DANA POINT, Calif. - The Dodgers want to keep Manny Ramirez in Los Angeles, and they made an offer that proves just how much.
General manager Ned Colletti said Wednesday the Dodgers' pitch to the free-agent slugger would give him the second-highest average salary in the sport behind Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez.
"If you saw the bid, it's nothing that we're embarrassed by," Colletti said at the GM meetings. "Manny was close to that number, anyway - closer to that area than the last place he's been."
Rodriguez currently has the top average at US$27.5 million under the 10-year deal he agreed to before last season. Mets pitcher Johan Santana is second at $22.9 million under the six-season deal he agreed to this year.
Ramirez, acquired from Boston on July 31, is coming off a $160-million, eight-year contract he signed with the Red Sox before the 2001 season.
"We said, `Think about it for a while. It's not going to be there forever,"' Colletti said. "Things are always subject to change, and it depends on what else we do, to some extent. I've been asked a few times here if we're going to wait to see what happens with this before we do anything else. But I'm not sure we're going to have the luxury to do that. If there's something else that comes about that we feel we need to do, and the timeliness is there to do it, we'll have to do it."
When the Dodgers were eliminated from the playoffs last month, Ramirez expressed a desire to test the market.
"I want to see who is the highest bidder. Gas is up and so am I," he said then.
Gas prices have gone down sharply since then. His agent, Scott Boras, joked Wednesday.
"I believe that was a prognostication that was of a 24-hour period," Boras said. "Manny's stock career was short-lived."
Ramirez is 36, and the length of the contract could become as issue.
"There's always two elements to it. It's not just the dollar figure, it's for how long," Colletti said.
Boras appears to be seeking a lengthy contract.
"We have now established records with a lot of veteran players, where we're seeing players perform at very high levels into their early 40s," he said.
Also Wednesday, the team declined Brad Penny's $9.25-million option, making the 30-year-old right-hander eligible to become a free agent.
Penny, who receives a $2-million buyout, was 6-9 with a 6.27 ERA in 17 starts and two relief appearances last season. He was bothered by shoulder problems for much of the year and went on the disabled list three times: from June 17 to Aug. 8, Aug. 14 to Sept. 10 and Sept. 24 through the end of the season.
He was acquired by the Dodgers from Florida in July 2004 and won 16 games in both 2006 and 2007.
"This past year, between getting hurt and not being able to come back, we just didn't see enough scope of work, really," Colletti said.
While speaking about Ramirez, Colletti addressed the possibility that Greg Maddux will retire. The 355-game winner turns 43 in April.
"I told Scott we'd love to have him back, and we're not going to be closing the door on Greg Maddux anytime soon," Colletti said. "I've known him for a long, long time. I respect who he is and admire him for what he's done. I know the impact he has on a club and on a franchise.'