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Klap: Mets-Bosox talks for Manny heat up


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Monday, November 28, 2005



Omar Minaya spent the entire Thanksgiving holiday working the phones - or, to be more specific, working the Red Sox for a possible deal for Manny Ramirez. According to a National League executive, the Mets made notable progress, a development that was seconded by a club official who said Sunday night, "We have a shot."

Ramirez is, and always has been, Minaya's biggest prey, although the hunt until now has been slowed by two obstacles. First, Ramirez' $20 million annual salary was more than the Wilpon family was willing to spend. And second, Ramirez, 33, would almost certainly cost the Mets hot-shot outfield prospect Lastings Milledge.

That's one reason Minaya was exploring a deal for Alfonso Soriano - until the Rangers' demands included Milledge, said the NL source. Once the price tag became too steep, Minaya resumed an earlier dialogue with the Red Sox, who were surprisingly receptive. It's still unclear whom, exactly, the Red Sox would demand in addition to Milledge, but Minaya may be willing to convince ownership that with Ramirez in a lineup that already has Carlos Delgado, the East can be conquered outright in 2006.

Ramirez seems poised for a trade. Just last week he asked one of his former handlers in Cleveland to join him in New York, if and when a trade finally happens. The friend, who asked to remain anonymous, said Sunday: "Manny's first choice is still Anaheim, because he feels he could play there without fans bothering him too much. He walked around the malls there and no one noticed him. He liked that.

"He's not crazy about New York, but he said he would go there if that was the only way to get out of Boston. He's just fed up with people bothering him all the time, showing up at his house."

Minaya still will have to lean on the Wilpons to make room on the payroll for Ramirez. With a $30 million offer on the table for Billy Wagner - which is likely to balloon now that B.J. Ryan is finalizing a five-year deal worth $47 million with the Blue Jays - Ramirez could turn the Mets into a $115 million to $120 million investment next year, and that's even if Boston assumes some of the slugger's salary.

Still, the temptation to score a blizzard of runs could be great enough to make Ramirez worth any price. Although he batted under .300 for the first time since 1998, Ramirez nevertheless finished third in the American League with 45 home runs and tied for second with 144 RBI. More poignantly, Ramirez batted .358 with runners in scoring position, cementing his reputation as a nearly-uncontainable force under pressure.

Indeed, Manny's focus - and lack of it - have become legendary.

In 2005, he batted only .237 with the bases empty, but his average zoomed to .346 with runners on.

Of course, Ramirez's mood swings and erratic behavior have exasperated Boston officials for years, and the fact that the Mets are moving closer to a deal suggests the Red Sox have had enough of the outfielder's antics.

But Minaya believes Ramirez will be happier in New York and therefore less likely to stray. Ramirez's friend also said Manny's friendship with Pedro Martinez, "would make it easier for him [to play for the Mets]."

With Delgado in town today for his first press conference as a Met, the talk with be all about the new-look, newly-muscled offense. Apparently, this dialogue now requires an asterisk. It says: to be continued.

E-mail: klapisch@northjersey.com

Not happy with this. Prior to getting Delgado, I was pro-Manny at any cost. Now that they've got Delgado, I'd rather keep Milledge.

Granted, a lineup of Reyes-Beltran-Ramirez-Delgado-Wright-Floyd would make the Mets contenders in the NL this year and next, keeping Milledge could give the team a core of Reyes, Milledge, Wright and Beltran for the next 4 or 5 years.

If they could get him for a package including Floyd, Matsui, some pitchers and other prospects, then I would do it in a heartbeat. But thats unrealistic to even suggest.

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Boston needs a lot back for Manny. Since they won't be getting a slugger back, unless Floyd is included, My guess is that they get a couple of kids, and make a big run after Knorkeo from the White Sox.

Beltran for Manny straight up?

He would be a nice replacement for Damon.

The Sox will unlikely get a fair exchange for Manny. Which means Papi will not be able to produce as well as he has the past two seasons.

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