Dodgers take break from Manny talks
Club yet to respond publicly to agent Boras' latest proposal
PHOENIX -- The Manny Ramirez negotiations are on hold at the moment, Dodgers owner Frank McCourt said on Sunday morning, at least until the afternoon's Opening Day festivities at Camelback Ranch were complete.And by the time the Dodgers dropped a 3-2 decision to the White Sox, news emerged that a new proposal had been made by agent Scott Boras on behalf of the free-agent left fielder that would place the two sides $1.5 million apart on a two-year contract that would include deferred money. McCourt stuck to his earlier position that there would be "no new news" about the Ramirez situation, at least for the time being. And the Dodgers had no additional statements on Sunday night.
"We're in what I call a transition phase right now," McCourt said at a morning news conference. "We had a lengthy, almost four-month-long negotiation that terminated on Thursday. So now we're sort of in a quiet period. At some point, we'll pick up negotiations again, but with a fresh start this time."News of a new proposal by Boras on behalf of Ramirez, their third since this past Thursday, came in a statement from the agent that was released hours after the end of the game. "Our most recent offer Saturday morning covered two years with some deferred compensation [$43.5 million net present value]," Boras said. "Manny directed me to compromise between the Dodgers' last offer of $42 million net present value [$45 million with deferred compensation] and our $45 million dollar [offer] without deferred money. However, we have yet to hear from them on our last three offers." In short, Boras was saying that Ramirez would accept slightly more than two years at $45 million with deferred money as opposed to Boras' two-year proposal of $45 million paid out over two years -- $25 million for 2009 and $20 million for 2010, with an opt-out clause for the free-agent left fielder after the coming season. The $1.5 million would essentially represent the interest the Dodgers would have to pay on $45 million if the two-year contract is paid out over the course of five years instead of two. McCourt did seem to indicate that the Dodgers' last offer of two years at $45 million, paid out over five years without interest -- $10 million each for the first four years and the final at $5 million -- was off the table at the moment because Boras rejected it. "We didn't get a yes answer, and that's the issue," McCourt said, "which, by the way, Scott is entitled not to say yes. That's how it works. But we're entitled to say we're at the end of the phase of a process here. We're going to take it through at least today and the opening of this facility. There will be no news on Manny today. "At some point, and you'll all know when, we will resume discussions, because we do want Manny. We do want Manny to be a Dodger this year." In a statement released on Sunday evening, Ramirez said he's been involved every step of the way in the negotiating process. "I would not allow negotiations to take place without being involved and [I] talk to Scott nearly every day," he said. "I have given Scott offers that he has given to the Dodgers and he has given me all offers from the team." McCourt had been asked during the news conference why the negotiations have become so public. "The purpose was to let Manny know we wanted him," McCourt said. `"We just wanted to make sure he knew." Asked specifically if he thought Boras had not been completely upfront with his client about terms of the now voluminous proposals, McCourt added: "I'm not comfortable getting into that. To me, that is all water under the bridge." Boras, reached by MLB.com by telephone immediately after the news conference, said his phone conversations with Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti on Saturday were cordial and productive. Colletti already characterized the same conversations in a similar fashion. "We have continued to work with Ned and the Dodgers to do away with the artificial barriers and attempt get a deal completed," Boras said in his statement issued later in the day. "There is no issue with deferral money being part of any contract. [We] just want to make sure the value is stated accurately and appropriately." When asked if he was considering the last proposals offered by Boras, McCourt said: "Not at all, because it was made very, very clear to Scott at the time that we were expecting a yes or no answer. We had given that round of negotiations our best shot. We just wanted to know whether he was going to do that deal or not. A simple yes or no would suffice." During the meeting McCourt conducted on Wednesday at his Dodger Stadium office, which included Boras and Colletti, the Dodgers mapped out their latest proposal -- their fourth since November -- including the offer of salary arbitration that Ramirez turned down. The Dodgers' latest offer was based loosely on the original deal presented at the General Managers' meetings in November, also for $45 million and two years, but with a club option for a third year at $15 million and no opt-out clause for the player after the first year. The first year was worth only $15 million in that proposal. The Dodgers' biggest concession at that meeting was granting the opt-out clause. Every one of the three other offers included deferred payments at the encouragement of the agent, McCourt said on Sunday, adding that the issue of whether the money is deferred is "a total red herring." "It's a sideshow, smokescreen -- call it what you will," McCourt said. "It was a way for them to get to a higher number. We understand that. We didn't have to agree to anything." Although both sides seem to have agreed on the length of the contract and the amount, McCourt said he's not willing, at this point, to negotiate how to pay the funds out at the current terms on the table. He cited the sagging economy as the primary reason for that decision. "We're going to start from scratch, and that's why I said it on Thursday," McCourt said. "There's a lot going on in this world, and this world changes every day. Look at our ticket prices. Our original plan was to give season-ticket holders for '09 a shot at '08 prices. We didn't think we were going to keep '09 prices flat throughout the whole year. Our model all along assumed that we would raise ticket prices. We can't do that now. It isn't fair to our fans. "We kept our offer pretty much the same as where it was in November. And you know what? The world isn't anything like what it was in November. And so we're going to now start fresh ... and we're going to look at it sometime next week."
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.