CLEVELAND (AP) â€” The Cleveland Indians withdrew their seven-year, $119 million offer to Manny Ramirez and said Monday they would aggressively pursue other free agents.
General manager John Hart said that if Ramirez eventually decides he wants to stay in Cleveland, the Indians won't pay him a penny over the $17 million-per-season offer the free agent outfielder already has rejected.
``He's not going to come here for more,'' Hart said.
The Indians' package was turned down during the weekend by Ramirez's agent, Jeff Moorad. Ramirez has said he wants a 10-year, $200 million package.
Our offer has been pulled and we are in the business of going forward and building our team for '01 and beyond,'' Hart said at a news conference at Jacobs Field. ``We are involved in talks with other free agents and trades.''
The Indians on Monday also exercised club options on three players: center fielder Kenny Lofton and relievers Paul Shuey and Ricardo Rincon.
Lofton, who hit .278 last season after making a remarkable return from shoulder surgery, will make $8 million next year.
``We're not sitting here wringing our hands or falling down and stomping our feet because Manny didn't sign,'' Hart said. ``We're going hard and fast at improving our team.''
Meanwhile, Moorad confirmed he talked with one team at his Newport Beach, Calif., offices on Monday about Ramirez, but would not reveal the identity of that club. He also said he has a meeting scheduled for Tuesday with another team interested in Ramirez, the AL's top RBI producer the past three years.
Moorad said Monday night that he planned to talk to the Indians again this week. ``Manny and I have committed to keeping an open line of communication with the Indians. John and I will stay in touch,'' he said. ``We have also discussed other free agents as possible fits with the Indians.''
Moorad also represents outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds of the Colorado Rockies, as well as pitcher Bobby J. Jones of the New York Mets, and catcher Tom Lampkin, who was with the Seattle Mariners last season. All three are free agents.
Hart said he is not ruling out the possibility that once Moorad tests the free-agent market he may not find a deal better than the one the Indians offered and could want to reopen negotiations.
Hart would be willing to talk, but he reiterated the Indians can't wait too long during the free-agency season for Ramirez to make up his mind.
``We can't wait. We're not in a business of sit and wait,'' he said. ``We want to find players who want to be Indians. ... We're not going to play musical chairs and be left without a chair. We think there are some dance partners out there.''
Hart said he wasn't shocked that the Indians' offer, which he called ``extensive,'' was rejected by Moorad, who insists that Ramirez prefers to stay with the Indians.
The Indians extended themselves beyond their means, Hart said, because the club thought it was important to retain a homegrown player who is also one of the most popular on the roster.
``There was a sincere effort made by the Indians to make the offer work,'' he said. ``It was extensive. We felt he was a quality player and a popular player with our fans. We had heard that this is a market that the player wants to play in.
``This was a yes-or-no (offer). This offer was designed to be THE offer. It was extremely fair, beyond fair.''
Asked if he thought the Indians would bid any higher for Ramirez, Hart said: ``I don't envision us going further at all.''
The three-time defending World Series champion New York Yankees are thought to be targeting Ramirez, who batted .351 and drove in 122 runs in just 118 games last season.
Hart said that Moorad's rejection made him believe that the agent is simply looking for the highest contract he can get.
The Indians have contacted the agent for Ellis Burks, who batted .340 last season in San Francisco as a possible replacement for Ramirez. Hart said the club would make offense a priority before looking for pitching help.
``We're looking for bats,'' he said.
Shuey went 4-2 with a 3.39 ERA in 57 relief appearances last season. The right-hander missed five weeks after undergoing hip surgery.
Rincon was 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA in 35 outings. He was sidelined from May 18 to Aug. 23 after having elbow surgery. Rincon's club option was for 2002. His $1.5 million salary for 2002 will jump to $1.9 million if he finishes at least 55 games next season.