Opt-out clause gives Manny control
Dodgers will have to wait for Ramirez's decision on 2010
The biggest question for the Los Angeles Dodgers up to this point has been, "Will you re-sign Manny Ramirez?"
The question now has turned, and it will be sent in the direction of Ramirez: "Will you pick up your option for 2010 and remain with the Dodgers?"
Ramirez not only remains the face of the Dodgers, but he suddenly has become the man in control of a great deal of the team's budget for player payroll in 2010. That's what happens when you give the player the right for an option year worth $20 million.
It's one thing to give a player a full no-trade provision -- and the Dodgers reportedly have agreed to this clause in their deal with Ramirez -- but to give the player the sole call on an option year is very rare.
When Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti first revealed that an offer to Ramirez had a player option for 2010, he termed the move a "significant concession."
"It obviously gives Manny a lot of flexibility," Colletti said at the time. "If he were to agree to something like that, then nine, 10 months from now he is free to try the market again. So if you have the chance to be guaranteed or the chance to do something else, it's a pretty good spot to be in."
Very frankly, Ramirez couldn't have ended up in a better spot at this time.
In a free agent market in which there seemed to be no team other than the Dodgers expressing an interest in him, Ramirez ended up with a $25 million contract for this season, placing him right behind the top average annual salary of $27.5 million that is paid to Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees.
If Ramirez, who will turn 37 in May, suffers a season-ending injury or has a significant downturn in production, he still has assured himself of $45 million over two seasons.
It is the player opt-out clause after one-year that is the most significant part of the new agreement.
According to published reports, Ramirez will have until November to decide whether to void the second season. What that really means is that the Dodgers can do little planning for 2010 until they learn what Ramirez plans to do.
Basically, Ramirez now is controlling $20 million, and that could represent one-fifth of the team payroll for 2010.
What makes this difficult for planning purposes is that the Dodgers' top young players will be eligible for salary arbitration next season if they aren't signed to multiyear contracts. This group includes pitchers Chad Billingsley and Jonathan Broxton, catcher Russell Martin, first baseman James Loney and outfielders Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp.
There was a point in time when I wondered if the Dodgers might take their resources and sign their young players to long-term deals and tell Ramirez it was nice to have him in Dodger Blue, but bid goodbye.
Ramirez, however, made too many contributions last season for the team to take this step.
The slugger is such a focal point that Colletti and manager Joe Torre were called back to Los Angeles from Arizona late Tuesday to be a part of the final discussions with Ramirez today at the home of Dodgers owners Frank and Jamie McCourt.
It was a zany negotiation that lasted four-plus months as agent Scott Boras showed he can raise the stakes for one of his players even when only one team is in the bidding. The agent and the team traded dueling press releases and verbal shots regarding "serious offers," and Ramirez ended up saying he always loved Los Angeles.
Ramirez not only is back with the Dodgers, he now has so much control over the team's finances that the accounting department may want to make him an honorary member.
Fred Claire was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1969-98, serving the team as executive vice-president and general manager. He is the author of "Fred Claire: My 30 Years in Dodger Blue." This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.