By Jon Heyman
August 29, 2010

MannyRamirez's days as a Dodger appear numbered, and his number could be up as soon as Monday, by which time Mannywood should finally come to a close after an eventful run. At least, that's what should happen.

While there are still some variables before any trade is completed, including a no-trade clause Ramirez holds that can prevent a deal with the White Sox, it's hard to imagine that a transfer for him to Chicago's South Side isn't best for the Dodgers, White Sox and Ramirez himself.

Cost-obsessed Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has been lamenting the latest Ramirez contract ever since he signed off on it, so it wouldn't make much sense for them to keep paying him, especially when they're not playing him regularly. McCourt also has the ultra-expensive divorce trial against his wife and former Dodgers exec Jamie, which begins Monday, to deal with

The Dodgers didn't start Ramirez a fourth straight day Sunday -- he did appear briefly as a pinch-hitter before being ejected for arguing a called strike -- and his sudden benching seems to suggest he's on his way out. Any story with the mercurial Manny in it, however, usually has a few twists. Until further notice, though, there are two reasons to think he didn't start: 1) they don't want him to re-injure himself, thus scuttling a deal or 2) they want to convince him to accept a trade to the White Sox without monetary requests -- though most believe he probably would, anyway (maybe the Dodgers are just making sure).

Another possibility is that the Dodgers don't think he's very good after recently coming of the disabled list, and in that case, they certainly would want to lose a contract that still has $4 million remaining (though $3 million of it is deffered).

Dodgers people have come up with varying reasons for benching a player they waited for weeks to return, from it being a day game after a night game to his lack of success against Ubaldo Jimenez. Manager Joe Torre insisted to the L.A. media, "It has nothing to do with all the gossip and all the waiver stories.''

One thing about waiver stories though is that they are complicated by the fact that no one is technically allowed to talk openly about waivers.

Some close to Ramirez believe the Dodgers want to rankle him enough so that he'll happily leave. But it's hard to know exactly what's going on there. Players often try to negotiate enhancements when possible, and Ramirez has been known to maximize his financial situation when possible. It might be nice considering what's gone on the past couple years (suspension, recent injury) to think he could just happily accept the lure of a team that wants him and a chance to DH for a contender, but that could be an unrealistic thought.

Dodgers GM Ned Colletti said by text Sunday afternoon, "Despite all the fury about what may or may not happen, we have to do what's best for the team and know as much as we can before we make a decision. Still some time shy of making that decision.''

What does seem clear is that of late the Dodgers don't necessarily want Ramirez in their lineup that badly when they're in a pennant race, while the White Sox do. Chicago won the claim, though two other AL teams, the Rangers and Rays, also are known to have put in claims for the controversial hitter. The Rangers were even willing to put Ramirez in let field.

The Dodgers could just let Ramirez go to Chicago (assuming he accepts) and save the money. Executives around baseball say they don't believe the Dodgers can easily extract a good prospect for Ramirez, though they're certainly expected to try (can't blame 'em for trying). That at least three teams claimed him suggests there is a belief he could make a difference in the playoff push.

McCourt has cut the Dodgers' payroll from $120 million to $83 million (not including deferred compensation) and has tried to save cash almost any way he can, and there's no reason to think that trend won't continue with his expensive divorce trial beginning Monday. The Dodgers did spend $5.25 million on their No. 1 pick Zach Lee (with much deferred, making the present-day value closer to $4 million) although media reports suggest the LSU quarterback was only selected because they knew he wouldn't sign, but may well have forced their hand.

The Dodgers seem to want Ramirez out but it isn't only up to the team, thanks to his veto rights. Ramirez himself is said to be ready to go, but his no-trade clause gives him some power to make demands, even if he prefers going elsewhere. Based partly on the claims by three teams, he may think he holds that power. But he is also a free agent after the year, so if he remains with the Dodgers and continues not to play, that could affect his negotiating power this winter.

Trade talks are believed to have started slow twice for Ramirez, once before the July 31 deadline and again now, it appears, and they have until Tuesday to work it out. There is a lot of speculation and intrigue in this case. But the smart money says he winds up with the White Sox, who want him a lot more.

With a day to go before the waiver trade deadline, here are more of the key players who will be making the big decisions.

1. Red Sox GM Theo Epstein. He tried to bring back Johnny Damon, and it'll be interesting to see whether he can find another outfielder. No surprise, he didn't play for Ramirez. While a return of the well-liked Damon was worthwhile (Damon is believed to have rejected the idea partly due to his bitter breakup with the Red Sox), they certainly weren't about to go for a Manny, Part II.

2. Yankees GM Brian Cashman. With A.J. Burnett and Javier Vazquez struggling and Andy Pettitte working his way back after a groin injury, Cashman would love to find a starter. But who? No shot Ted Lilly can get to them (really, little chance the Dodgers would trade him anyway). What they absolutely need is a return for Pettitte. They are "[in trouble] if Pettitte can't make it back,'' one competing GM said. Though, not if Cashman can pull off a waiver-wire miracle.

3. Rays GM Andrew Friedman. They put in a claim for Ramirez, which was a gutsy play for a team with financial issues. But it shows they are deadly serious about trying to win this year, before Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and Rafael Soriano can leave via free agency.

4. Rangers GM Jon Daniels. No baseball executive has had a better year. Even while operating under a bankrupt owner, he built the team into a powerhouse with savvy purchases like Colby Lewis ($5 million for two years) and remained ultra aggressive in season with the acquisitions of Cliff Lee, Bengie Molina and others. After deliberating, the Rangers, now run by Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan, put in a claim on Ramirez even though they already have Vladimir Guerrero for DH. Apparently, they were willing to put the ManRam in left field.

• The Nationals have signed Livan Hernandez to a one-year extension through 2011. The veteran pitcher is 9-9, with a 3.49 ERA this season. He's struck out 91 in just over 175 innings and owns a career mark of 165-160. He was a 17-game winner with the Giants in 2000.

• The Twins made another nice move to bolster their bullpen by acquiring Brian Fuentes to go with the late-inning tandem of Matt Capps (acquired a month ago) and Jon Rauch. The Twins have been very aggressive since moving into Target Field. Good for them.

• Hard to believe the Angels are surrendering this early. But they've come to the realistic conclusion this is the Rangers' year. It'll be interesting to see if the Angels trade any more veterans in the next couple days.

• All the Jays' very good relievers, including Kevin Gregg and Scott Downs, were claimed on waivers and are likely to be pulled back.

• Anyone who passed on Jose Bautista looks like they made a mistake now. He continues to tear up AL pitching. The Giants had the most extensive talks regarding Bautista but wanted to hold onto all their young pitching, including Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner. The Jays were interested in both Brett Gardner and Joba Chamberlain from the Yankees. That does seem like a lot, even with Chamberlain having a disappointing year.

• The Cubs have interviews set up with Pat Listach, Fredi Gonzalez and Eric Wedge, according to Bruce Levine, a Chicago radio institution, which may lend credence to the idea they will not hire the "celebrity'' manager yet again. Joe Girardi, who was passed over last time for Lou Piniella, seems to be on their radar and some say he wouldn't mind a return to "home.'' (He's from Peoria, played at Northwestern and with the Cubs.) Most, though, don't see him leaving the Yankees for the Cubs. The Yankees will offer a substantial raise but are said not to want to give him "Torre money'' (at his height he made $6-to-7 million). Ryne Sandberg might be more of a gamble because of a lack of big-league managing experience, but he gives them a name option who's been diligently working his way up in their system.

• The Padres' incredible year enhances KevinTowers' GM candidacy even though he's no longer there, and some execs can see the D-backs going that way. Interim GM Jerry Di Poto did a nice job at the trade deadline, and Yankees' scouting director Damon Oppenheimer would make a fine choice, as well, among the known candidates.

• No one should blame the Nats for StephenStrasburg's elbow tear that will likely cost him 2011. Tommy John surgery will be the likely remedy for the tear in his elbow, but several great pitchers remained great after that surgery, well beyond Tommy John himself. Chris Carpenter, Josh Johnson, Tim Hudson, Joakim Soria and Rafael Soriano are only a few of those who stayed great (or got even better in a few cases).

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