Breaking down some Manny Ramirez odds

With pitchers and catchers set to report soon, the MLB free agency period has essentially cooled off. In fact – it’s over unless your team signing Bobby Abreu, Adam Dunn or Pudge Rodriguez gets you all hot and bothered. Of course, there is one name remaining on the free agent list that could instantly turn an average team into a contender.

All has been quiet on the Manny Ramirez front of late. For the most part, nothing has changed, yet every day the 2009 season inches closer and closer and one of the best sluggers in the game remains teamless.

So which team will eventually sign Manny? Let’s break down the odds.

Los Angeles Dodgers: The boys in blue still seem like the best fit for Manny. The Dodgers would once again be the instant favorites to win a weak NL West and with Man-Ram in the lineup, they could challenge the Phillies, Cubs and Mets for the NL Pennant. But length of contract has been a sticking point between the two parties and neither seems willing to budge. Ramirez and Scott Boras want a five-year contract, but the club’s only official offer came 80-some days ago, which was for two-years and $45 million. With no other real competition in the mix for Manny, the Dodgers don’t have to blink first. But considering how stubborn Ramirez and Boras have been to this point, it looks like L.A. might have to bite the bullet and up the years of their offer. The stare down continues, although the Dodgers still appear like the most logical fit in the end.
Odds Manny signs with the Dodgers: 3/1.

San Francisco Giants: Depending on which report you believe, the Giants are anywhere from “highly” to “not a chance in hell” interested in Manny. Some believe that Boras made up the rumor that San Fran was interested because he wanted the Dodgers to panic and slap another year or two on their initial offer. But others truly believe the Giants are one big bat away from at least competing in the NL West and they’ll eventually break down and trump the Dodgers’ offer. But the reality is that the Giants don’t necessarily need Manny. Sure, their offense needs him, but Fred Lewis is younger, plays better defense and finally showed some potential last season in all facets of the game. And when you consider the Giants are still paying dearly for their Barry Zito gaff, offering Ramirez a huge contract would be foolish considering they’re still years away from competing for a World Series. Plus, Ramirez reportedly doesn’t want to play in San Francisco, although if the money is right than we all know he’ll play anywhere. The Giants will probably stay the course with their rebuilding plan and pass, but it wouldn’t be a shock if they made an offer.
Odds Manny signs with the Giants: 12/1.

New York Mets: The Mets seem to be the sleeper in the mix for Manny. They certainly have the money to throw at Ramirez and they would love to make him one of the attractions to go along with a brand new ballpark. Ramirez is also from the New York area and it’s now or never for the Mets to compete. They’re built to win now, so it would be a shame if didn’t do everything they could in order to compete with the Phillies in the NL East. Still, Manny to the Mets remains a long shot. They haven’t made any official offer and unlike the Giants, there are minimal rumors that the Mets are even interested.
Odds Manny signs with the Mets: 20/1.

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Dodgers vs. Giants: The Manny Ramirez standoff

One of the more underrated and overlooked stories in sports right now is the battle going on with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Manny Ramirez. Manny and his agent Scott Boras want at least a five year contract, while the Dodgers want Manny and his agent Scott Boras to look up “realistic” in the dictionary and get back to them.

The Dodgers’ standoff is admirable; finally a club is willing to stand up to a player that probably won’t be worth what he’s asking for in the long run. Manny is a weakness in the outfield, is known for quitting on plays and even worse, quitting on his team. But the guy is still one of the best hitters in the game and given how weak the NL West should be again, the Dodgers would be instant favorites to win the division if they can re-up with Ramirez.

But another battle brewing under the surface is the one between the Dodgers and Giants. San Fran has shown interest in Ramirez, but has balked at his asking price and reports state that they’re no longer a potential suitor. But does anyone truly believe that the G-Men are taking themselves out of the running and just handing Manny over to their rivals (the frontrunners for Ramirez) at a discounted price? Not a chance.

The Giants are several bats away from competing for a World Series title or even an NLCS berth. But they’re seemingly one big bat away from at least competing in the NL West and the postseason. Their pitching staff is solid and they have enough decent hitters in Bengie Molina, Aaron Rowand, Randy Winn and Edgar Renteria (assuming his bat returns to form now that he’s back in the NL) to be a contender if they can sign Ramirez.

The problem is that after they chose not to re-sign Barry Bonds, Brian Sabean and company pledged to rebuild. Of course Sabean then went out and signed Molina, Dave Roberts and Rich Aurilia – all players well into their 30s – so the Giants can’t use the rebuilding excuse as the only reason not to sign Manny. Still, the team finally has chemistry again and tossing a personality like Ramirez into the mix could ruin an otherwise drama-less atmosphere in the clubhouse. And for what? A shot to maybe contend in the West and then lose in the postseason?

The Manny Ramirez battles have only begun and it’ll be interesting to see who cracks first. Ramirez could get tired of waiting for the Dodgers to offer him a long-term contract and take one of their initial proposals for 2 or 3 years. Worried about the Giants making a move, the Dodgers could also start to get antsy and cave to Boras’s demands. Or the Giants, in fear of wasting good pitching for another year, could seize the moment and put the power hitter smack dab in the middle of their lineup.

I’m sticking with my prediction of a few months ago: Manny will return to the Dodgers. The Giants are too freaked out about another Barry Zito-deal and will stick to their rebuilding plan. I imagine L.A. retains Ramirez with a 3-year contract.

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