What the Sabathia trade means to the Yanks

In the blink of an eye last night, the Yankees became the clear-cut front runners for C.C. Sabathia.

This dance began over the weekend when few were paying attention. The Milwaukee Brewers, it seemed, had emerged as the clear-cut front runners in the C.C. Sabathia Sweepstakes, and last night, just minutes before the start of a thrilling Yankees-Red Sox game and three and a half weeks prior to the trading deadline, the Brewers and Indians consummated what will probably be this July’s biggest deal. The Brewers sent Matt LaPorta, Zach Jackson, Rob Bryson and a PTBNL that will probably be Taylor Green, their MiLB 2007 player of the year, to the Indians for three months of C.C. Sabathia.

For the Brewers, the NL’s leading Wild Card team, this move cements their status as a legitimate playoff contender for practically the first time since they won the AL East in 1982. For the Indians, this move signals that the team is in sell mode, and while they may not have done this well this time, they pulled in a pretty decent haul in exchange for a pitcher sure to hit free agency in a few months.

The Yankees, however, are once again on the outside of a blockbuster trade involving a big-time pitcher. Unlike during the Santana sweepstakes, the Yankees weren’t blocked by the Twins’ desires to ship Santana out of the AL. Rather, they opted not to make a potential move. As Ken Rosenthal reported, “the Yankees also were ‘very heavily involved’ in the Sabathia discussions, one source said, but declined to commit the necessary prospects at a time when their 2008 chances are uncertain.”

As Yankee fans are very divided over the direction of the team, certain factions will have a field day with this tidbit. Once again, when faced with giving up some prospects for a quote-unquote proven ace at the time when the Yanks’ pitching is looking rather frail, Brian Cashman and the Yankee braintrust got gun-shy and stood pat. But of course it isn’t as simple as that.

Right now, the Yankees are in the unenviable position of not knowing what’s going on with their team. They’ve dealt with numerous injuries — 60 percent of their starting rotation, most of their starting lineup — and they’re on the cusp of contention, too far out of first place and just close enough to the Wild Card leader to be in it. They don’t know if they should buy or sell; they don’t know what they really need. Some people think they need a bat and can fill in the pitching from the organization; others thing their offense is fine, and they could use a pitcher.

But for the Yankees, they weren’t in a position to make this move yet, and they didn’t have to. They have Ian Kennedy and Dan McCutchen making their respective ways through the organization. They have Phil Hughes and — dare I say? — Carl Pavano rehabbing. By opting not to acquire Sabathia — and we really don’t know how close or far they were in doing so (and it would have cost at least Hughes and more) — they positioned themselves as the leaders in the eventual C.C. Sabathia sweepstakes bound to occupy the back pages after the Fall Classic ends.

I can unequivocally say that Sabathia will not re-sign with the Brewers before testing the free agency waters. Had he wanted to sign without hitting the market, he would have stayed with Cleveland, a town and an organization he has known and loved for over a decade. Now, he will be a free agent, and if the Yankees want him and he wants the Yankees, it will get done. They have millions of dollars coming off the books and millions more coming their way from a new stadium. And the best part of all is that they won’t have to pay twice for the big lefty.

Dissecting the TBS announcers

As part of a multi-billion-dollar deal to broadcast baseball, TBS gets the non-exclusive rights to Sunday baseball games. This weekend, while I watched the Sabathia-Wang pitcher’s duel on the YES Network, fans around the country could tune in on TBS.

While watching the game, Maury Brown, the man behind the Biz of Baseball site, transcribed some of the more interesting tidbits from the broadcast. The first topic I found interesting focused around CC Sabathia:

CC Sabathia on his impending free agency: “This is home, I mean I’ve been here since I was 17 years old, eleven years now. This is the only place I know and I feel comfortable here, coming in from the parking attendants to the General Manager I feel comfortable, so that’s been the biggest difference.”

Martinez on the CC Sabathia’s needs versus those of the MLB Players Association: “He is very genuine and sincere about his desire to stay here (in Cleveland). Get the deal done and don’t let the outside influences cloud your judgment. The Players Association want him to set the standard for free agent contracts in this off-season and at his age, 27, he’ll turn 28 in July, he is the premiere free agent pitcher on the market. (Johan) Santana’s contract of 137 million with the Mets, they want him to out do that contract, and I don’t know if that is going to make him happy.

While Buck Martinez and Chip Caray were discussing this, so were the Yanks’ announcers. It seems that Kevin Millwood, unhappy in Texas despite the big bucks, called his former teammate and warned him to pitch where he is happy even if that means giving up a few dollars. For the Yankees, this could be a sign that they shouldn’t be counting on overwhelming Sabathia with dollars. Perhaps Sabathia will elect to remain with Cleveland for fewer dollars if the team makes a ballpark offer.

On the other hand, it seems that Sabathia knows he could have a four-year, $80-million extension from the Indians and has elected to pitch out the season anyway. If he continues to throw like he has in his last two outings, he’ll easily clear that $80 million and stands to land a deal in between those signed by the Giants’ reliever Barry Zito and the Mets’ starter Johan Santana.

The other topic was, of course, Joba Chamberlain. Take it away, Buck Martinez:

“I know there has been a lot of controversy surrounding Joba Chamberlain about whether he should start or be used as an eighth inning set-up guy and as a former manager this is where he was meant to be in my mind…I believe he can turn into Mariano Rivera in a couple of years when Rivera steps aside.”

In less than a couple of years, he could be an ace starter giving the Yankees way more than one inning every two or three games. With Rivera under contract for three more years after this one, why waste Chamberlain in the eighth inning for years on end? But then again, we’re just beating a dead horse with this one.

Forecasting the Sabathia Sweepstakes

Because it’s never too early to start speculating on next winter, Jon Heyman at SI.com checks in with C.C. Sabathia. It is seemingly a foregone conclusion that the Indians and Sabathia will part ways in November. The Indians have acknowledged it; C.C. has acknowledged it.

And when one of the game’s top lefty starters hits the open market, we all know what that means: a good, old fashioned free agent bidding war. Sabathia figures to command a contract in excess of $100-$120 million, and of course, our favorites are right at the top of Heyman’s list of likely suitors:

1. Yankees. Long seen as the most logical destination for Sabathia, the big reason they balked at Santana was their reluctance to part with top pitching prospects Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy. Since it’ll only cost them money (and draft choices), and Mike Mussina, Carl Pavano, Jason Giambi and Andy Pettitte could be coming off the books, they remain the favorite. A perfect replacement in case this is Pettitte’s last year, a real possibility.

Of course, Sabathia makes sense for the Yanks whether or not Pettitte continues his “one more year” shtick or not. The Yanks have money coming off the books, and one can never have too much starting pitching, let alone lefties in the Bronx.

The Yankees will go hard after Sabathia, and they need only give up money this time. It’s a match made in baseball heaven. All Carsten Charles needs to do is turn in another top season and avoid injury. The gold is waiting for him at the end of the rainbow.

Sabathia, Indians done talking for now

We’re moving out of one Hot Stove League and into another. This morning, C.C. Sabathia announced that he will wait until the end of the season to negotiate a new deal with the Indians. This doesn’t necessarily mean that he’ll test the free agency waters. There will be time between the end of the season and the free agency filing period, even if the Indians do go to the World Series. But for now, it appears Sabathia will pitch out the final year of his contract.

Then again, this doesn’t really mean that negotiations are dead. If you’ll remember back to last year, Carlos Zambrano not only said that he wanted a deal done before the season started, he said he’d leave the Cubs if that wasn’t the case. Four and a half months after the season began, he signed a five year, $91.5 million extension. So we can’t really take this as the be all, end all. I’m sure if Mark Shapiro blew him away with an offer, he wouldn’t outright refuse it.

This is good news for the Yanks, though, who have a ton of money coming off the books after this season. We have Farnsworth ($5.5 million), Pavano ($11 million), Giambi ($21 million), Abreu ($16 million), and Mussina ($11 million) this season, and both Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui at $13 million each next year. So there will be funds for this transaction. It’s just a matter of Mr. Sabathia’s demands.

He’s probably going to want six years, and I’d say somewhere around the $137.5 million given to Johan Santana. Is that something you’d do as a free agent signing? It’s very tempting, especially for a horse like Sabathia. Then again, when we were debating the merits of Santana, many of us pointed out the high innings total as a red flag, an indication that he might break down sometime during the deal.

But someone is going to pay CC. Might as well be us.

We’ll always have C.C.

The Yanks may have lost out on Johan Santana, but for one year, I think we’ll be okay. “One year?” you ask. “What happens in one year?” Well, that’s when C.C. Sabathia becomes a free agent. It’s highly doubtful that Indians will re-sign Sabathia after 2008 as Paul Hoynes and Jim Ingraham write. The Indians, very much in competition for the AL Central, can’t trade C.C. this year. So when November rolls around, I’d expect a good ol’ fashioned bidding war. It’s never too early…