Dodgers Up the Ante; Manny Folds

Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti confirmed the club made a second formal offer to free-agent left fielder Manny Ramirez on Sunday night and Manny wasted no time rejecting the Dodgers' latest offer. His agent, Scott Boras, said he informed Ramirez about what he classified "a suggestion" by the Dodgers and that the All-Star outfielder turned it down.

The contract the Dodgers offered to Ramirez in November was guaranteed for two years and included an option for a third that could have increased its total value to $60 million. The Dodgers proposed paying Ramirez $15 million this year and $22.5 million in 2010. The deal included a $22.5-million option for 2011 that the Dodgers could have bought out for $7.5 million.

This time the Dodgers offered Ramirez a one-year contract with a base salary of $25 million. "We are still trying to sign Manny, and we hope this will make him happy," Colletti said of the offer but it was quickly rejected.

Only a hand-full of people know what is actually going on behind the smoke screen. In a chess game like this, with millions of dollars hanging in the balance, posturing, bluffing and -- gasp! -- lying are all a part of the equipment used.

Boras made it clear all winter he is seeking a four-year contract for his client, a 16-year veteran and 12-time All-Star whose acquisition from Boston on July 31 powered a Dodgers season that ended just three wins short of a World Series berth.

At the start of the off-season, Ramirez, 36, was viewed as one of the biggest prizes on this year's free-agent market. But his reputation trumped his magical work over the final two months of the 2008 season.

Combine the feeling of Ramirez's mercurial temperament that broke his two year contract for $20 million and the tight economy and you have red flags flying all over the field.

Boras continues to insist that other clubs are not only interested but are involved in negotiations for the outfielder's services, still the Dodgers remain the only club known to have made Ramirez a formal offer.

Rumors had it that during the negotiations for pitcher Kevin Brown, the Dodgers ended up bidding against themselves before he finally signed. That is also in the back of the general manager's mind as he contemplates adding Ramirez remarkable bat to his lineup.

Also, many worry that if the offer is too little, and Ramirez signs out of desperation, would he continue to perform at the level he did for the Dodgers.

There is precedent for a superstar free agent accepting such a deal when he didn't find the market to his liking. Another of Boras clients, veteran catcher Ivan Rodriguez, accepted a one-year, $10 million deal from Florida in 2003, played a key role in helping the Marlins win that year's World Series, then got a four-year, $40 million deal from Detroit that ultimately became five years, $50 million when the Tigers exercised Rodriguez's club option for 2008.

But the murmuring continues that Manny being Manny might not react in the same way.

Logic dictates that if Ramirez were to accept the present offer, it could be similarly advantageous for both sides. The Dodgers' lineup doesn't look especially strong without Ramirez, even in the weak National League West.

The Dodgers could find themselves behind the eight-ball if Ramirez receives a multi-year offer from another club. If Ramirez is offered what he considers a fair deal, sources close to him say that he wouldn't grant the Dodgers a chance to match it.

Failure to re-sign Ramirez could result in the pursuit of Bobby Abreu (who recently received a one-year, $8 million offer from the White Sox) or Adam Dunn.

The $25 million offer proved they wanted him back -- but it is not known how the refusal will be met by the Dodgers, who could consider this yet another negotiating ploy or the feeling they have been pushed to the limit and are ready, with less than two weeks before spring training opens, to fill their needs elsewhere.