The winter freeze has set in, and much of the warmth from the summer game is distant memory now. This time of year, it's mostly about cold statistics and money: the players set their prices, and teams set their bottom line. Let the negotiating begin.
The player: Alex Rodriguez
He has made it known he wants to be traded to Boston, where he'd be the biggest Red Sox star since Teddy Ballgame. But the deal might fall apart because the Red Sox management wants him to restructure the rest of his $252 million contract and perhaps forfeit a few million dollars that he'll never spend, anyway.
Wealth is supposed to increase personal freedom and create choices; in A-Rod's case, he might let it become the obstacle that prevents him from getting what he wants. The players' union has a rule against diminishing the value of an existing contract, but last we checked, it's a rule that probably cannot be found in the fine print of The Constitution. Amendment XXX: We The People, in order to form a more perfect union and pursue wealth, are required to make the most money possible ...
If A-Rod really wants to go to Boston, he can make it happen. At a price. It's up to him.
The player: Nomar Garciaparra
He is upset that the Boston Red Sox are courting a better player for his position behind his back, and he feels betrayed and wants everybody to know he loves playing for Boston. At the right price, of course. Garciaparra is reportedly seeking a four-year, $60 million deal, or about 50 percent more salary than the Red Sox want to pay. Garciaparra called Boston radio station WEEI Monday and made it clear he was unhappy.
The Red Sox want more than RBI for the millions they are paying their stars; they want someone with a presence, someone who gladly represents the franchise outside and inside the park. They want someone who won't constantly brush off a mass media that effectively provides millions of dollars of free advertising. ("No comment" is the working mantra of Boston's three greatest and highest-paid stars -- Garciaparra, Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez).
A-Rod would provide those kinds of intangibles that Garciaparra hasn't made a priority, and guess what? He's a younger and better player. If Garciaparra wants to stay with the Red Sox, it probably would behoove him to quickly forgo the public relations campaign and make swift peace with the Boston ownership. It does him no good to pout.
The player: Gary Sheffield
Still not officially a Yankee, and if his deal falls apart, as the New York Post reported as a possibility, it might be the luckiest break for the team since Albert Belle reneged on his verbal agreement in the winter of 1998. The Yankees already have strong DH candidates in Jason Giambi and Bernie Williams, and Sheffield is a 35-year-old defensively challenged right fielder; Sheffield would be a great addition for many teams, but not for the Yankees, with their roster already aging.
Sheffield created consternation within the Yankees' organization when he detailed his verbal agreement with George Steinbrenner to a newspaper -- more evidence that Sheffield, typically outspoken in his career, could make regular and unwanted appearances in the headlines of the New York area papers. Or maybe Steinbrenner has grown weary of the genteel Yankees, and wants more Billy-Reggie type Bronx Zoo stuff. If so, he should rush to finish the Sheffield deal now.
Or maybe the Yankees will invest that $39 million earmarked for Sheffield, tack on another year to the deal and lock up Vladimir Guerrero, who is seven years younger.
The player: Ivan Rodriguez
The Florida Marlins could not have won their championship without Rodriguez, but they did not want to pay him what he believes he is worth. Their package offer was apparently about $15 million to $17 million less than what Rodriguez wants, and so the divorce was nasty.
As great as Rodriguez was last season and could be again, there are reservations among baseball officials about investing multi-year millions in a 32-year-old catcher; that is seen as the silver bullet age for a catcher. It's too bad for the Marlins and Rodriguez that this didn't work out. Now Florida has to identify a catcher -- and they probably could get Javy Lopez for less money than they offered Rodriguez -- and Pudge must seek other offers.
The player: Andy Pettitte
His biggest financial offer will come from the Yankees and his best personal offer comes from the Astros, because his family resides there year-round. If he signs with Houston, he might have to walk away from perhaps $20 million or more of Yankees' cash. One official with the Yankees believes the chances of re-signing the left-hander to play in the Bronx are slightly less than 50-50. If he does go to Houston, the loss of Pettitte would be devastating.
Buster Olney is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.