LOS ANGELES -- Outfielder Manny Ramirez notified the Dodgers on Friday that he's exercising his $20 million option and will return to the team for 2010, agent Scott Boras confirmed. Ramirez in March signed a contract for $25 million guaranteed in 2009 and a player option for '10. Ramirez had until Tuesday to notify the club. Boras said Ramirez felt that his comfort level playing in Los Angeles was the overriding factor in his decision, although he had told teammates the grind of playing defense every day was taking a toll on his 37-year-old body and he was tempted to explore teams that might be interested in him as a designated hitter.
However, finding anything close to a $20 million salary in an uncertain economic climate, combined with the baggage of his 50-game PED suspension this year, made free agency an unattractive proposition for Ramirez, who hit .290 with 19 homers and 63 RBIs in 104 games this season. General manager Ned Colletti said he was hopeful Ramirez would return in 2010 more like the offensive force he was after his acquisition in '08 and less like the pressing, wild swinger he became after returning from his 50-game drug suspension. "In the second half, to say someone else's confidence isn't the same is really unfair," said Colletti, "but I didn't see the same confidence in his approach when he returned that I saw the last two months of last year and the first five weeks of this year. "It's understandable. The hope is that the more time away from that we get, the more it becomes in the past instead of lingering day to day." Boras and Colletti said arranging more rest for Ramirez would be worked out between the player and manager Joe Torre. Juan Pierre hit .308 with 30 steals in 145 games as Ramirez's primary sub. Pierre is signed for another two seasons. Meanwhile, five other Dodgers filed for free agency on Friday: catcher Brad Ausmus; pitchers Vicente Padilla, Guillermo Mota and Jeff Weaver; and pinch-hitter Jim Thome. The Dodgers are believed to have interest mostly in Padilla, and likely would have interest in the 40-year-old Ausmus if he does not retire. Padilla went 4-0 with a 3.20 ERA for the Dodgers after being released by the Rangers, then delivered two clutch postseason starts before getting whacked in the Dodgers' elimination game from the National League Championship Series. He also suffered a minor gunshot wound earlier this week in a shooting range accident, but is expected to be healthy for Spring Training. Padilla is looking for a multiyear contract, something the Dodgers have shied away from for free-agent pitchers in recent years. Weaver resurrected his career after spending all of 2008 in the Minor Leagues. He went 6-4 with a 3.65 ERA as a swing man, making seven starts and pitching 79 innings. Ausmus played in only 36 games as backup to Russell Martin, but hit a career-high .295. Mota went 3-4 with a 3.44 ERA in 61 appearances and had a 29-game stretch in which he allowed only one earned run, but he fell out of favor in August and spent the rest of the season on the disabled list with an ingrown toenail. Thome was acquired at the Aug. 31 postseason Traded Deadline and cost the Dodgers $1 million in salary. Limited to only pinch-hitting because of health reasons, he was 1-for-3 in the postseason. He has said he wants to return to the American League to be a designated hitter. The five Dodgers filing for free agency on Friday joined six that filed on Thursday: pitchers Randy Wolf, Jon Garland and Eric Milton; and All-Star second baseman Orlando Hudson and fellow infielders Ronnie Belliard and Doug Mientkiewicz. Dodgers still eligible to file for free agency are shortstop Juan Castro, infielder Mark Loretta, left-hander Will Ohman and right-hander Jason Schmidt. Schmidt is expected to retire.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.