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Manny switches agents, hires Boras

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TAMPA, Fla. -- Manny Ramirez spoke to reporters about his contractual situation Thursday, but when he did he failed to mention one new revelation: Ramirez is switching agents and has hired Scott Boras, a friend of Ramirez's told SI.com.

Red Sox GM Theo Epstein acknowledged by email that he's been informed of the change by Ramirez within the past few days.

Ramirez spoke aloud Thursday in Fort Myers about whether the Red Sox might exercise his $20-million option for 2009 or instead allow him to become a free agent, and he suggested in that interview that he'd prefer to stay in Boston but that he wouldn't be heartbroken to become a free agent, either.

It isn't known how the insertion of Boras in the equation might affect Ramirez's chances to stay in Boston. While Boras is famous for procuring many of the biggest free-agent contracts ever, he has a solid working relationship with the world champion Red Sox, who employ several of his clients, including Daisuke Matsuzaka, J.D. Drew, Jason Varitek, Jacoby Ellsbury, Julian Tavarez and Alex Cora.

While not mentioning his change in agents, Ramirez told Boston writers on Thursday, "I want to stay here, but it's up to them if they want to bring me [back]. But if they don't want to bring me back, that's fine. I know I'll be a free agent after '08 so that's another thing I'm looking forward to.''

Ramirez and the Red Sox have had an extremely successful but occasionally uneasy relationship, as he's put up monster numbers while also perpetuating the "Manny being Manny'' image with a few quirky moves.

Several years ago the Red Sox put Ramirez on waivers, which would have allowed any team to acquire him for nothing (none claimed him). But that was before he helped them win two rings and salaries re-escalated. The Red Sox also hoped to trade Ramirez for Alex Rodriguez before the 2004 season, and were disappointed when the deal fell through over a matter of several million dollars before A-Rod went to the Yankees.

Ramirez has told friends in the past that he's uncomfortable with the fishbowl existence Red Sox endure in Boston. Although, he seems to have dealt better with it in recent years.

Boras was unavailable for comment Friday afternoon as he was traveling back to California after winning a salary arbitration case for Oliver Perez, who will be paid $6.5 million rather than the $4.725-million figure submitted by the Mets.

Boras, who has the biggest stable of star players in baseball, is most famous for negotiating A-Rod's original record-breaking $252-million contract with the Rangers. That contract and Drew's Dodgers deal had player options that allowed each player to gain new free agency before those contracts expired; A-Rod opted out of the three years and $81 million remaining on his deal that was assumed by the Yankees (with the Rangers to still pay $30 million of it) to sign a new $275-million deal that includes a $30-million incentive package, while Drew left the Dodgers with three years and $33 million remaining to sign his Red Sox deal.

The $70-million, five-year deal Drew signed with Boston is seen as a major coup, especially since it gave Drew a higher salary than Red Sox superstar David Ortiz, one of the best two or three hitters in baseball. Ellsbury was the next Red Sox to go over to Boras, and now Ramirez, whose current $160-million, eight-year deal was negotiated by former agent Jeff Moorad, joins them.

After opting out this winter, Rodriguez wound up rushing back to the Yankees on his own and against Boras' advice to negotiate a contract whose parameters were laid out by Boras -- 10 years and $275 million -- rather than play the field and try to get more money from the Yankees or someone else. The Red Sox were one of the teams showing interest in A-Rod before he called his own audible to return to New York.

One big difference here is that this option belongs to Boston, not Ramirez.

Ramirez, 35, had his worst year in 2007, hitting 20 home runs with 88 RBIs and a .296 batting average. For the first time in his career his slugging percentage was below .500; it was .493. He has 490 career home runs and .313 batting average lifetime.

Epstein told Red Sox writers that they wouldn't decide whether to exercise the option until the end of the season.

Ramirez has remained with Moorad's old agency after the agent left to run the Arizona Diamondbacks. Scott Parker and Greg Genske have been Ramirez's agent since Moorad switched over to become a club executive.

Ramirez's Red Sox contract called for twin $20-million options for '09 and 2010, as well.

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