From The New York Times
Ramirez Is Put on Waivers in Bid to Shed Big Contract
By JACK CURRY
The Boston Red Sox placed outfielder Manny Ramirez on irrevocable waivers yesterday, and they are hoping that another team will claim him and enable them to shed the five years and $104 million remaining on his eight-year, $160 million contract, two major league executives said.
If a team claims Ramirez before the deadline tomorrow, it will become responsible for Ramirez's contract, and Ramirez's often turbulent three-year association with the Red Sox will end. Unlike with revocable waivers, Boston cannot pull back Ramirez if he is claimed. If no team claims Ramirez, the Red Sox will retain him but will have at least alerted other clubs that they are willing to trade him.
"It's a weird thing, to be honest with you," said one of the executives, both of whom spoke on condition of anonymity. "I don't know what they're thinking, other than they want to get out from under that contract."
It seems unlikely that, with only three days to decide, a team will suddenly add a $100 million wild card like Ramirez to its lineup and its budget. But the Yankees, who might pursue the free-agent outfielders Gary Sheffield or Vladimir Guerrero anyway, are one of the few teams that can take the financial hit. The Yankees also have a soothing, powerful manager, Joe Torre, who has handled moody players like Ramirez.
The Yankees did not return phone calls because they were holding organizational meetings in Tampa, Fla., but one club official said Ramirez was part of their internal discussions yesterday after they tried to decipher why he had been put on waivers. The 31-year-old Ramirez, who attended George Washington High School in Washington Heights, angered Red Sox officials this season by saying he wanted to finish his career with the Yankees.
If more than one club claims Ramirez, the club with the poorer record will have the right to him. So, if the Yankees, who tied with the Atlanta Braves for the best record in the majors this season, are interested, they will have to hope no other teams make claims.
While putting players on waivers is a formality that happens hundreds of times during the season, both executives said the timing of Boston's decision was unusual and signals that the team is serious about moving forward without Ramirez. Dan Duquette, who was dismissed as the general manager in 2002, signed Ramirez to the contract before the 2001 season. Ramirez is the second-highest-paid player in baseball, behind Alex Rodriguez of the Texas Rangers.
"I guess they're hoping someone takes him," one of the baseball executives said.
Neither Theo Epstein, Boston's general manager, nor Jeff Moorad, Ramirez's agent, returned phone calls yesterday seeking comment on the waiver move. Club officials are forbidden by Major League Baseball to talk about players who are on waivers.
Ramirez is one of the most intimidating hitters in baseball and hit .325 with 37 home runs and 104 runs batted in last season. In Ramirez's three seasons in Boston, he has hit 111 homers and driven in 336 runs in 416 games. Offense has never been a problem for Ramirez, whose career highs with the Cleveland Indians include a .351 average, 45 homers and 165 R.B.I.
But Ramirez is an introverted player, and some of his off-the-field actions may have caused the Red Sox to question whether they want him to be a part of their future. The Red Sox, who just completed their second year under new ownership, did not offer Manager Grady Little a contract for 2004 this week and are searching for his replacement. Apparently, they are also willing to subtract Ramirez and search for a new left fielder.
Ramirez missed a weekend series in Boston with the Yankees from Aug. 29 to 31 because of a sore throat, but he was seen out with the Yankees' Enrique Wilson at the Ritz-Carlton in Boston, where he resides, on that Saturday night and skipped a doctor's appointment that Sunday. When the Red Sox twice asked him to pinch-hit at Philadelphia on Sept. 1, Ramirez said he was too weak. Little benched him for one game the next day in Chicago against the White Sox.
"I'm putting the team out there that I feel has the best chance to win," Little said then.
While earning the American League wild card this year, the Red Sox set a record for total bases in a season, but they need superior pitching to be more competitive. If the Red Sox unload Ramirez's salary, the money that will be freed will allow them to pursue a free-agent starter like Bartolo Colón or Kevin Millwood.
I'd be very surprised if anyone claimed Ramirez. Of course Steinbrenner is pretty pissed off, and the Yankees are clearing quite a bit of salary this year what with Clemens, Pettitte and Wells. Hmmmmmm