agent market.

Ramirez was MVP of the 2004 World Series - Boston's first championship since 1918 - and helped the Red Sox to another title in 2007. But he often failed to run hard to first base on grounders and repeatedly said he didn't want to play for Boston, which lured him from Cleveland after the 2000 season with a $160 million, eight-year contract.

But it was a different story after Ramirez arrived in what quickly became known as Mannywood.

Besides his hitting, he made a huge impact on the Dodgers' bottom line, with a big boost in attendance and souvenir sales, including No. 99 jerseys and fake dreadlocks.

Preparations for Ramirez's arrival at Camelback Ranch were already under way. The nameplate on the clubhouse locker next to shortstop Rafael Furcal's went from being blank to having "Reserved #" attached to it.

"I had people calling me from the Dominican saying that Manny had signed but how they know, I'm here and I don't know. Then I came in and saw (the nameplate), and I knew something was up," Furcal said.

"A guy like Manny, you learn a lot of stuff from him. He's the best hitter in the game. Everyone is happy."

Ramirez's fun-loving attitude created a noticeable change in the Dodgers' clubhouse last season, and infielder Blake DeWitt expects the same again.

"He's one of, if not the best, hitter in the game, and a guy like that has a ripple effect," he said. "We have a great group and when you add a guy like that who has fun and keeps everyone loose it's just going to make it that much better. It rubs off."


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