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Tribe may let Ramirez walk

The Associated Press

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla.

Tuesday, November 07, 2000

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. – More than four days after making a $200 million salary proposal, Manny Ramirez still hasn’t gotten a formal response from the Cleveland Indians.

”The process needs to play itself out,” general manager John Hart said Monday at baseball’s GM meetings.

Hart spoke to agent Jeff Moorad on Monday and told him he had four conference calls with owner Larry Dolan during the day.

Moorad, who said three AL teams and three NL teams have contacted him about Ramirez, said he expected to hear from the Indians on Tuesday.

”The Indians have a proposal in their hands,” Moorad said. ”Like it or not, it represents a contract Manny would live by and would re-sign with the Indians.”

They need to make a counteroffer before Friday, when their exclusive negotiating rights expire, or they risk losing Ramirez to a team willing to pay his steep price.

”Any time a player goes out and can talk to the rest of the clubs, there is some danger involved,” Hart said. ”There is some danger for the player as well. If they elect to go out, the club may make other moves.”

To that end, the Indians have already contacted the agents for outfielders Ellis Burks and Tony Gwynn as potential replacements in right field.

Burks would appear to be the first choice. He hit .344 with 24 homers and 96 RBIs in 393 at-bats for San Francisco last year and would be a much cheaper alternative to Ramirez.

That would free up money for the Indians to upgrade their pitching rotation. They are believed to be interested in Mike Mussina, Mike Hampton, Darren Dreifort and Denny Neagle.

”Our goal is to put out a championship caliber team out there,” Hart said.

While Hart is planning for possible life without Manny, he hasn’t closed the door on further talks this week with Moorad.

Ramirez, 28, has driven in 432 runs the past three seasons and is one of the most feared hitters in the game. He has asked for the richest contract in pro sports – one few teams can afford.

”Ultimately, all clubs, with the exception of one or two in this industry, have an economic bottom line on what they can afford,” Hart said.

However, the New York Yankees have a bottom line unlike any other team. The three-time World Series champions had a record $113 million payroll this season, and with a new cable television deal coming that could reach $130 million in 2001.

While Ramirez asked Cleveland for $20 million a year, and Carlos Delgado signed a four-year deal with Toronto worth $17 million annually, agent Scott Boras refused to put a price tag on his client, Alex Rodriguez, who will likely become baseball’s highest-paid player.

”Envision Toronto or Cleveland if they could put Delgado or Ramirez at shortstop,” Boras said. ”Think about how good those teams would be with another slugger at those positions. That’s what Alex brings to a franchise. He’s an extra slugger and a premier defender. … He’s a franchise icon.”