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Altering Jones deal could lead to Manny

Andruw leaving? Fueling Manny return?

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers are in discussions to rework the contract of beleaguered outfielder Andruw Jones, with the goal of moving him off the roster while freeing up salary that might be used to sign free-agent outfielder Manny Ramirez.

An industry source confirmed a Los Angeles Times report that talks were ongoing. That report claimed the Dodgers would free approximately $12 million that could be used to sign Ramirez, who did not respond to a two-year, $45 million offer the Dodgers made in November and withdrew two weeks later.

Before Jones left the club during its 2008 division-title run in September, he told teammates he did not want to return to Los Angeles for the final year of a $36.2 million contract signed last December and would waive his no-trade protection. The contract was backloaded with $21.1 million still to be paid.

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The Dodgers are hoping to spread that money over more years. It could be done through an extension, which would move a chunk of money off the 2009 payroll. There also is the possibility of a deferred buyout, either to facilitate a trade or allow Jones to become a free agent.

Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti exchanged voicemail messages earlier this week with Scott Boras, agent for Ramirez and Jones. Boras made the first call to restart negotiations for Ramirez after there were indications the Dodgers might pursue Adam Dunn or Bobby Abreu. Colletti and Boras had not talked about Ramirez since the Winter Meetings three weeks ago.

Jones left the club after being placed on the disabled list for the third time last year with tendinitis in his right knee, which also underwent arthroscopic surgery in May. Jones had never been on the disabled list in his previous 10 seasons.

"I don't feel 100 percent, I don't feel I can help the team, especially in this situation in the race," he said before heading home. "To be a bench guy, it takes me a while to warm up and get going. Right now, we need to play the other guys."

Jones finished the season hitting .158 with three homers and 14 RBIs, playing in 75 games. Not exactly what the club had in mind when it signed him to the highest annual salary in club history. Nor was it expected that Jones would arrive in Spring Training noticeably overweight, slow of foot and bat speed. And he compounded it with poorly chosen words about not caring what the fans thought about his play.

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Jones, 32 in April, is a 10-time Gold Glove winner and five-time All-Star, but the Dodgers saw none of that. He vowed before leaving the club to report to 2009 Spring Training in better shape. He also said he would play winter ball in the Dominican Republic, where he has played five games, hitting .188 with no extra-base hits and eight strikeouts in 16 at-bats. He went home for the holidays, but the club expected him to resume playing in the Dominican Republic next week.

At the time Jones left the club, Colletti was asked if he remembered another player to fall so far so fast.

"I can't think of one and I've tried for the last five months," he said.

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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