GM Meetings get under way today
Free agent Ramirez hot topic as executives gather in SoCal
DANA POINT, Calif. -- The Manny Ramirez signing season begins in earnest this week, as the 30 general managers and their assistants meet at a resort hotel on the Pacific coast, beginning officially today.Like Barry Bonds in 2007 and Alex Rodriguez a year ago, the future home of Ramirez will be the hot topic of discussion as clubs position themselves for a big fall and winter of trades and free-agent signings. With the opening of Spring Training camps barely 15 weeks away, the highlight of the three-day session may be what happens behind the scenes. "I don't see this being any different than dealing with any other elite player who has been out there in the past," said Kevin Towers, the longtime general manager of the Padres, one team that is not in the running to snare Ramirez. "He's going to be a nice free-agent piece for somebody. The unknown is the free-agent market, in general. Is it going to regress? Is it going to stay the same? That may well slow down the [trading] process." The Dodgers obtained Ramirez from the Red Sox in a last-minute July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline deal. Ramirez had a huge impact, carrying the Dodgers past the Diamondbacks to win the National League West title and as far as Game 5 of the NL Championship Series, in which they were eliminated by the eventual World Series champion Phillies. Prior to that, Ramirez and the Red Sox had won the World Series twice in four seasons. Dodgers GM Ned Colletti said that as of yet, there has been no contact between the Dodgers and Scott Boras, Ramirez's agent, nor had the Dodgers made an offer.
"No, despite numerous reports to the contrary," said Colletti, debunking a report that he had offered a two-year, $60 million deal to Ramirez.
Colletti also said that other free-agent signings could preclude the Dodgers inking Ramirez later in the offseason. The Dodgers may have to move quickly on other fronts, like trying to sign free-agent left-hander CC Sabathia, who pitched the Brewers into the postseason after being acquired from the Indians in July. Colletti said he has yet to speak with Sabathia's agent, Greg Genske."You can't let one player stand in the way of everything else you need to do," Colletti said.
Don't count on a quick resolution to signing Ramirez, Towers said."I don't see Manny landing until about Christmas time," the GM said. "I may be wrong, but with both New York clubs opening up new ballparks and having needs in the outfield, I imagine they'll both be players along with L.A. When you get two or three big-market clubs involved, Scott's going to drag this out a while." During the past weekend, the Yankees, at least, said they may get involved with the Manny sweepstakes after missing the playoffs this year for the first time since a strike wiped out the 1994 postseason. "There's nothing we are not looking at," Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner said on Friday at the club's Tampa complex. "And personally, I like Manny. He's one of the greatest hitters in the history of the game. He's a free spirit for sure, but he knows how to win. We like some of the other guys, too. We just don't know yet." The Dodgers already have 10 players who have filed for free agency, and that doesn't include two players under contract who have asked to be traded: outfielders Juan Pierre and Andruw Jones. In the end, Los Angeles may have to again build around its nucleus of young players: outfielders Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, first baseman James Loney and catcher Russell Martin. "We need a good club and a team that can win," Colletti said. "If we're able to sign Manny and we finish 20 games under .500, that won't be met with a positive reaction." Last year, the GMs began a new practice of all gathering in one room at the beginning of the week to inform each other about their pending needs. According to a few of them, the meeting was a time saver. Instead of having to individually call each other, they all were made aware in one setting of which players might be available. The non-waiver trade period resumed on Sept. 29, the day after the regular season ended. As far as free agency goes, the filing period lasts 15 days after the end of the World Series. This year, that period ends at midnight on Nov. 14. Until then, GMs can talk with free agents from other clubs or their representatives, but can't negotiate financial terms. They can discuss length of contract, guarantee provisions and no-trade or limited no-trade provisions, the Basic Agreement stipulates. Clubs also enjoy a 15-day exclusivity period with their own free agents. Unlike last year in Orlando, Fla., when limited instant replay for home run calls was endorsed overwhelmingly by the GMs, there are no hot-button items on this year's agenda. "As far as rules go, we're looking at a few arcane things, but nothing that will have any impact," said Joe Garagiola Jr., Major League Baseball's vice president of baseball operations. "And that's the way we like it." Replay was implemented on Aug. 28 and was utilized three times prior to the end of the season, but not at all in the playoffs. A report will be given to the general managers on its effectiveness. Likewise, the GMs will get a report on the progress of the Health and Safety Committee and its ongoing analysis of shattering maple bats. The committee, which was collectively bargained and has management and union members on the panel, has been researching the issue since May, when Commissioner Bud Selig deemed it a pressing issue. According to Garagiola, the committee is expected to meet again on Nov. 23, and perhaps make recommendations to alleviate the problem. "Every year, there seem to be two or three things we do to the rules," Towers said. "A lot of time is usually spent on that." But make no mistake about it: with the Winter Meetings slated for Las Vegas from Dec. 7-11, the GMs will use the week to establish some sort of framework to improve their teams. Already one deal has been made since the end of the World Series: the Royals on Thursday acquired first baseman Mike Jacobs from the Marlins in exchange for relief pitcher Leo Nunez. There may be more this week, predicted Towers, who has been offering marquee pitcher Jake Peavy on the open market -- and last month gave the Braves a period of exclusivity to make the trade. It didn't happen, and now the Padres are back to square one. "We'll open it up to other clubs," Towers said. "If we don't like what we're getting back, we'll keep him. He'll be our Opening Day starter." Otherwise, it will be all Manny, all the time.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.