In their first major decisions of the off-season, the Dodgers on Wednesday disclosed a multi-year contract offer to Manny Ramirez and cut ties with two-time All-Star pitcher Brad Penny by declining his option for next season.
The deal that was proposed to Ramirez on Tuesday night would give the 36-year-old free-agent outfielder “the highest average annual value in the history of the franchise and the second-highest average annual value in baseball” -- somewhere between the $27.5 million per season earned by Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees and the $22.9 million earned by Johan Santana of the New York Mets -- according to General Manager Ned Colletti.
“When we key in on a player we really like, we like to be aggressive and see if there’s a common feeling with the player,” Colletti said.
Colletti and Ramirez’s agent, Scott Boras, refused to specify the value or the length of the contract, though indications are it is either two years for $50 million or three years for $75 million. Colletti acknowledged that the proposal was in line with his philosophy of offering players higher annual salaries in exchange for shorter deals. He said the offer includes an option year, meaning it’s possible only two years could be guaranteed.
Boras has said at the general managers’ meetings in Dana Point this week that Ramirez deserved a six-year contract that would pay him until he is 42.
It remains unclear whether this is an earnest bid by the Dodgers to re-sign the player who took them to their first National League Championship Series in two decades, or a half-hearted attempt to appease fans who became enamored with the dreadlocked slugger.
Colletti said he understood that Ramirez probably wouldn’t sign before the Dodgers’ exclusive negotiating window with him expires Nov. 13.
It is also unclear what kind of market exists for Ramirez. Philadelphia Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said his team could use a power-hitting left fielder but that Ramirez was probably too expensive. San Francisco Giants General Manager Brian Sabean said his team almost certainly wouldn’t pursue him. New York Mets General Manager Omar Minaya said that while he liked Ramirez, his top priority is to acquire pitching.
Noting that the Dodgers’ attendance and revenue increased and they made the playoffs after they acquired Ramirez on July 31, Boras argued that the player showed he could “pay for himself.”
Colletti disputed such a notion, as did San Diego Padres Chief Executive Officer Sandy Alderson, who used to work in the commissioner’s office.
“I will say that the one guy recently that has paid for himself has been Manny Ramirez, by virtue of the fact that the Dodgers paid nothing,” Alderson said.
The $7 million that remained on Ramirez’s deal at the time of the trade was paid for by his former team, the Boston Red Sox. Ramirez’s last contract was for eight years and $160 million.
The Dodgers shed $7.25 million in payroll by buying out the final year of Penny’s contract for $2 million instead of paying him $9.25 million.
Though Russell Martin and Andre Ethier are eligible for arbitration and will receive significant raises, the Dodgers have money to spend. Thirteen players who cost them about $60 million in payroll are free agents.
The Dodgers are also entertaining thoughts of shedding payroll by shopping Andruw Jones, another Boras client. Jones, who hit .158 with three home runs and underwent knee surgery, has $22.1 million remaining on his two-year, $36.2-million contract.
The decision to sever ties with Penny wasn’t a difficult one when efforts to trade him failed.
Several club officials have questioned the severity of the shoulder problems that limited him to 17 starts, and blamed his 6-9 record and 6.27 earned-run average on what they called a poor work ethic.
Penny, who won 16 games in 2007 and 2008, was upset with the club because he wasn’t offered a contract extension in spring training or at least told that his option for next season would be picked up. Learning that management was questioning his commitment added to his frustration.
Penny’s agent, Greg Genske, was pleased with the Dodgers’ decision. “I think it’s a real positive thing,” he said.
An MRI exam at the end of the season revealed no structural damage and Genske said he thought there would be a solid market for Penny.
With Penny gone and Derek Lowe expected to depart, the Dodgers’ rotation for next season consists of Hiroki Kuroda, 24-year-old Chad Billingsley and 20-year-old Clayton Kershaw. James McDonald, 23, could be the No. 4 starter.
Greg Maddux, who won his record 18th gold glove Wednesday, probably will retire but Colletti said he told Boras, his agent, that he would welcome him back. Colletti said he would also consider re-signing Chan Ho Park, who pitched in relief in 2008, as a starter.
The Dodgers’ main pitching target on the free-agent market is CC Sabathia, who is represented by Genske. But Colletti made it clear that it’s unlikely the Dodgers will be able to sign both Sabathia and Ramirez, and that he couldn’t afford to miss out on other opportunities while waiting to be informed of Ramirez’s decision.
Regarding the offer to Ramirez, Colletti said he told Boras, “It’s not going to be there forever.”
Times staff writer Bill Shaikin contributed to this report.