Separation, divorce, regret, infatuation, obsession, renewal. No, we didn't stumble upon a McCourt to-do list. It's the well-traveled emotional arc of every baseball offseason, when World Series heroes are shunted aside, big-name free agents are wooed and wowed, and the homeliest situational relievers find multiple suitors.
From preliminary murmurings at this week's general manager meetings in Chicago, to dalliances in the catacombs of the Indianapolis skywalk at the winter meetings in December, to consummating relationships amid the gleaming glass at the Scott Boras Corp. in January, courtships become commitments.
As free agent pageants go, this year's is plain Jane. Matt Holliday(notes), the left fielder whose season began with struggling in Oakland and ended resurrected in St. Louis, probably is the only player whose deal could exceed $100 million. Contracts for left fielder Jason Bay(notes) and starting pitcher John Lackey(notes) likely will be for at least four years at more than $15 million annually.
Otherwise, teams will be left to bid on the odd (Brett Myers(notes), Daniel Cabrera(notes), Andruw Jones(notes)), aged (John Smoltz(notes), Jason Giambi(notes), Randy Johnson(notes)) and infirm (Vladimir Guerrero(notes), Hideki Matsui(notes), Mike Hampton(notes)).
Especially the aged. Fourteen pitchers 40 and older are seeking employment. Half of the 20 left-handed relievers on the market are at least 38. Eighteen of the 34 right-handed relievers are at least 36. And 13 starters 37 or older are waiting for offers.
Free agents may only negotiate with their 2009 teams until Nov. 20. It's open season on trades, though, and teams already have been busy. The Twins picked up shortstop J.J. Hardy(notes) from the Brewers for outfielder Carlos Gomez(notes); the White Sox nabbed third baseman Mark Teahen(notes) from the Royals for infielders Josh Fields(notes) and Chris Getz(notes); the Red Sox reeled in Marlins' outfielder Jeremy Hermida(notes) and the Pirates scooped up infielder Akinori Iwamura(notes) from the Rays.
And if nothing else is happening on a given day, there's always the McCourts.
• As the Dodgers turn: The ownership question won't be resolved by the courts before next season, so the chances of the Dodgers going on an offseason spending spree are nil. So is the prospect of signing their arbitration-eligible players to long-term teams. As it is, the arb guys will hike the payroll: The salaries of center fielder Matt Kemp(notes), first baseman James Loney(notes) and starter Chad Billingsley(notes) will go from about $450,000 to $3 million or more in their first arbitration years, and right fielder Andre Ethier(notes), catcher Russell Martin(notes) and closer Jonathan Broxton(notes) are due raises in their second arbitration years. The team needs a serious upgrade in the starting rotation, but barring a trade, the likely scenario is re-signing steady hand Randy Wolf(notes), who could have multiple suitors in the thin market but prefers to live in L.A. Trading Billingsley has been postulated, but the time isn't ripe because of his poor second half. Better to wait until he puts up All-Star numbers again in the pressure-free first half and trade him in July.
• Holliday and Bay sweepstakes: The Cardinals would love to keep Holliday and the Red Sox want to keep Bay. Both sluggers will test the waters first with the Yankees, who won't re-sign both Johnny Damon(notes) and Hideki Matsui. Look for the Red Sox to either retain Bay or strongly pursue Holliday if Bay signs with the Yankees. Holliday would be a better bet returning to the Cardinals for a slight hometown discount if Scott Boras weren't his agent.
• New York Yankees widen the gulf: The roadmap for the rich to get richer is easy to navigate. Re-sign Damon as a DH; sign Holliday or Bay to play left field; sign Lackey to bolster the starting rotation; re-sign Andy Pettitte(notes) for one more season after offering him arbitration to chase off other suitors. Then, one year from now, sign catcher Joe Mauer(notes) when he hits free agency. Seem implausible? All it takes is that green stuff oozing out of Yankee pores.
• Aroldis Chapman: The 22-year-old, flame-throwing left-hander from Cuba with a penchant for the night life already has been courted by the cash-flush Yankees and Red Sox. So any other team entering bidding (the Mariners, Cubs, White Sox and Mets have been mentioned) that could exceed four years and $30 million had better bust open the piggy bank.
• Roy Halladay(notes) trade market: New Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos will begin shopping his ace right-hander at this week's GM meetings because Halladay has made it clear he does not plan to remain in Toronto when his contract expires at the end of the season. Although Halladay might not net the bushel of prospects fired GM J.P. Ricciardi could have gotten last July, the market should still be strong because of the dearth of top-end free-agent starters.
• Calling it a (Hall of Fame) career: Pedro Martinez(notes), John Smoltz and Randy Johnson all want to continue pitching. Tom Glavine(notes) should make it official and retire. Among hitters, Jim Thome(notes), Gary Sheffield(notes) and Ken Griffey Jr.(notes) could hang around as designated hitters for another season. Or they could announce their retirement if the right on-field situation doesn't present itself. Then again, the same could be said for Barry Bonds(notes).