The Dodgers had their first conversation with agent Scott Boras in more than a month this week, but they left baseball’s winter meetings still uncertain about how they are positioned in their pursuit of Manny Ramirez.
“This is like watching the San Andreas fault,” Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti said. “Some days you can see it move, probably, and other days it’s going to sit there. And in a week or two, it may move a lot.”
The Dodgers made Ramirez a two-year, $45-million offer last month -- then took it off the bargaining table after not hearing back from Ramirez’s camp.
Owner Frank McCourt is said to be open to guaranteeing the slugger a third year, but that wouldn’t satisfy the demands of Boras, who told Colletti on Monday night that the Dodgers should offer his client the kind of deal the San Francisco Giants gave Barry Bonds.
That contract, which Colletti worked on as the assistant general manager of the Giants, was for five years and gave the club the option to void the final year if Bonds failed to meet certain performance standards.
The Dodgers’ response?
“Thanks for the information,” Colletti said he told Boras.
“Scott outlined what they will need,” Colletti added. “We’re not interested. We’re not interested in doing five years, four years, [a] long-term deal. We want the player back. We’re willing to pay a high salary to bring him back.”
In other words, the only way Ramirez will be a Dodger again next season is if he can’t find a four- or five-year offer elsewhere.
For now, everybody waits, knowing Ramirez’s value to some teams might change depending on where free-agent first baseman Mark Teixeira lands.
The prospect of a future without Ramirez is disconcerting to some members of the Dodgers organization, who wonder whether the team’s prized young players could be close to hitting their ceilings and would struggle without Ramirez’s bat in the lineup, as was the case until the Dodgers traded for him on July 31.
The Dodgers have also put themselves at the mercy of the market in their efforts to re-sign shortstop Rafael Furcal, whom Colletti has designated the team’s top priority. Also negotiating to sign Furcal are Oakland, Toronto and Kansas City, according to Furcal’s agent, Paul Kinzer.
Furcal, who played in only 36 games because of back problems, wants a guaranteed four-year deal. The Dodgers have offered him an incentive-laden two-year deal with a vesting option for a third year.
“Because of the complications of the whole situation, it’s going to take more time than a typical deal would,” Colletti said.
Pitching remains an uncertainty, as there are two vacancies in the rotation and one or two more in the bullpen. Colletti acknowledged that the Dodgers, who sat out the auction for CC Sabathia, are more likely to add to the back end of the rotation than the front.
Wanting to avoid an arbitration hearing with closer Takashi Saito, who had elbow problems last season, the Dodgers will probably cut him loose if they can’t sign him to a new contract by today, which is the final day to tender contracts to players.
The numerous unanswered questions made Colletti grateful for what he was able to do over the four days of the winter meetings.
Faced with two vacancies in the starting infield, he signed third baseman Casey Blake to a three-year, $17.5-million deal. He also found a utility infielder and mentor for 23-year-old second baseman Blake DeWitt -- 37-year-old Mark Loretta.
“We started to work on the infield with Casey and Mark,” Colletti said. “That’s a bit of a relief.”
Colletti said he also laid the groundwork for potential trades.
“Where that goes and how long it takes to either get there or not get there remains to be seen,” he said. “We’ll leave here with more backtracking to do when we get back.”
And more waiting.
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DODGERS’ OFF-SEASON KEYS
1. Manny, Manny, Manny
General Manager Ned Colletti said at the start of the winter meetings that it was up to Manny Ramirez’s agent, Scott Boras, to resume talks. Boras took the initiative, but the sides continue to disagree. Ramirez wants a five-year deal. The Dodgers want him for two.
2. Complete the infield
James Loney and Blake DeWitt were the Dodgers’ only starting infielders when the meetings started. Colletti signed third baseman Casey Blake to a three-year, $17.5-million deal and utility infielder Mark Loretta to a one-year, $1.25-million contract. The Dodgers still need a shortstop.
3. Find a couple of arms
The Dodgers didn’t bid on CC Sabathia and don’t appear interested in pursuing a pricey front-line pitcher, with Colletti acknowledging that he’ll probable add to the back end of the rotation. The bullpen has Jonathan Broxton, but will he be the set-up man or closer?
-- Dylan Hernandez