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Manny Ramirez close to signing with Dodgers?

February 23, 2009 |  5:36 pm

Manny_300Got a call around noon, from a source saying that Manny Ramirez (pictured at right) and the Dodgers were close to agreement on a new contract. This wasn't the usual "tip," from some guy who heard this from his neighbor, who knows the guy who lives next to the guy who runs the Little League to which Manny once donated batting gloves.

This source warranted our attention, in part because we believed he might actually know and in part because of the specifics of his information. He said the contract would be for two guaranteed years, with a third-year vesting option -- that is, the third year would become guaranteed if Ramirez reached a specific number of games played or plate appearances in the first two years.

However, since the source did not have the last name of McCourt, Colletti, Boras or Ramirez, we set out to try to confirm the information. Dylan Hernandez, on site at the Dodgers' spring camp in Arizona, and I made a round of calls.

Long story short: It all makes sense, but no confirmation.

Here's what Scott Boras, the agent for Ramirez, told Hernandez: "I'm not going to address that."

Here's what Ned Colletti, the Dodgers' general manager, told Hernandez: "I think you'd be foolish" to print the unverified information.

Still, it is not unreasonable to believe the negotiations are approaching the end game.

The Dodgers open Cactus League play Wednesday; Boras previously told The Times he expected Ramirez to be signed in time for spring training. "When I talk about spring training, I talk about when the games begin," Boras said.

Colletti said Saturday that his talks with Boras had gotten "more frequent and longer" in recent days.

No team besides the Dodgers has acknowledged making an offer to Ramirez. The Giants are the only other team even to acknowledge interest, and San Francisco General Manager Brian Sabean said Monday that Ramirez is on the "back burner" there, according to CBS Sports.

In recent days, Boras has focused his comments less on the possibility that Ramirez would sign elsewhere and more on a public warning that the Dodgers would not win without him (see here and here.) At the same time, however, Dodgers Manager Joe Torre has maintained regular contact with Ramirez, and the Ramirez camp has been mindful of not saying anything that would alienate the Dodgers entirely.

Perhaps more importantly: With Garret Anderson and Joe Crede signing in the past few days and Ivan Rodriguez indicating his desire to defer contract talks until after the World Baseball Classic, Ramirez is the only major Boras client still unsigned.

The rumored latest offer is said to be similar to the Dodgers' first offer, back in November: two guaranteed years at $45 million, with a third-year option for another $15 million.

Boras rejected that bid and said he would solicit "serious offers," with Ramirez seeking a deal of four to six years and an annual salary similar to that of the game's highest-paid player -- Alex Rodriguez, at $27.5 million.

In December, Ramirez rejected the Dodgers' offer for a one-year contract with a salary determined by arbitration. He also rejected a one-year, $25-million offer from the Dodgers at the start of this month.

-- Bill Shaikin

Photo credit: Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times