March 04, 2009

Manny Ramirez and the Dodgers have agreed to a two-year, $45 million contract with an option for Ramirez to opt out after the first year and it could be announced as early as late Wednesday.

Ramirez met with Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, manager Joe Torre and GM Ned Colletti Wednesday morning. The gathering was considered a hurdle, but a Dodgers source said, "The meeting went well."

After many twists and turns and a lot of negative feelings on both sides, the two parties finally came to an agreement Wednesday. People familiar with the deal told it is a two-year, $45 million contract ($25 million in 2009, $20 million in '10) with an opt-out clause that would allow Ramirez to become a free agent after this season, and deferred payments that reduce the value of the deal by about $1 million or $2 million, depending on whether the star outfielder chooses to opt out after the first year. The contract also gives Ramirez a no-trade clause.

Ramirez is set to take a physical Wednesday and is scheduled to report to Dodgers camp Thursday, according to sources.

Torre and Colletti left Dodgers camp Tuesday night for the meeting in L.A. and they're hoping to be back for the Dodgers' game against the archrival Giants on Wednesday afternoon.

With this deal, the Dodgers have secured the very man they needed to re-establish themselves as an NL West favorite. In 53 games with the Dodgers last season, Ramirez hit .396 with 17 home runs and 53 RBIs and was even better in two playoff rounds. Not only did Ramirez impress the Dodgers with his stats but also with his hard work and impact on their bevy of fine young players.

This deal works for McCourt, as it appears to be the same one or very similar to what he offered a few days ago, and less than Ramirez's three requests in recent weeks.

Even though this deal doesn't look all that different on the surface from the two-year, $45 million contract Manny dismissed at the general managers' meetings in early November, a couple of key upgrades make this one more palatable for him. Though the November offer isn't believed to have contained deferrals, it called for Ramirez to be guaranteed the $45 million through a $7.5 million buyout on a third-year team option. More importantly, the November offer gave the Dodgers control of Manny for three seasons, while today's deal only locks him up for one.

This deal also contains the coveted opt-out clause that could make Ramirez a free agent after the season, a major enticement for the 36-year-old, who's still hoping to cash in with a long-term deal sooner rather than later. Opt-out clauses enabled two other Boras clients -- Alex Rodriguez and J.D. Drew -- to strike it really rich, with Drew's decision to opt out in 2006 upsetting the Dodgers after they felt he insinuated in an article in the Orange County Register that he planned to stay in L.A. Once he opted out, the Dodgers decided not to negotiate with him, and he wound up signing with Boston for $70 million, or $48 million more than what remained on his Dodgers deal.

Another year of great behavior and playoff heroics could put Ramirez in a much better negotiating position. However, there's no evidence the economy will turn around quickly, and the free-agent market could be stocked again with productive corner outfielders. Matt Holliday, Jason Bay, Xavier Nady, Bobby Abreu and Jermaine Dye are all scheduled to be free agents next winter, barring any extensions.

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