Damon and Ramirez agree with Rays

Posted Jan. 21, 2011, at 9:25 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 21, 2011, at 10:53 p.m.

Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon are about to become teammates again, this time in Tampa Bay.

Both free-agent outfielders agreed to one-year contracts with the Rays, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press on Friday night. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the agreements were subject to physicals and had not been announced.

Damon gets $5.25 million and the chance to earn $750,000 in bonuses based on attendance, the person said. Ramirez gets $2 million.

The moves mark the first major additions for the AL East champions after a devastating offseason in which one prominent player after another left cost-cutting Tampa Bay.

Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and Rafael Soriano signed elsewhere as free agents. Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett were traded. A strong bullpen was depleted by the losses of Joaquin Benoit, Grant Balfour, Dan Wheeler, Randy Choate and Chad Qualls.

Ramirez and Damon played together for four years in Boston and helped lead the Red Sox to the 2004 World Series title — ending the team’s 86-year championship drought. Both colorful characters are well past their primes, but if nothing else they could at least provide an attraction at Tropicana Field for a Rays team that drew just 1.86 million fans last year.

The 38-year-old Ramirez began last season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, then was claimed on waivers late in the summer by the Chicago White Sox. He hit a combined .298 with nine homers and 42 RBIs in the final season of a $45 million, two-year contract he signed with the Dodgers.

Hampered by injuries, the longtime slugger had 320 plate appearances in 90 games. Still a power threat, he likely will be a designated hitter for the Rays.

Ramirez’s career took a downward turn in May 2009 when he was suspended 50 games for using a banned female fertility drug.

The 12-time All-Star has 555 home runs, good for 14th on the career list, and 1,830 RBIs, which ranks 18th. He also helped Boston win the 2007 World Series, then was traded to the Dodgers the following season.

The 37-year-old Damon spent last season with the Detroit Tigers, batting .271 with eight homers and 51 RBIs, mostly as a DH. Weak-armed in left field and no longer the stolen base threat he once was, Damon remains very durable — he played 145 games last year and hit 36 doubles in 539 at-bats.

Damon, who is from nearby Orlando, can pad his paycheck by making a difference at the gate. He would get $150,000 each for 1.75 million, 1.85 million, 1.95 million, 2.05 million and 2.15 million in home attendance.

A two-time All-Star, Damon spent four years with the New York Yankees and helped them win the 2009 World Series. They let him leave as a free agent and he signed an $8 million, one-year deal with Detroit.

Angels acquire Jays’ Wells

The Los Angeles Angels acquired All-Star center fielder Vernon Wells from Toronto on Friday night, giving them the big bat they wanted to add this winter.

The Blue Jays shipped their high-priced fixture to the Angels for catcher Mike Napoli and outfielder Juan Rivera in one of baseball’s biggest trades this offseason.

The teams did not say whether the Blue Jays would also send cash to the Angels to help offset Wells’ contract. He has four years and $86 million left on the $126 million, seven-year deal he signed with Toronto.

That deal included a no-trade clause, which Wells waived to join the Angels.

“Vernon is a player we have admired for some time,” Los Angeles general manager Tony Reagins said. “He is a tremendous person and the type of player that will impact our club immediately, both on offense and defense.”

After winning three straight AL West titles and five of six, the Angels slid to 80-82 last season. They had hoped to add either outfielder Carl Crawford or third baseman Adrian Beltre this offseason, but missed out on both expensive free agents.

The 32-year-old Wells is a three-time All-Star who hit .273 with 31 home runs and 88 RBIs last season. He made his major league debut with Toronto in 1999 and quickly became one of baseball’s most promising players.

Nagged by injuries, Wells dipped in 2009 before a bounce-back season. He likely will take over in center field for the Angels, who moved perennial Gold Glove winner Torii Hunter to right last season to make room for speedy Peter Bourjos.

Chicago keeping Guillen

CHICAGO — The Chicago White Sox have picked up their 2012 option on manager Ozzie Guillen’s contract.

The announcement was made Friday, the opening day of the team’s winter convention.

Guillen, entering his eighth season as manager, agreed to a multiyear extension in September 2007 that ran through the upcoming season.

Known for his colorful language and wide-ranging opinions on just about every topic, the talkative Guillen has a 600-535 record. In his second year, he led the White Sox to a World Series title in 2005 — their first since 1917. He also guided Chicago to a division championship in 2008.

The White Sox went 88-74 a year ago, including one spurt of 26-5, and were in first place for 33 days but could not hold off the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central.

“It is my hope that we can get refocused on some of the positive energy we’ve had in the past and we can extend the relationship into the end of his career and the end of mine,” said general manager Ken Williams, who was often at odds with Guillen last season.

Celebrating his 47th birthday a day earlier, Guillen said the announcement brought tears to his wife’s eyes. He thanked Williams and chairman Jerry Reinsdorf for believing in him.

“I love this city and these fans,” said Guillen, who spent most of his playing career as a shortstop with the White Sox. “I want to be in Chicago.”

Orioles raise ticket prices

BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Orioles will be raising single-game ticket prices in 2011, even though the team is coming off its 13th consecutive losing season.

The increase is between $1 and $8 per seat, with an average of $3. The increase is the first for the team since 2007 — for games not involving the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox.

Tickets purchased before the day of a game will cost between $9 and $60. On game day, those prices will increase.

Games involving the Yankees and Red Sox will cost between $11 and $99.

Season-ticket prices are unchanged from 2010.

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