LOS ANGELES -- Outfielder Manny Ramirez wasted no time hitting the open market, topping a list of five Dodgers to file for free agency Thursday, the first day of MLB's 15-day procedural filing period for eligible players. Pitchers Derek Lowe and Greg Maddux, like Ramirez clients of agent Scott Boras, also filed on Thursday, as did Dodgers reliever Joe Beimel and third baseman Casey Blake. General manager Ned Colletti said Wednesday night he had not yet made an offer to Ramirez, having exchanged voice mails with Boras "four to five days ago" and expecting a meeting "in the very near future to see what's going on."
Length of contract figures to be the key issue in negotiations with the 36-year-old Ramirez, who has hinted at a term of five or six years and said he'll likely sign with the highest bidder. Colletti said he wouldn't discuss what the Dodgers planned to offer. He has shown a preference for signing short-term free-agent contracts in his two previous offseasons, like the two-year deal he gave Andruw Jones last winter, but also gave a five-year deal to Juan Pierre two years ago. "We'll convey our thoughts to Scott first," Colletti said. "I'm sure we'll get involved with that at some point. We owe it to the player and Scott to hear them out and for them to hear us out." The offer is likely to be made at next week's General Managers Meetings in Dana Beach, right down Pacific Coast Highway from Boras' Newport Beach office. Ramirez pretty much carried the Dodgers into the postseason. He hit .396 with 17 homers and 53 RBIs in 53 games after being acquired July 31 in a three-team trade from Boston for Andy LaRoche and Bryan Morris. It was the second-highest batting average for an in-season acquisition. He was even better in two postseason series against the Cubs and Phillies, when he went 13-for-25 with four homers and 10 RBIs, including driving in seven of the Dodgers' 20 runs in the National League Championship Series. His impact on the field was matched off the field, where Mannywood took over the Southland. The club marketed Manny-like dreadlocks and he spoke often of how much he enjoyed playing in Los Angeles, saying it was like "being on vacation." But the night the Dodgers were eliminated by the Phillies, Ramirez spoke of going home and waiting "for the highest bidder." Colletti has said Ramirez was "phenomenal" and that he wants to keep him, but has cautioned that the free-agent slugger has the ultimate decision. Manager Joe Torre sounded a similar warning the day after the Dodgers were eliminated. "From the scuttlebutt I get," said Torre, "it will take some length to sign [Ramirez] and I think you have to think hard about that. He was certainly an A-No. 1 citizen and I enjoyed having him here. To say I don't want him back, I'd be crazy. When you're a free agent, you're not doing yourself justice without seeing what's out there." As for the other Dodgers to file Thursday, Lowe had given no indication that he wanted to return to the Dodgers. The Dodgers have interest in keeping the 42-year-old Maddux, but he's also considered retiring. Colletti said he had spoken with the agent for Blake. Beimel will be seeking a salary exceeding $2 million and is likely to leave now that Hong-Chih Kuo has replaced him as the primary left-handed reliever. The Dodgers have seven other players eligible for free agency -- Rafael Furcal, Nomar Garciaparra, Jason Johnson, Jeff Kent, Pablo Ozuna, Chan Ho Park and Mark Sweeney. The club has one week to exercise options on pitcher Brad Penny and catcher Gary Bennett or buy out the contracts and grant them free agency. During the 15-day period, players can sign only with their former club, but can begin talks with other clubs on issues other than salary.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.