Gene Mato, one of Manny Ramirez's representatives, communicated to Red Sox owner John W. Henry yesterday that Ramirez wants to be traded, and will not report to spring training if his wish to be dealt is not met, according to a team source.
Ramirez is a 10-5 player, meaning he has 10 years of major league service, five consecutive with the same team. That seniority entitles Ramirez to block a trade to any team he doesn't wish to join. With that in mind, Mato told Henry that Ramirez might decide during the process of being shopped that he wishes to remain with the Sox.
General manager Theo Epstein would neither confirm nor deny that Ramirez has requested a trade, but said late last night, ''Manny, his representatives, and the Red Sox have open lines of communication and will throughout the offseason. I think we all want whatever is in the club's best interest and Manny's best interest. [But] those conversations are private and completely confidential. For anyone to reveal the nature of those talks would be ridiculous. We have no comment."
This comes only three months after Ramirez asked to be traded by the July 31 deadline, which CEO Larry Lucchino revealed July 28 in his weekly radio interview with WEEI. Lucchino that day called the slugger's request ''not anything unusual," saying it was the fourth time since Henry bought the team that Ramirez asked out.
But Ramirez wasn't dealt. He remained with the team and made peace -- or publicly made a showing of making peace -- the morning of July 31, when he popped into manager Terry Francona's office and told the assembled media, ''I want to stay here for 2005 and win another World Series."
He said nothing about remaining with the club beyond 2005. He is, of course, signed for three more seasons, at a total of $57 million, the balance on his eight-year, $160 million contract.
Ramirez, along with one of his representatives, was scheduled to meet with Henry on Wednesday and discuss some of the issues in Ramirez's head. Henry, as of last week, wasn't expecting Ramirez to ask to be traded. A week ago yesterday, in an e-mail, Henry said he meets with Ramirez ''every six months or so, certainly every winter," and that he wasn't anticipating that this meeting would give rise to anything unusual.
That meeting, though, hasn't happened, because of the aftereffects of Hurricane Wilma in South Florida, where both Henry and Ramirez live.
Ramirez, 33, struggled for much of the first half of the 2005 season but still tied a career high with 45 home runs. He knocked in 144 runs, his highest total since 1999, his last year with Cleveland.
Ramirez did much of his offensive damage beginning July 31, when it was decided that he would not be dealt. Beginning that day, over the closing 56 games, he hit .327 with 17 home runs and 52 RBIs. He also significantly elevated his all-around game over the closing weeks of the season, paying noticeably sharper attention to base running and fielding.
Epstein said toward the end of the season that Ramirez had won his teammates' respect with his hustle.
''I think he really understood the impact that he has on our ball club," Francona said on the season's last day. ''How much we needed him."
David Ortiz, meanwhile, benefited greatly hitting ahead of Ramirez. Ramirez and Ortiz combined to hit 21 homers in the team's final 22 games, finishing the season with 92 homers and 292 RBIs, a season after hitting a combined 84 homers and delivering 269 RBIs.
''I'll tell you what," Ortiz said before Game 4 of the World Series Wednesday, ''If you're going to let a guy like Manny go, you better bring someone in like this."
He motioned to the man standing next to him, Atlanta's Andruw Jones, who led the majors with 51 home runs.