JOSE RAMIREZ WOKE UP the morning of April 5 determined to make something out of nothing.
It was the final day of the Cleveland Guardians' spring training stint in Arizona, the team's deadline to agree on an extension with its star third baseman. Progress was stalled, and rival teams had noticed. The possibility of a trade seemed increasingly likely, and Ramirez became alarmed by the thought of it. He reached out to his agent, Rafa Nieves of Republik Sports, a little after 9 a.m. PT and implored him to find common ground with the Guardians' principal decision-makers. There was work to be done.
"We were on two different planets," Nieves said.
Nieves began representing Ramirez in 2012, when he was only 19 and widely considered too small to make an imprint on a major league roster. Ramirez stuck with Nieves through three different agencies, the latest one Nieves' own; Nieves watched Ramirez grow from an unheralded prospect to one of the sport's best, most well-rounded players. After more than a decade together, they'd become more like family. But Ramirez and Nieves spent most of April's first week arguing. The Guardians' offers -- one in November, another in March -- had come in well below market value, and Ramirez, Nieves said, continually tried to justify them in an effort to stay.
"I tried to talk him out of it," Nieves said. "Everyone tried to talk him out of it."