Manny deal a good one for both sides
Dodgers sign slugger they always wanted; Ramirez gets his contract
The Los Angeles Dodgers got what they needed to get while paying roughly what they wanted to pay, and in the process once again became the favorites in the National League West. That's good work, especially for early March.
The long and winding courtship between the Dodgers and Manny Ramirez finally resulted in a contract on Wednesday. The two-year, $45 million deal was not dramatically different from the initial offer that Los Angeles had made to Ramirez four months ago.
Ramirez got an opt-out clause after one year of the contract, which is something of a concession on the part of the Dodgers. But unless the overall direction of the economy changes completely during the next seven months, that clause isn't going to result in a windfall. And that's the whole underlying point.
When this process began, Ramirez and his agent, Scott Boras, were seeking a lot more than anybody was offering -- a four- or five-year package worth $25 million per year. Thus, they could look askance at the Dodgers' initial offer of $45 million over two years.
Ramirez was, after all, a future Hall of Famer, coming off an astounding 53-game stretch for Los Angeles in which he hit .396 with 17 home runs and 53 RBIs and a postseason in which he hit even better than that. He had transformed the Dodgers' lineup and had been the player most responsible for Los Angeles reaching the postseason in the first place.
Plus, he had been on his best behavior throughout his Los Angeles stay. The tumult and ill-will that characterized his final days with the Boston Red Sox was gone, replaced by a charming Ramirez, who became a positive clubhouse presence for his younger teammates. And Boras is the recognized leader in the area of getting every single available dollar for his clients. Surely, all of these factors taken together would result in one more long-term, top-dollar deal.
No, it wouldn't, although $45 million still seems to be a very nice haul, particularly in these perilous economic times. There were two factors working against Ramirez that were larger than even his magnificent talent and his excellent timing.
One was the fact that he would turn 37 this May. In the case of an outfielder whose defense sometimes did not seem to be a personal priority, the idea of paying him immense money into his 40s did not seem particularly appealing. But beyond that there was the state of the general economy and an offseason in which the direction of economic news was only bad to worse.
It turned out that this was a good winter to be a free agent if the New York Yankees really wanted you. That concept worked for three players to the tune of $423.5 million. But beyond that, in spite of baseball's recent record prosperity, the vast majority of clubs were acting with some measure of fiscal restraint. Thus, the Manny market wasn't anything like what it was expected to be. In fact, apart from reports of the San Francisco Giants' interest, it didn't appear to extend much beyond the Dodgers themselves.
Still, Ramirez had obvious worth to the Dodgers, worth that had been clearly demonstrated last season. Even if he couldn't command anything like $100 million, he could still get what seems to mere mortals to be wealth beyond the range of imagination. It is all relative, of course, but $45 million still cannot be construed as an insult.
This is why the Dodgers appear to have won twice in this process. They made what seemed to them to be a fair and generous offer, and over the course of the entire offseason were not stampeded into something much larger and longer. They needed Ramirez in their lineup, and both sides knew it. But in the absence of other suitors driving the price upward, they did not have to come up with more years and more millions. There was no need to panic, so they didn't panic.
And in the end, they were able to retain the services of a player who was a necessity in their lineup. Ramirez was so good in the second half of the 2008 season that he became the rare performer who actually made the players around him better. Apart from the economy, apart from the fiscal cares and woes, it made all kind of sense for him to stay with the Dodgers. He liked them, they liked him; a mutual comfort level had been established. This was the logical location for Ramirez, regardless of what market forces were at work.
This was not a discount deal by any means, but the Dodgers also did not fall into the trap of bidding against themselves. They got what they needed at a price that they had established months ago. With all their young talent and with Manny Ramirez solidifying their lineup, their immediate future looks nothing but bright.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.