LAS VEGAS -- One baseball executive offered an observation early in this process that seemed to bear truth this morning with word of CC Sabathia's reported seven-year, $161 million deal: The Yankees will have to overpay to get any major free agent.
They sure did.
Will the Red Sox now respond with a big deal of their own? Mark Teixeira is high atop their list and the slugging first baseman has no shortage of interest from the Sox, Nationals, Angels, and possibly the Yankees and Orioles.
One general manager I passed outside in the hallway said in regards to the Sabathia deal, "I'm sorry, if that's true, it's just crazy. Seven years for a pitcher?"
That's right. The Yankees have always had money to burn and have been burdened with big contracts that are eventually useless over time. But they are the Yankees. Sabathia is a terrific pitcher, perhaps the best in the game right now. He's lefthanded. Still, his big body worried every major suitor and others around the game even though he's been amazingly durable.
"As he gets older, he's not gonna get skinnier," said the GM.
The heat will be on Sabathia in New York, just as it was a season ago on Johan Santana, who responded very well to the pressure and had himself an excellent first season with the Mets. Sabathia flourished in the National League with the Milwaukee Brewers, pitching even better than he did for Cleveland, where he won the American League Cy Young in 2007. So why make the move back? In the end, he rejected Milwaukee's five-year, $100 million deal.
The Red Sox were never serious about Sabathia, though they met with him at the meetings to tell him they were impressed with what he's done in his career and that they would have interest if things fell apart elsewhere.
The deal was surprising in that Sabathia sat on the Yankees' offer for weeks, suggesting that he really didn't want to go to New York and feeding the perception that he wanted to pitch close to his home in California. But the interest from the California teams might not have been mutual.
Last night, Giants general manager Brian Sabean gave all indications that the Giants were likely not going to be suitors for him. The Angels count Teixeira as their No. 1 priority. The Dodgers have to do something with Manny Ramirez and the McCourts are on record as saying that in this economy it didn't make sense to spend huge dollars.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman closed the deal by flying to California to meet with Sabathia and his wife late yesterday. Evidently, the addition of another year to the original six-year deal and making Sabathia's wife feel comfortable with New York were the convincing details.