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Wolf, five others file for free agency

Wolf, five others file for free agency

LOS ANGELES -- Pitcher Randy Wolf led a group of six Dodgers filing for free agency on Thursday, the first day of the two-week filing period. But the date that has the Dodgers most curious is Nov. 10.

On or before that date outfielder Manny Ramirez must notify the club whether he will exercise a player option for 2010 at a salary of $20 million. General manager Ned Colletti said Thursday he has not heard from Ramirez or his agent, Scott Boras, regarding the option.

Joining Wolf in filing were pitchers Jon Garland and Eric Milton, All-Star Orlando Hudson and fellow infielders Ronnie Belliard and Doug Mientkiewicz.

Still eligible and likely to file: Brad Ausmus, C; Juan Castro, SS; Mark Loretta, INF; Guillermo Mota, RHP; Will Ohman, LHP; Vicente Padilla, RHP; Jason Schmidt, RHP; Jim Thome, PH and Jeff Weaver, RHP.

Earlier Thursday, the Dodgers declined to exercise Garland's $10 million mutual option for 2010. As a result, Garland received a $2.5 million buyout, paid by the Arizona Diamondbacks as specified in the deal that brought Garland to the Dodgers for Tony Abreu.

Clubs during the filing period have an exclusive window in which to re-sign their free agents, who can talk to (but not sign with) other clubs once they file.

Ramirez's situation is different than the others because he holds the option. While his walking away from $20 million seems far-fetched, Boras used a similar opt-out clause with outfielder J.D. Drew when nobody thought he'd walk away from a guaranteed $33 million over three years in 2006. But Drew got an even bigger contract from Boston.

Chances of Ramirez improving on a $20 million salary are slim, considering his age (37) and the baggage of a 50-game drug suspension. However, he has told teammates that the pounding his legs absorb playing the outfield is taking a toll, which might help explain his late-season offensive fade. He's told teammates that he ought to be a designated hitter, and who could argue with that? But he hasn't told teammates that he's not coming back. At least, not yet.

If anybody can drum up interest in Ramirez it is Boras, although he couldn't do it in last winter's frozen free-agent market. Nobody knows how that market will shake out this winter with the overall economy having stabilized.

Resolving Ramirez will allow Colletti to focus on his primary needs.

"We're looking to figure out second base, starting pitching and rebuilding the bench," Colletti said.

Wolf and Hudson are Type-A free agents, meaning the Dodgers would be eligible for Draft pick compensation from a signing club if the Dodgers offer -- and the players decline -- salary arbitration. Offering arbitration would be more likely in the case of Wolf than Hudson.

While Wolf was the Dodgers' most consistent starter for the entire season, and Padilla and Garland surpassed expectations as in-season acquisitions, each is looking for a multi-year contract. The Dodgers in recent years have attempted to limit contracts for free-agent pitchers to one-year deals.

Wolf went 11-7 with a 3.23 ERA, leading the club with a career-high 214 1/3 innings pitched and the eighth-lowest opposing batting average in the league (.227). Wolf went 6-1 in his last 10 starts. Padilla went 4-0 with a 3.20 for the Dodgers after being released by the Rangers and he delivered two overpowering starts in the postseason before getting whacked when the Dodgers were eliminated by Philadelphia in the NLCS. Earlier this week, Padilla was accidentally grazed in the right leg in a shooting-range mishap. Garland went 3-2 with a 2.77 ERA after his acquisition, but he did not pitch in the postseason.

Hudson earned just shy of $8 million in a comeback season from a serious wrist injury, but his production tailed off in the second half and he lost his starting job to the hot-hitting Belliard after his acquisition from Washington. Mientkiewicz's season was essentially a washout as he tore up his shoulder two weeks into the season and needed surgery.

Type-B free agents are Belliard, Padilla, Garland, Mota and Ohman. Lesser Draft pick compensation is attached to Type-B free agents, although the likelihood the Dodgers would offer any of them salary arbitration is even less because of the sizeable salaries they are likely to command.

Colletti said progress is being made in negotiations with manager Joe Torre's coaching staff. All members have been invited to return.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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