Count on Manny deciding to return to Dodgers
Things are finally beginning to shape out. After Raul Ibanez signed a somewhat ludicrous contract well before the glut of corner outfielders felt the constraints of the current economy, first hand, some of these cards have been drawn. Bobby Abreu signed for 1-yr/$5 mil with the Angels. Adam Dunn signed for 2-yr/$20 mil with the Nationals. Compared to the 3-yr/$31.5 mil contract handed to Ibanez, and, in a vacuum, the former two signings are relative steals.
For a while, plenty of analysts suggested that Manny would dictate what happened to Dunn, Abreu, Griffey and Garret. Realistically, the deals inked by both Abreu and Dunn not only lower the bar even further for Griffey and Garret, but hurt Manny's leverage. With potentially interested teams filling needs elsewhere, Ramirez will have to sign with the Dodgers if he wants to play baseball next year, unless some other team swoops in out of nowhere and snatches him up.
Either way, this has certainly been the craziest free agent market I can remember in my years of baseball fandom. We have a player seeking an extremely lucrative deal in a depressed market from a team that has no competition for his services. Then again, Scott Boras, the best agent of all time, represents Manny, so don't be surprised if he actually does coax the Dodgers for a surplus of funds.
Trying to figure out who's got more leverage now It seems that Manny needs the Dodgers -- unless the Giants or some other team get back in this -- and that the Dodgers now need Manny because all the other hitters are now signed. But the leverage in any negotiation is held by whichever party needs the other less.
So it's gotta be the Dodgers, right? They must (or should) know that the presence of Manny Ramirez isn't likely to make the difference between winning and losing, particularly considering what they might do with the money that's not used to sign Manny. As long as they don't do something particularly foolish, like give Juan Pierre more than 200 plate appearances, they can probably survive without Manny Mania.
Mr. Mania himself, though? He can survive without a 2009 contract, but it's not the sort of survival he's likely to enjoy. I don't believe he'll play for nothing. But I believe he'll play for significantly less than he expected. I believe he'll play for somewhat less than the offer he most recently spurned. And I believe he'll play for the Dodgers.