Lucchino says trading Ramirez difficult

Lucchino says trading Ramirez difficult

BOSTON -- Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino confirmed a report in this week's edition of Sports Illustrated that star slugger Manny Ramirez recently requested a trade. Lucchino, speaking on his weekly radio spot on WEEI-850 AM in Boston, added that this was hardly the first time Ramirez has asked for a change of scenery.

"Actually, our first meeting with him about being traded was the week before we took over the team in 2002, but the short answer to the question is yes he did [ask for a trade recently]," Lucchino told the radio station. "We certainly have some perspective on it. It has happened annually, and our general response was, 'It's that time of year,' and we'll explore it as we explore other trades. I don't think it would be intelligent of us to be surprised because as I've said, this is our fourth season ... in each of those years there has been a request for a trade."

Because Ramirez will make nearly $60 million over the remainder of his contract, which expires following the 2008 season, Lucchino acknowledged that trading the elite right-handed hitter would be a difficult proposition for general manager Theo Epstein, particularly with just a few days left before Sunday's 4 p.m. ET trade deadline.

"I think that it's hard [to try to trade Manny] because of the size of his contract obviously, it's hard," Lucchino said to WEEI hosts John Dennis and Gerry Callahan.

A year ago, with just minutes remaining before the trade deadline, the Red Sox sent icon Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs as part of a four-team trade. But Garciaparra was entering free agency, making it a far more feasible move to make.

"Theo is certainly willing to be bold and make moves that other GMs might shy away from, so this is the time for us to think about trades and certainly Manny's name will come up from time-to-time I'm sure in the next 72 hours. We have until 4:00 on Sunday afternoon," Lucchino said. "There aren't a lot of clubs that are going to be interested, but it depends how little you're willing to take in return with respect to trades. I'm not talking about Manny specifically, although it certainly applies to him.

"If you're willing to take a broken bat and a couple of baseballs and a player to be named later, I suppose that makes it more possible, but there's just a certain set of clubs that will never be interested because of the dollars involved, but then again that club may say, 'Hey, if he's got a $18-20 million contract this year, and you pay 95 percent of it, you know, we'll trade with you,, but that's not a particularly intelligent thing for us to do."

For as much baggage as Ramirez carries at times, he remains one of the most feared sluggers in the game.

Entering play on Thursday, Ramirez was tied with Alex Rodriguez for the American League lead in home runs with 28. His 92 RBIs led the league.

Ramirez has been a newsmaker several times in the last week. On July 20, he pulled himself out of a game against the Devil Rays after three innings (the Red Sox led 7-0 at the time) with tightness in his hamstrings but was back in the lineup the next night. Then came the report by Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated, which first surfaced on Tuesday, that Ramirez had again become disenchanted with his lack of privacy in Boston and wanted a trade.

Later that night, Ramirez appeared to be running half speed on a groundball in the late innings of an emotional Boston win, and was only safe on a potential double play because of an errant throw.

"There aren't a lot of clubs that are going to be interested, but it depends how little you're willing to take in return with respect to trades. I'm not talking about Manny specifically, although it certainly applies to him."
-- Larry Lucchino

Ramirez was supposed to have an off-day on Sunday in Chicago, but Red Sox manager Terry Francona asked him if he could postpone it until Wednesday. However, when Trot Nixon strained his oblique muscle in Tuesday's game and was placed on the DL, Francona asked Ramirez if he could play instead of taking the scheduled day off. Ramirez declined, saying he needed the rest.

"It's hard to know if the events of the last couple of days are the result of sort of psychological and physical needs for a sustained period of rest or it's some calculation or some move to encourage us to trade him," Lucchino said.

The Red Sox nearly moved Ramirez following the 2003 season. In fact, they put him on waivers, meaning any team could have claimed him without offering the Red Sox compensation. None of the other 29 Major League teams bit. Then the Sox had a trade in the works that would have sent Ramirez to the Rangers in an all-time blockbuster for Alex Rodriguez. But that trade was squashed after the Players Association nixed the proposed restructuring of Rodriguez's contract.

While many people expected Ramirez to be unhappy following that tumultuous winter, the complete opposite was true and he put together perhaps his most controversy-free season in Boston. Ramirez even opened up to the media in 2004, showing a bubbly side that only teammates had seen in the past. He was named MVP of the World Series.

On the surface, not much seemed to change with Ramirez this season other than the fact that he went back to his previous pattern of not speaking with the media. But then came all the news of the last few days.

Thus far, Ramirez's teammates have said all the right things when asked about the left fielder. However, even Lucchino wondered if Ramirez's desire not to play on Wednesday would leave some players less than thrilled.

"My guess is that there would be some reaction to it on the part of his teammates because there are some guys who take the obligation of constant effort quite seriously and so I suspect there will be some," Lucchino said. "What's more obvious to me is the media position. The media which has frequently written about 'Manny being Manny' over the years has certainly leaped into this issue with both feet if you read the papers today and listen to you guys on talk radio."

Ramirez and the Red Sox return home from a seven-game road trip for Friday night's contest against the Twins. It will be Ramirez's first at-bat at home since all of the news of the last few days, leading one to wonder what the crowd reaction will be like. Ramirez has typically received favorable ovations when he steps to the plate at Fenway Park and often engages in good-natured banter with the fans in the Monster Seats.

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.