In the first 48 hours after Frank McCourt agreed to sell the Dodgers, even general manager Ned Colletti didn't know how that would impact his ability to construct the team's 2012 roster.
Colletti was expected to meet with McCourt, but this is unchartered territory: a team getting sold in the offseason, via an auction, with the previous owner cash-strapped, no clear-cut favorite to be the new owner, and differing opinions on whether adding payroll increases or decreases the value of the team.
Commissioner Bud Selig would like a new owner by Opening Day for the Dodgers. That might be possible, and the euphoria that McCourt is finally out as owner will drive legions of Dodgers fans back to the ballpark they deserted last year in a non-organized silent protest.
But that doesn't do Colletti any good right now, with free agency starting, the general manager meetings on deck, and the winter meetings a month away.
Colletti made it clear his top offseason priority is a "big bat," and that means first baseman Prince Fielder. But with his price tag expected to go way over $100 million, Colletti will need to get approval from baseball officials in New York, if not bankruptcy mediators in Delaware, before he can spend that kind of money.
At season's end, Colletti was told by McCourt there was enough money to re-sign the team's star players -- Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw and Andre Ethier -- and still add payroll to make the Dodgers more competitive next season.
Now? It's anybody's guess.
If it's any consolation, Colletti is used to this state of unknown. It's been a little more than two years since the Frank and Jamie McCourt made their separation public. Colletti has seen his payroll fluctuate from a high of about $120 million in 2008 and drop to around $90 million the year after, only to improve a little the previous two winters.
Typically, the biggest-named free agents don't sign early in the baseball offseason. Those who are represented by agent Scott Boras sign closer to Christmas than Thanksgiving. Fielder qualifies under both categories, so that buys the Dodgers baseball operations staff additional time for others to give them direction on how much they can spend.
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