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If Sabathia Signs Elsewhere, Yanks Are to Blame



By Joseph Delgrippo ~ November 30th, 2008. Filed under: Digest Contributors.

Recent reports suggest that the Anaheim Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox and even the San Francisco Giants are now in the hunt for highly coveted free agent pitcher CC Sabathia, with the Angels being the most likely to offer a big enough deal. There is speculation, however, that the Angels are making overtures towards Sabathia to get their own free agent Mark Teixeira to take less money, fewer years or just make a quicker decision. Teixeira is seeking upwards of a 10 year deal for $200 million. A good days pay if you can get it.

But, while Teixeira and his uber agent, Scott Boras, have typically delayed their decision on the Angels, the Halos feel that if Tex signs elsewhere, their path to another American League West title starts 60 feet 6 inches away from home plate. The Angles will then concentrate what has made them a constant in the perennial playoff chase – quality starting pitching. The Angels have had more and better pitching than any other team in the AL, and is the big reason why they have four divisional titles, one World Series Championship and five 90 win seasons since Mike Scioscia took over as Angels manager 9 years ago.

Yes, the Angels will be able to make it work and could win another divisional title with Sabathia and without Teixeira.

By why hasn’t the main protagonist in this Sabathia drama, the New York Yankees, already locked up the big pitcher as their top of the rotation starter? Early reports as far back as during the 2008 playoffs had the Yankees zeroing in on Sabathia as their #1 priority. SI.com’s Jon Heyman wrote a piece on the Yankees and Sabathia on October 5th. Knowing Sabathia had a preference for the National League (where he can hit) and/or the West Coast (where he is from), the Yankees were supposed to overpay for Sabathia to keep him away form those temptations. The Yankees money will talk and talk loudly! The Yankees should have…but they didn’t.

The general consensus was that the Yankees were severely upset the way their youth movement experiment developed last season. In 2008, youngsters Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy had miserable, injury plagues seasons, and the Yankees could not overcome other problems with their starting pitching, and finished a disappointing third in the AL East. Their theory changed from youthful exuberance to finding an elite starting staff with big free agent acquisitions, headlined by Sabathia. The Yankees would blow away all other teams with their deep financial resources, with at least $88 million saved from expired contracts and a new cash cow Yankee Stadium, they had even more financial muscle entering 2009. Heyman even wrote that the Yankees offer “would blow away” all other teams and the Yankees would likely exceed the 6 year, $137.5 million deal the New York Mets gave Johan Santana last winter. The small, exclusive window that Sabathia’s current team, the Milwaukee Brewers, had concluded with the Brewers offering CC a 5 year, $100 million contract, formidable by Milwaukee standards. But, it pales in comparison to what the Yankees could afford.

But, something happened on the way to a Sabathia to the Yankees deal. The Yankees offered Sabathia a 6 year, $140 million contract, topping the Brewers offer, but barely surpassing Santana’s deal. While $140 million is a ton of guaranteed cash, and “blew away” Milwaukee’s offer, Sabathia did not jump – and this let other teams back in even the picture when most baseball people thought Sabathia to the Yankees was a foregone conclusion.

The Yankees front office made the mistake of thinking that all they had to do was top Milwaukee’s offer, and give CC a little more than Santana received, but the Yankees were not competing with Milwaukee for Sabathia. Nobody really thinks Sabathia would re-sign with Milwaukee. The Brewers’ offer was a saving face contract showing the Brewer faithful they wanted CC back, but the money would never work. Milwaukee traded for Sabathia last year to “go for it,” and while I commend them for that risk, they failed in their goal of the World Series and now must think of rebuilding their starting staff once again.

No, the Yankees were competing with the Boston Red Sox, both LA area teams and any other team with semi-deep pockets willing to take a risk – even a team like the Texas Rangers or San Francisco Giants. And the Yankees were competing against the Santana contract, which they needed to dominate, not just beat. After his performance down the stretch for the Brewers, pitching them into the playoffs with the last several clutch performances on three days rest, Sabathia needed to see much more than Santana’s deal. Santana did his best in August and September, but the Brewers beat out the Mets for the NL Wild Card. That deserved much more than Santana money, and by not blowing away the real competition away with a mega deal, the Yankees let the other teams back in the game.

It is similar to a poker game of Texas Hold ‘Em. You are sitting with a King – Queen in your hand and the flop comes up K – 8 – 4. You have top pair on the board and know it is the best hand. You don’t want to let the little guys play anymore (maybe they paired the 8 or 4) with the possibility of coming up with a three of a kind on the Turn card or the River. So, when it is time to bet, you “blow them away” with a hefty raise to eliminate their doubt that you have a King and the best hand. The little guys won’t take that risk of staying in the hand.

With the $140 million 6 year offer, the Yankees let the “little guys” back in, and it appears that a few of the teams now have a shot for that three of a kind. And to make it a little worse, new managing partner, Hal Steinbrenner, said the offer won’t be there forever, an insinuation that the Yankees could pull the offer at any time. This would only result if the Yankees feel that one of the other free agent pitchers, Burnett or Lowe, are going to sign with another team, and the Yankees will then bombard those two pitchers with larger offers. The Yankees do not want to go three strikes and you’re out – losing out on all three top free agent pitchers.

The Yankees have let the other teams back in and when the Angels or Red Sox or even the Dodgers make an offer to Sabathia, similar in money to New York’s, the Yankees will need to up the ante at another year on the contract and probably more per season. The Yankee offer will end up around 7 years, $175 million – an average of $25 million per year

UPDATE: Sabathia will sign a 7 year deal with the Yankees for $160 million.

And that is what the Yankees should have started with, just to keep the little guys away. If Sabathia decides to take another teams similar offer, and the Yanks lose out, they would have no one to blame but themselves.

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Joseph Delgrippo is an aspiring sportswriter and TV baseball analyst. He played NCAA baseball, at tiny Marietta (OH) College, participating in the Division 3 World Series. In addition, he's coached baseball at the high school level. His knowledge of this game goes far beyond what is shown on television.

6 Responses to If Sabathia Signs Elsewhere, Yanks Are to Blame

  1. Guiseppe Franco

    That is a bunch of baloney.

    Maybe you should consider watching how everything transpires before you gripe about the mistake they’ve made.

    Jeez, the Winter Meetings haven’t even begun.

    They have already scared away most of the competition for Sabathia. Why should they offer more money when nobody has come close to their offer yet?

    Until the Angels actually offer a contract, I doubt whether they are really serious about signing Sabathia. It’s probably all BS to get Teixeria to come to the table.

    Just like last season with Santana, Boston is not really in the mix for Sabathia. They simply want to drive up his price for the Yanks.

    The only other formal offer out there is from the Brewers.

    Until someone else makes an offer instead of BS rumors and speculation, there’s no reason for the Yanks to up the ante just yet.

  2. BROOKLYN PAULIE

    I just don’t see how making an offer of $140 million over six years is puny. What the Yanks did was smart. They’re setting the baseline at Santana dollars and going from there. If they had started with $160 million or even $170 million, in all likelihood, Sabathia would have STILL waited to see if anyone else jumped in. The Angels and Red Sox would probably have still made overtures because they would still be angling to serve themselves best. In the case of the Angels, it would be to force Texiera’s hand and the Sox would be trying to drive the price (and the risk) up for the Yanks, as they are now. If the Yanks had come out with an offer that fell into a range that exceeded Santana’s contract by 20 or 30 million dollars, they would have been blasted by all of baseball, especially Selig, for such a fiscally irresponsible offer at a time when the country is sitting on the precipice of perhaps the most devastating economic downturn since the 1930′s. The Yankees, therefore, straddle a very fine line between putting more than respecatble money on the table for a pitcher they desperately need and not allowing themselves to go so far over the top, despite that need, that they alienate the average fan from the game even more than we’ve seen over the past several decades in all of pro sports.

    In the end, the Yankees will offer more dollars or years or whatever it takes and Sabathia still might not take it. In my opinion, it’s better to go from 140 to 160 than to go from 170 to 190 or 200, which would truly be insanity gone unchecked.

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