Although the Dodgers clearly haven't closed the door on re-signing Ramirez, they have expressed an interest in two other high-profile, free agent outfielders, Bobby Abreu and Adam Dunn. In doing so, club officials have sent a message to Ramirez and his agent, Scott Boras, that they aren't sitting back and waiting for Ramirez to come back to them. However, they admit that he is the one free agent they really want.
The Dodgers offered Ramirez a two-year, $45 million deal with a $15 million club option in late October, but that deal "expired," in the words of general manager Ned Colletti, on the day Ramirez became free to negotiate with other clubs. To date, it isn't believed that Ramirez has negotiated with any other clubs or that he has received any other formal offers.
The fact the Dodgers are pursuing other outfielders is surprising given that Colletti has said that even if the club doesn't re-sign Ramirez, he is comfortable with the four everyday-caliber outfielders the Dodgers still have: Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Andruw Jones and Juan Pierre. But there were reports Colletti was talking with the New York Mets about a possible trade involving the enigmatic Jones.
There also were reports shooting down reports of the Mets' interest in Jones. The only thing that is clear is that even if they do find someone willing to take Jones, the Dodgers would have to eat the vast majority of the $22.1 million still owed him.
Notes and Quotes
--OF Andruw Jones, received the approval baseball commissioner's office for a contract revision that paves the way for Jones to leave the Dodgers, says MLB Executive Vice President Rob Manfred. The Dodgers agreed to trade or release Jones before spring training in exchange for his agreeng to defer much of the $$ million remaining on his contract. The club will ask for offers in hopes that some team wil spring for $5 million, although most teams will wait for him to be released. Good-field, no-hit Jones recorded a skimpy .158-3-14 record and posted a .505 OPS in 75 games for Los Angeles. He is currently hitting .091 in the Dominican Winter League.
--INF Juan Castro, whom the Dodgers originally signed out of Mexico in 1991, has returned to the organization on a minor league contract. Castro will have a strong chance of making the club out of spring training as a utility man. He bounced back and forth between Los Angeles and Class AAA several times from 1995-99 before finally being traded to Cincinnati in 2000.
--RHP Chad Billingsley is on track to be fully recovered from a broken leg by the start of spring training. Billingsley suffered a spiral fracture of his fibula when he slipped on ice outside his Pennsylvania home in November. The injury was repaired surgically.
--C A.J. Ellis, who was added to the 40-man roster so he could be called up in September, has a decent shot at nailing down the backup job in spring training. To do so, he would have to beat out incumbent Danny Ardoin, who also remains on the 40-man. Ellis is a mid-level prospect and has long been projected as a big-league backup.
--LHP Hong-Chih Kuo shouldn't be counted out as a potential closer. Although the Dodgers are holding out some hope of re-signing RHP Takashi Saito and although RHP Jonathan Broxton had the role for most of the second half last year, Kuo has prototypical closer stuff, and club officials quietly say he could compete with Broxton for the job. Also, Broxton has in the past been more reliable and consistent as a setup man than as a closer.
--RHP Claudio Vargas, a free agent, has agreed to a one-year contract with the Dodgers that would pay him a base salary of $400,000, according to the Los Angeles Times. The deal reportedly includes incentives that could bring the total value to $1.8 million. Vargas would be a candidate for the fifth spot in the rotation.
--SS Rafael Furcal has a clause in his new three-year, $30 million contract requiring him to donate $100,000 each year to the Dodgers Dream Foundation, one of the club's two in-house charities. Furcal becomes the second current Dodgers players to have such a clause. Andruw Jones' two-year, $36.2 million deal calls for him to donate $150,000 each year.
By The Numb3rs: 2,977 -- Total games lost to the disabled list by Dodgers players over the past three seasons, including 1,197 in 2008 alone. Included on that list are RHP Jason Schmidt and INF Tony Abreu, each of whom spent every day of the 2008 season on the shelf. Club officials are cautiously optimistic that both players will be physically sound enough to resume normal activities by the start of spring training.
Quote to Note: --"I don't mean to be a self-promoter, and that wasn't why I was talking to any reporter. But, really, why not me? Why not now? Especially with this franchise that is known for breaking down barriers. It's not brain surgery." -- Sportscaster Jeanne Zelasko, making her case to the Los Angeles Times for why she should be considered for the current opening on the Dodgers' radio team. If she landed the job, she would be the first female play-by-play voice in big-league history.
*M*A*S*H* 4077 Report
RHP Chad Billingsley (left leg surgery in November 2008) hopes to be recovered for the start of spring training.
RHP Jason Schmidt (shoulder surgeries in June 2007 and September 2008) hasn't pitched in a year and a half, but he finally might be ready to return by the start of spring training.
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