Brian Kamenetzky: Bobby Abreu and Adam Dunn disappear ... but don't look down from the Manny highwire
In many respects, The Winter of Manny has played out a lot like a typical baseball fight. Big action at the top with a few ineffective punches, then lots of shouting, pointing, pushing and shoving followed by a bunch of dudes standing around waiting for the game to start again. Sound and fury, signifying nothing (and all that).
The Dodgers have done well not to follow the Scott Boras playbook and bid against themselves in an effort to get Manny Ramirez resigned. On the other hand, Ned Colletti and Co. have been working through the Hot Stove season with a safety net -- the knowledge that should the circus leave town, the Dodgers had other options on the table. Decent enough consolation prizes, especially when packaged with savings to be used on additional talent.
Or at the very least, enough to keep the Blue competitive in a weak NL West and keep the torch and pitchfork crowd away from Dodger Stadium.
Well, the slow game of chicken Camp Manny and the Dodgers are playing got a little more interesting Wednesday, because with the news that Bobby Abreu and Adam Dunn have been picked up by the Angels and Nationals, respectively, that net now has some major holes. The signings don't really change the market for Manny -- neither squad was in the running to get him -- but they do raise the stakes for the Dodgers should another team snatch him up.
The Dodgers still seem to be the only team out there with genuine interest, certainly the only one that has even seemed to flirt with the notion of a multiple-year deal. And as Jon Weisman over at DT points out, the Dodgers could benefit financially from Dunn and Abreu signing deals well below what they thought they'd get a few months ago. On the other hand, if the price tag comes down enough on Manny, maybe there's a team out there that decides it's worth it to dive back in. The Mets? Or perhaps the reportedly tepid interest from San Francisco becomes a little more genuine?
They may still man the inside lane, but it's probably best for the Blue to resist the temptation to get the price on Ramirez down to clearance levels. Forget the PR debacle that comes with Manny heading off to different pastures. From a competitive standpoint, the Blue would find their offense neutered heading into a season where heading into spring training both the starting rotation and the bullpen are weaker than what the Dodgers fielded in the NLCS.
Not exactly a recipe for success.
At this point, unless I'm missing something -- it wouldn't be the first time -- the Dodgers have already won the negotiation. They can almost assuredly ink Manny for a shorter duration at a lower price than they could have pictured in October. Don't slow play the pocket aces and risk getting sucked out on the river. Assuming it's still the goal, find a decent face-saving offer for Boras and Manny, make the bet, and take down the pot. It's not worth trying to squeeze a little extra out of the proceedings if it unnecessarily risks Ramirez heading elsewhere, because after today's events, should the Blue lose out the possibility for meaningful success in 2009, at least without having to spend the capital of young players in a trade for an impact bat, shrinks considerably.
-- Brian Kamenetzky
Photo: Manny Ramirez homers against the Chicago Cubs in Game 1 of the NLDS. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times