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Indians Offer Ramirez 7-Year Deal

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CLEVELAND (AP) — Manny Ramirez always said he wanted to finish his playing career where it started — in Cleveland.

The Indians are about to find out if he's a man of his word.

Unwilling to meet Ramirez's demand for $200 million for 10 years, the club offered the free-agent outfielder a seven-year contract worth more than $119 million.

The Indians, who have exclusive negotiating rights with Ramirez until midnight on Friday, faxed their counterproposal to his representative, Jeff Moorad, according to a baseball management source speaking on the condition he not be identified.

The source said the Indians' counteroffer was for seven years and that the per-year value was ``slightly more'' than the $17 million per season average the Toronto Blue Jays will pay first baseman Carlos Delgado beginning next season.

If Ramirez accepts the deal and re-signs with Cleveland, he would be baseball's highest-paid player — for now. Shortstop Alex Rodriguez is expected to get a contract close to the $200 million Ramirez asked for.

Moorad said late Thursday night that he received the Indians' latest offer and that he would spend Friday in his Newport Beach, Calif., office analyzing it before resuming talks with the Indians.

``It's certainly a necessary step in any kind of process that would have Manny re-signing with the Indians,'' he said.

Asked if he thought the newest proposal was fair, Moorad said: ``I'm not going to characterize it.''

Moorad would not comment on any specifics of the deal, but said that if the sides did not come to an agreement by midnight, the chances of Ramirez re-signing with the Indians would lessen.

An Indians spokesman confirmed the counterproposal was sent to Moorad, but refused to discuss its contents.

Cleveland is the only team that can negotiate salary with Ramirez through Friday. After that, Ramirez, who had 122 RBIs in just 118 games last season and 432 the past three years, is free to sign elsewhere.

There are reportedly several teams, including the New York Yankees, eager to do business with Moorad.

Last week, Moorad sent a complex proposal to Cleveland owner Larry Dolan that would make the deal for Ramirez the richest in sports history and make him baseball's first $20 million per year player.

Since getting the offer, the Indians spent nearly a week analyzing both Moorad's package and their own economic situation. On Thursday, the Indians decided to see if Moorad was willing to come down in price.

To date, the largest contract ever given to a player by the Indians is the four-year, $32 million deal that Roberto Alomar signed following the 1998 season.

Moorad rejected a $75 million, five-year offer from the Indians in July. He has maintained throughout the negotiations that Ramirez, 28, wants to stay in Cleveland and he would seek a ``career contract'' for his client.

Earlier this week, Moorad said there were six teams — three in each league — who expressed an interest in talking to him about Ramirez. He scheduled meetings with two of those teams for early next week.

The World Series champion Yankees are believed to have targeted Ramirez as their No. 1 free-agent signing this winter. Ramirez grew up in New York.

Hart left the GM meetings in Amelia Island, Fla., on Thursday and was unavailable for comment.

During the meetings, Hart worked on alternatives if the Indians were unable to sign Ramirez.

The team contacted the agent for Ellis Burks, who batted .344 with 24 homers and 96 RBIs for the San Francisco Giants last season. The Indians were also reportedly interested in Tony Gwynn.

``In terms of all the dynamics of the situation, Manny's our player and we're continuing to talk,'' Hart said. ``Do we have a Plan B, or C, or D, or hybrids of all of them? Absolutely. We've mapped out the free-agent world, we've talked with all of the clubs here this week. The Indians always do their due diligence as far as what we can.''
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