Colletti Will Return; Manny? Who Knows?

Major League teams are discouraged to make any major changes during he World Series, with he commissioner's office not wanting any competing news on the front page, so you probably won't get any quick free-agent signings, blockbuster trades or the like. However, the Rumor Mill will and has been grinding away at a record pace and we need to keep you informed.

First of all is the burning question about Manny Ramirez. Unless you;you've been hiding under the bed to escape the bad financial news (The Economy is Falling, the Economy is Falling), you know that He batted an unbelievable .396 with 17 home runs and 53 RBIs in 53 regular-season games for the Dodgers, then hit .520 (13-for-25) with four home runs and 10 RBIs in eight playoff games.

During his time in Los Angeles he was full of praise for the team, the management, the park and the people of the area who do not bother him when he goes out to dinner.

"All I want to do is play ball and go home," he said, intimating that "home" is in the greater Los Angeles area.

But as abruptly as the season ended, so did his story change. Asked if it might have been his last game with the Dodgers, he was evasive with his answers to the point that one might think he was catching he midnight plane and didn't know when he'd be back again, to quote a popular song.?

?Obviously, that's not entirely true. Ramirez is the one who ultimately must say yes or no, regardless of what L.A. offers him. Late in the season he kiddingly on the level started talking about a six-year contract, and with Scott Boras representing him, that should come as no surprise.

"I'm looking at a seven-year deal" said a smiling Ramirez, who collected eight hits in the NLCS, which tied a Dodgers record. "I want Alex [Rodriguez] money. I would be 43 at the end [of the deal]. I can make it."

"I'm going to see who's the highest bidder," he said. "The price of gasoline is up, so I'm up."

Ramirez left with these parting words: "I'll send you guys a Christmas card."

And who can blame either of them. Those of you who wouldn't be pleased with a four-to-six year contract at $25 million please raise your hands. Right. Me too.

Most feel it'll be a mistake if the Dodgers don't re-sign Ramirez, and it'll be a mistake if they do, considering the price tag for a sometimes temperamental hitter who'll be 37 in May.

Manager Joe Torre understands that. "Manny is a great player," he said after Game 5. "But Manny has to do what's best for him and his family. I don't think there's a club that doesn't want Manny, but that decision is certainly not mine to make."

Then he added, "I still think pitching is something you really have to pay attention to," Torre said. "I know we all get all caught up in the offensive part of this game. I certainly think that pitching is something that really should be front and center as far as being addressed. I think we have the potential to have a nice blend."

Manny is a lot of things but stupid isn't one of them. He certainly knows that the Dodgers could be hit hard by free agency. They have 14 possible candidates, the most in the majors, though Brad Penny has a club option. Aside from Ramirez, the list includes Casey Blake, Rafael Furcal, Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Lowe, Joe Beimel and Chan Ho Park. Three others, Jeff Kent, Greg Maddux and Mark Sweeney, may retire, then again they may not.

Were you Manny, would you opt to stay with a club that could change nearly half of their regular roster or would you like to move to a club that is just a tick away from the postseason before the next year's spring training even starts? (Read: NY Mets, NY Yankees and probably another one or two).

Dodgers owner Frank McCourt was surrounded by media-types shortly after Nomar Garciaparra fouled out to end the NLCS. He was, naturally, asked if Manny was going to return.

"It's not a no brainer, because it takes two to (sign him).  It's the old expression, "It takes two to tango."  So we'll see," he said.

"Sure, I sit there every game, and can see what (Manny) has meant to the team and how he's connected to the fans.  But people just can't lose sight of the fact that I don't sit there in some chair in a big office and decide exactly who's going where.  There's another side to this, and players make decisions as to where they play.  I can't make any predictions because it's up to the player.  As much, or more, than it is to me and the organization.  We just have to realize that.  It's a fact..."

"I'd like to bring back all these guys. I love this team. This team did what no Dodgers team has done in twenty years, so I'd like them all back.  But it's not that easy.  We have to figure out who fits on this club for next year, and who really wants to be a Dodger.  Who wants to be here.  So it's a process, and we're certainly going to make our interests very, very clear to the players we want back, and those conversations will be pretty apparent to (the media) as time goes on." 

So you can see, the negotiating has already begun by both sides.

Other notes of interest:

McCourt said that Ned Colletti will return as Dodgers' general manager after declining to discuss the issue all season, even after the Dodgers clinched the National League West championship. However, after the Dodgers lost in the National League Championship Series, McCourt said Colletti would be back.

  "What we've accomplished is something significant for the organization," McCourt said. "We've turned a big corner. I'm proud of Ned and all the people in the front office. I'm proud of Joe and all the coaches. I couldn't be more pleased with the job everybody has done."

However, he wouldn't say whether he would discuss a contract extension with Colletti, whose four-year deal expires after next season.

McCourt noted that the World Series goal remains. "At some point in time, organizations need to stop talking about winning and go win," he said. "That's what we've accomplished this year. Now we have to move forward. We've tasted winning. We're not going to let that slip away."

If the Dodgers don't re-sign Ramirez, who is expected to seek close to $20 million a year on the open market, and if owner Frank McCourt doesn't shrink the payroll, the club figures to have considerable flexibility for next season, and that flexibility will only increase in subsequent seasons.

The Dodgers have contractual commitments to only four big-money players for next season: pitchers Hiroki Kuroda ($7.2 million including signing bonus) and Jason Schmidt ($16 million) and outfielders Andruw Jones ($17.1 million including signing bonus) and Juan Pierre ($10 million).

Fred Claire, general manager of the Dodgers' last World Series championship team, said McCourt should be inoculated against any allegations of lack of commitment since he approved the second-highest player payroll in the National League this season.

Claire said the Dodgers should offer Ramirez $20 million per year for three years.

"You can't be guided by the asking price," Claire said. "The view of the fans is extremely important. There will be a lot of noise in the media. But the Dodgers have to make the decision that is in their best interest."

The San Francisco Chronicle said that the Dodgers are seeking corporate sponsorships of their own. They won't change the name of Dodger Stadium, but they'll sell naming rights to everything else at Chavez Ravine, including the bullpens, dugouts, clubhouse and press box and their new spring training facility in Arizona.

They also plan to turn the ballpark into a year-round attraction by adding establishments for eating and shopping.

?The Red Sox, for all their grumbling about Manny's attitude, have voted him a two-thirds playoff share, the Boston Herald reported.

Red Sox players last month voted Ramirez a two-thirds share of playoff money, reflecting the fact that Ramirez played two-thirds of the season in Boston before he was traded at the July 31 deadline to the Dodgers.

According to a source with knowledge of the vote, the vote on Ramirez was divided, the Herald reported. "Some wanted him to be paid days," the source said, rather than a more generous share, according to the report. "It was obviously a somewhat sensitive subject with some guys, but we didn't spend too much time on it. After the vote, we moved on."

A potential trade involving San Diego Padres starter Jake Peavy and the Atlanta Braves could be in the works. A source familiar with the trade talks told the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the Braves and Padres have discussed a deal that would bring the 2007 Cy Young Award winner to Atlanta for a package that would include at least three Braves prospects.

Nothing appears imminent, however, and Peavy would have the final say regardless as he has a no-trade clause in his contract. The Padres, coming off an ugly 63-99 campaign, appear headed for a rebuilding period, which has prompted the club to consider offers for Peavy.

In 199 starts over seven seasons with San Diego, Peavy is 86-62 with a 3.25 ERA while averaging 180 innings and 179 strikeouts.

And in closing, Juan Pierre's agent told the Dodgers that Juan wanted to be traded. He's not unhappy with the team, he said, he just wants to go somewhere else so he would get more playing time. --

LA Dodgers Insider Top Stories