Saving money on Sabathia’s extension

Reds sign Andrew Brackman
Five stages of grief over a $189 million payroll
(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

A few weeks ago, the Yankees and CC Sabathia came to an agreement on a new contract extension that will presumably keep him in pinstripes for the rest of his career, a deal that also prevented the lefty from opting out and becoming a free agent. For all intents and purposes, it’s a five-year contract worth $122M plus a sixth year vesting option worth $25M that depends on the health of his shoulder. Since he had four years and $92M left on his original deal, all the team did was tack another year and $30M on top of it.

Given how the last few weeks have unfolded around baseball, there’s a pretty good chance that one year and $30M represents a significant bargain for the Yankees. When the new extension was reported, we learned that the team originally offered Sabathia a five-year contract worth $120.5M with no option, so essentially what Cliff Lee took from the Phillies. The Yankees didn’t want him to opt out, so they upped their offer to include the vesting option and another $1.5M, good enough to keep him around. That’s the going rate for a 31-year-old ace on the open market, at least prior to this winter.

Before agreeing to a five-year, $77.5M contract with his hometown Angels, C.J. Wilson received a six-year offer from the Marlins that approached $100M. A few days prior to that, Miami signed Mark Buehrle — a bonafide workhorse, but also a slightly older and less effective version of Sabathia — to a four-year pact worth $58M. Albert Pujols managed to get ten years, Jose Reyes and his bum hamstrings got six years, and chances are Prince Fielder is going to get something insane as well. There was certainly a lot of money to be spent this offseason.

Had he actually hit the open market, Sabathia would have been the undisputed top pitcher available. Pujols and Fielder were the only other players on the market available capable of providing the kind of impact Sabathia can as well. We’ll never know for sure, but chances are the Marlins and Angels would have pursued him, perhaps the Nationals as well, and of course the Yankees would have been involved. That five-year, $122M with a vesting option contract extension could have turned into six guaranteed years pretty quick, maybe even as many as seven years. Five years and $122M was a fair deal at the time that sudden looks like a little bit of a steal for the team.

As expected, Sabathia has already started to shed some weight this offseason. He’s been using the same conditioning program as last winter, when he lost 30 lbs., and Ken Davidoff said he was noticeably slimmer at a recent charity event. “Just maintain it during the season,” said Sabathia, acknowledging that he did gain weight back during the summer. The Yankees re-invested heavily in their ace this offseason, but the contract damage could have been a lot worse if they didn’t up their initial offer to prevent him from hitting the open market.

Reds sign Andrew Brackman
Five stages of grief over a $189 million payroll
  • vin

    As a reasonable Yankee fan, it’s impossible to dislike anything about CC.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      As a reasonable Yankee fan

      Is there such a thing? :-)

      Looks almost like he gave the team a “hometown” discount and really wanted to stay here. While he couldn;t know what future contracts would bring this off-season, he didn’t even test the waters. Good for him! (and us!)

      • vin

        I figured I better throw that preface in just to quell the idiotic remarks about his most recent playoff performances.

        He absolutely could’ve held Cashman’s feet to the fire and tried to get another 1/25 added to the deal, and the Yanks probably would’ve caved. Right now, he is of the utmost importance to this team.

  • Steve (different one)

    The rest of Sabathia’s career? Seems unlikely that CC is done by 36…

    • MannyGeee

      butbutbut… he’s FAAAAAAAT!


    • pat

      LOOGY @ 37!

  • well you know

    That sixth year option will most likely vest because the retrictions are very specific and limited. Should have held the line at the one year extension with no option. He would not have opted out and risked the market. The Yanks overpaid to get him in the first place.

    Given the magnitude of the investment, CC was alarmingly mediocre for all of August and September. I know that he’s given the “six day rotation” excuse but I don’t get a lot of comfort from that.

    He did seem to be throwing very well for those two innings before the rainout in Game 1 of the ALDS.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      Given the magnitude of the investment, CC was alarmingly mediocre for all of August and September.

      Fortunately, they worked his contract based on entire seasons, not 2 months. He’s been a work horse and a top performer by almost any measure. All pitchers fisk being unable to repeat past performance. However, of all the current top pitchers, I think he’s the one most likely to continue to perform to his current levels.

      • Cris Pengiucci

        fisk risk

    • MannyGeee

      you know we’re talking about CC and not AJ right now right?

      He’s only been the best pitcher in the AL East since signing that contract. top 4 easily in the AL in that time frame…

      • well you know

        He’s been very good overall, yes. But not so good that he could have rejected 5 years at $24M/y going forward and been confident of matching or improving that on the open market. If he were exposed to that market, teams would certainly look at his numbers in the second half of 2011 in considering the investment.

        Unnecessary cave by the Yanks on the sixth year vesting option.

  • Monteroisdinero

    They ought to hire someone to keep an eye on his diet during the season. Things have been slow this last week. It may be time for a piece on Aaron Laffey.

  • Jake

    I have to say, I like the “Yankees buy all the good players, ruin baseball” offseasons better than the “Yankees show fiscal restraint, save money” offseasons.

  • Ted Nelson

    I think you are exaggerating the change in the market from last season to this season.

    Last season, when Lee got that deal, Werth and Crawford signed ridiculous contracts too.

    CJ Wilson for $100 million isn’t necessarily crazy if you feel he can repeat 2010-11 effectiveness going forward: 10.5 fWAR makes him 9th in MLB. Buehrle only got 4 years and not a ridiculous AAV.

    I just don’t see evidence to believe the market has changed.

  • ajra21

    the only way the yankees are going to dominate is to produce their own pitchers. until they do that, we’re gonna keep having to rely on expensive guys like CC. now, if they are CC, that’s ok but if they’re guys like CJ or AJ we’re gonna go another nine years between championships.

  • Nathan

    I’m very happy with the way the whole CC situation turned out. It didn’t get ugly like the A-Rod debacle. The way it was handled showed that CC wanted to come back the whole time. He easily could have opted out, shopped around and then asked the Yankees to match which they more than likely would have been forced to do.

    I agree with one of the first posts: there isn’t anything about CC that I don’t like. He’s one of the few athletes from the Bay Area that comes back to the area regularly and helps their hometown. I often see in the news during the start of the school year and holidays that he’ll come to Vallejo and donate to kids in need. Great athlete, great human being.