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.