Now, will they pay to keep him?
"Stay, Manny, stay," the Dodgers Stadium crowd chanted in the waning moments of the Dodgers' elimination game with Philadelphia on Wednesday night. After showering and dressing, Ramirez came onto the top step of the dugout to tip his cap to fans, who cheered wildly, then he tapped his heart, pointed to the stands and retreated to the dugout
"I just want to thank my fans here in L.A. for the great support that they did. I erased the past, so now I'm moving on," Ramirez said in the clubhouse. "We'll see what happens in the offseason. I want to see who is the highest bidder."
That's what the Dodgers are afraid of.
"No question Manny had a tremendous impact on this team and this city," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. "We'll see where we go from here. A lot depends if the player desires [to be here]. We haven't discussed it."
Ramirez's statistical contributions are off the charts. He hit .533 (8-for-15) in the National League Championship Series with two homers and seven walks. He drove in seven of the Dodgers' 20 runs (35 percent), had 16 of their 64 total bases (25 percent), with a .682 on-base percentage and a 1.067 slugging percentage. He extended his postseason records with his 28th homer, 12th in the LCS and has an RBI in nine straight games. He did it with virtually no protection ahead of or behind him.
He pretty much carried the Dodgers into the postseason, driving in 53 runs in 53 games with 17 homers.
And here's an endorsement for Ramirez on the intangibles from someone who knows something about intangibles.
"He's helping the maturation of these young kids, and I'm not saying if he doesn't come they're not going to mature, but if he doesn't come you better get someone to help the maturation along," Dodgers third-base coach Larry Bowa said. "You saw what he did to help these kids the last two months, and if you don't get you him, you're going to need somebody -- I'm not saying he'll be as good of a hitter as Manny -- but you're going to need somebody to do that."
Ramirez is one of 12 players on the current 40-man roster eligible this winter for free agency, which doesn't count two players the club has 2009 options on -- pitcher Brad Penny and backup catcher Gary Bennett.
The most notable free agent is Ramirez, presumably looking for a four-year, $100 million contract, even though he turns 37 in May.
Also eligible are pitchers Derek Lowe, Greg Maddux, Joe Beimel, Chan Ho Park and Jason Johnson; and infielders Rafael Furcal, Jeff Kent, Casey Blake, Pablo Ozuna, Nomar Garciaparra and Mark Sweeney.
Colletti said he wants Furcal to return, although the shortstop has been injured two of his three seasons with the Dodgers and durability will factor into the decision.
"I want to come back," Furcal said.
Lowe is likely to leave. Kent, Maddux and Garciaparra are candidates for retirement, although none made any announcement after the game.
Kent, 40, missed most of September with knee surgery, then was benched for the postseason in favor of rookie Blake DeWitt, who went 1-for-13 with five RBIs against Philadelphia.
"I was ready to play," said Kent, 0-for-8 in an unfamiliar bench role. "To work like I did the last four weeks, then to lose like this, it's an empty kind of feeling. I'll go home, try to evaluate and reflect and find out where I stand. I haven't seen my kids in six weeks and that's too long."
The 42-year-old Maddux, who took to relief for the playoffs well enough to pitch four innings without allowing an earned run, asked plate umpire Mike Winters for the ball when he left the mound after his second inning of action Wednesday night. He wouldn't say if he did that because he believed it was for the last time.
"It might," he said. "I don't know what will happen. I'll go back to Vegas, figure out what happened this year and see what happens."
Garciaparra is 35, but he requires hours each day to get his body in condition to play. He learned this year that he has a congenital condition that manufactures excess scar tissue, a contributing factor in his numerous recent injuries.
"I've been blessed to put on three uniforms of three of the most storied franchises in baseball -- Boston, the Cubs and the Dodgers," he said. "It's been a thrill and a thrill to see my parents here to watch me play. I'm not even thinking about the future. Right now, I'm just trying to soak this one in. I'm not worried about the future. I'll worry about today and deal with this loss."
Including the payoffs for released players Esteban Loaiza and Brett Tomko, the Dodgers could free up $56.5 million if they don't bring back any of them, and the number goes up to $63.75 million if they buy Penny out of his contract for $2 million, which is a real possibility.
Of course, while that freed-up money could be redirected toward Ramirez or pitcher CC Sabathia, there also will be many other holes to fill if they let go two starting pitchers, the starting second baseman, shortstop and third baseman, as well as some of the bench and bullpen.
The Dodgers currently have $61 million committed to four players -- Andruw Jones, Hiroki Kuroda, Juan Pierre and Jason Schmidt -- for 2009. If they keep Penny, the commitment rises to $68.3 million.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less