Odd Manny in
Dodgers Manager Joe Torre said the deal had no downside. General Manager Ned Colletti said he felt it had to be made. Shortstop Nomar Garciaparra said the Dodgers gained greater control over their October fate.
In the minutes leading up to the 1 p.m. non-waiver trade deadline Thursday, All-Star outfielder Manny Ramirez became a Dodger -- at minimal cost to the team, which lost to Arizona, 2-1, Thursday night to fall two games behind the Diamondbacks in the National League West.
The Dodgers acquired Ramirez from the Boston Red Sox in one of the most significant deadline deals in their history, sending triple-A third baseman Andy LaRoche and Class-A right-hander Bryan Morris to the Pittsburgh Pirates as part of a three-way trade. The Red Sox received outfielder Jason Bay from the Pirates to replace Ramirez and dealt outfielder Brandon Moss and right-hander Craig Hansen to Pittsburgh.
Ramirez will be paid the remaining $7 million of his $21-million salary by the Red Sox.
“We figured we had to do it,” Colletti said. “Why would we not do it?”
Ramirez is expected to be at Dodger Stadium tonight. The 36-year-old slugger, who will be a free agent at the end of the season, has a .312 average and 510 home runs over a 16-year career that has included 12 All-Star selections and nine Silver Slugger awards. He hit .299 with 20 home runs and 68 runs batted in in 100 games this season for the Red Sox, his employer for the last 7 1/2 years.
Torre, who faced Ramirez often as the manager of the rival New York Yankees, said he was surprised that the Red Sox let go of the notoriously temperamental outfielder.
“After 12 years of looking at him straight in the eye, it was tough to conceive of him being anywhere else,” Torre said.
For the deal to be completed, Ramirez had to waive his right to refuse a trade as a 10-5 player -- a player with 10 or more years in the majors, the last five with the same club. In turn, the Red Sox removed the $20-million club options in Ramirez’s contract for the 2009 and 2010 seasons, meaning he will be a free agent at the end of the season.
Ramirez, who said he was unhappy playing in Boston and demanded that the Red Sox trade him in recent weeks, was pleased with the outcome, according to his agent, Scott Boras.
“This is kind of a resolution to the situation,” Boras said. “He’s just really excited about coming out and starting a new part of his career.”
The Dodgers could offer Ramirez arbitration at the end of the season.
Colletti said he had his first conversation with Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein about Ramirez two or three weeks ago. Though baseball sources indicated that the Dodgers were in discussions with the Red Sox over the last five or six days, Colletti said the talks didn’t intensify until Thursday morning in the three or four hours leading up to the deadline. He described the Dodgers as “the late joiner” to the party, with the Red Sox and Pirates already far along in their negotiations.
“This wasn’t on the board for very long,” Colletti said.
Torre said when he heard at around 10 a.m. that trading for Ramirez was a serious possibility, he immediately dressed and headed to the ballpark. Saying he had no concerns about Ramirez’s past behavior -- his eccentricities have been well-chronicled by the Boston media -- Torre said that when asked by Colletti if he would be interested in managing Ramirez, he replied, “You bet.”
“Over the years I have never heard anything negative from his teammates,” Torre said. “That’s a good sign.”
In addition to monitoring Ramirez’s personality -- “certainly not simple,” Torre called it -- Torre must find a way to best utilize what is an already crowded outfield.
Ramirez will be the Dodgers’ everyday left fielder and could bat third, fourth or fifth, Torre said.
“We certainly didn’t plan in advance how to move the pieces around,” Torre said. “That makes you yearn for the DH.”
Because Ramirez is likely to walk at the end of the season, Colletti said it was important that the Dodgers hold on to their other outfielders.
“That was one of the sticking points of the deal,” Colletti said.
Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, a Boston native, has been quiet regarding Colletti’s job security in recent months, but complimented him Thursday for the way he acquired Ramirez and third baseman Casey Blake.
“I really applaud Ned and his people for being able to pull these deals off within a framework of trying to keep as many as the coveted young players that we have on our roster,” McCourt said.
Ramirez is the third player acquired in a trade this season by the Dodgers. The others, Blake and shortstop Angel Berroa, are also being paid by their former clubs.
LaRoche, 24, was competing with Garciaparra in spring training to be the Dodgers’ third baseman. LaRoche and Garciaparra were hurt on the same day, and by the time LaRoche was ready to play again, rookie Blake DeWitt had established himself as the everyday player at the position, forcing LaRoche to spend time in the minors. He played 27 games with the Dodgers this season and hit .203 with two home runs and six runs batted in.
Morris, 21, was the second of two first-round draft picks for the Dodgers in 2006. He missed all of 2006 recovering from Tommy John surgery and was 2-4 with a 3.39 earned-run average this season with Class-A Great Lakes.
Garciaparra, who played with Ramirez in Boston from 2001-2004, said Dodgers management was sending a strong message with their latest move.
“They’re saying, ‘Hey, we believe we’re in a position that we can make a push in the last couple of months, we’re trying to get a guy who can help our ballclub get to where we want to be,’ ” he said. “Now it’s up to us to go out there and continue doing the thing we’re supposed to do to get us there.”
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