In the weeks leading up to the Winter Meetings

We know there’s plenty of big news to come in the baseball world. Nearly every free agent is still in play, so we’re not only going to get news of their signings, but we’re also going to get news from teams of interest. Who’s in on whom; who just made a mega-offer; where does Player X really want to play? It’s what makes the Hot Stove so damn exciting.

However, we shouldn’t expect anything huge to happen over the next few weeks. There’s going to be a lull this week because of the holiday, and then next week because it’s the week before the biggest event of the off-season, the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas. You might hear some rumblings, but it’s doubtful that anything gets done before December 8.

Writers, of course, still need to file material. You’ll probably see some regurgitated news here at RAB over the next two weeks. It’s just the nature of the beast. That doesn’t mean, however, that we can’t make fun of the kind of news that’s popping up. Perhaps that’s the best way to deal with the dearth of activity to come.

Today we first turn to Buster Olney, who riffs on the idea of CC Sabathia and LeBron James playing in New York. This on the heels of the Knicks recent trades, which gives them significant cap relief in the 2010 off-season, when James will be a free agent. Olney notes the friendship between the two:

Sabathia developed a friendship, through his years in Cleveland, with LeBron James, as the two became the biggest stars in a small town. They have bopped around New York together in the past, and on Friday, the Knicks made trades that are being viewed as precursors to their pursuit, in another 20 months, of James.

Presumably, at some point, Sabathia and James have shared a conversation about living and playing in New York at the same time — Sabathia for the Yankees, James for the Knicks. James, as the world famously learned in the playoffs of 2007, is a Yankees fan.

Olney makes the conclusion that this could potentially be one of the intangibles which attracts CC to the Yanks. You come into California and conquer, yeah, big whoop. You come to New York and conquer, man, that’s something else. It’s not like it’s easy to do, even for the most elite athlete. Just ask A-Rod.

Then we have Randy Youngman, columnist for the Orange County Register. His Saturday article features the headline “Angels likely not on Teixeira’s wish list,” and the subhead is “The free-agent first baseman seems to be leaning towards and East Coast team.” The key word in that header is “seems.” Because what follows is nothing more than an ill-informed opinion.

Knowing agent Scott Boras’ affinity for the big stage, I’m guessing Teixeira’s headline-grabbing signing will be announced during baseball’s winter meetings Dec. 8-11 in Las Vegas. What better place for the rich to get richer?

But I don’t think it will be with the Angels. If he were going to re-sign in Anaheim, I think it already would have happened. Just a gut feeling. Even the people I talk to in the organization don’t seem optimistic.

Has Youngman never experienced a hot stove season before? Thing like this take time to develop. If Scott Boras is your agent, you probably aren’t going to give a hometown discount (there was apparently a lot of strife between the agent and Andruw Jones after he took a discount to stay in Atlanta a few years ago). The Angels will surely make an offer, and it could very well be competitive enough to keep him. If the rumblings have any merit — eight years, $160 million — you can probably pencil Tex into the Angels’ starting line up for 2009 and beyond.

These are just some examples of what you can expect to see in the coming weeks. We’ll try to be on our best behavior, but sometimes you just gotta point these things out.

Did the Yanks offer Sabathia enough?

We all know by now that CC Sabathia is sitting on a few $100-million offers. The Brewers seem willing to give him $100 million over five years; the Yanks would like his services for six years at $140 million.

On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a tough decision. The Yankees are offering more stability in term sof the number of years and more money in pure dollars. If only life — and baseball — were that simple.

In an excellent piece of analysis earlier this week, Jeff Sackman at Brew Crew Ball examined how these two offers aren’t as different as the media would make them out to be. First, we have the issue of average annual value. The Brewers are reportedly offering $20 million a season while the Yanks’ contract comes in at $23.3 million. If Sabathia truly does enjoy the NL and Milwaukee, would a meager $3.3 million per season be enough to convince him to come to New York?

But more importantly, is that really a difference of $3.3 million per year? Using some cost-of-living adjustments and basic economic assumptions, the Brew Crew Ball has put together a spreadsheet tracking the two offers. Sackman provides the explanation:

Depending on to what degree Sabathia wants to engage with his new community, that’ll be more expensive in New York. First and foremost, he’ll pay more taxes as a part- or full-time resident of NYC. If he wants to buy a celeb-style compound for his family, it might take $20MM for such a place on Long Island; for the same amount, he could probably buy Manitowoc.

This is a tough adjustment for us to figure, because we don’t know just how much money CC would spend in NY or MKE. With that caveat, I think the taxes alone would come close to an extra 10% bite on Yankees earnings. Mykenk’s spreadsheet estimates something closer to 15%, which isn’t all that far-fetched, either.

So…if we use the 10% number, $140 looks more like $126–a yearly value of just barely more than the Brewers offer. If we up that to 15%, the Yankees are down to $119, or slightly less on an annualized basis.

Now, as Sackman, notes there are plenty of other considerations to take into account. The total value figure of the Yanks’ offer is fairly shocking and would certainly set the bar high for future free agent pitchers. Sabathia’s odds of winning a championship are higher in New York than in Milwaukee. The players association may pressure CC into taking the higher offer.

But in the end, Sackman has a point that I hope the Yanks and CC’s agent understand. The Yanks’ offer just isn’t as high as we all thought, and perhaps, that’s one of the reasons why Sabathia’s camp has remained silent on the state of the lefty’s free agency.

Sabathia, smartly, will wait until after Thanksgiving

Who isn’t involved in the CC Sabathia trade talks? Based upon numerous reports, we know the Yankees and the Brewers have outstanding offers, and we know Yankee fans are getting restless. But that’s just silly. Anyway, we’ll get there in a second.

As Wednesday progressed, two new teams supposedly entered the mix. In the early afternoon, Dan Graziano noted an impending offer out of San Francisco.

(An aside: Would the Giants really commit nearly over $40 million a season — or more than half of their 2008 payroll — to two pitchers? I realize the team has few contractual commitments past next year, but if they land CC for $23 million a season, they’d be paying Sabathia, Zito and Aaron Rowand a combined $55-$60 million a year. For a team of limited financial means, that combination won’t bring in pennants.)

But the real news came just a few minutes ago when two Newsday reporters unveiled a not-so-shocking report: CC Sabathia will not be deciding upon anything until after Thanksgiving. While Sabathia is content to wait, these offers on which Graziano speculated aren’t quite as sure a bet, according to Ken Davidoff and Anthony Rieber:

The Yankees are content to let CC Sabathia take his time on his big decision, and Sabathia will do just that. As first reported by ESPN’s Peter Gammons, Sabathia doesn’t intend to decide on his next team until after the Thanksgiving weekend.

But for Sabathia, who is well known to prefer both the West Coast and the National League, alternatives to the Yankees’ six-year offer (for about $140 million) don’t appear to be materializing.

Although the Dodgers have some interest in Sabathia, they are not optimistic they can put together a package large enough to land the lefthander, a person familiar with their thinking said. The Dodgers “can’t afford him,” the person said.

It’s the same old story with the non-New York potentials. The Brewers can’t afford him; the Giants shouldn’t afford him; the Dodgers want Manny and can’t afford both. Why then is Sabathia sitting on a six-year, $140-million offer? Simple; he’s just being a good businessman.

Why would a player with the potential to become the richest pitcher in baseball make a decision with no leverage? Why shouldn’t Sabathia wait to see if a West Coast team plays its cards just right to make the Yankees up their offer to $150 million or tack on a seventh season? It doesn’t make sense to sign right away, and both the Yankees and Carsten Charles know that. New York’s offer isn’t going anywhere and neither is CC quite yet.

Doug Melvin, the Brewers’ GM, who probably wants Sabathia, knows that patience right now is the name of the game. In a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article focusing around the Giants, Melvin waxes philosophical on the CC situation. Sabathia and his agent will solicit counter-offers once all of the primary offers are in. That’s just the way business works.

So we wait. Some of us wait more impatiently than others, but it’s all just part of one big negotiation. In fact, we’re not the only ones waiting. Every other big-name free agent pitcher is waiting for CC to sign too. He and the team that signs him set the market, and everyone knows it.

The Yanks have done their part, and now the rest of the league will do its part as well. Be it ten days, two weeks or a month, we’ll find out before Spring Training which team lands Sabathia. Everything in between is just the Hot Stove League turned up high.

Yanks out to sign every free agent available

A few months after the Yankees’ unceremonious loss to the Angels in the 2002 playoffs, The Onion, the nation’s finest satirical news source, ran one of their better sports articles. “Yankees Ensure 2003 Pennant By Signing Every Player in Baseball” screamed the headline. Kat O’Brien’s latest for Newsday could almost be that article, except Kat is dead serious.

She writes:

The Yankees have expressed strong interest in righthanded pitchers Derek Lowe and A.J. Burnett in the past couple of days, according to sources familiar with the talks, after offering ace lefty CC Sabathia a contract in the ballpark of six years and $140 million…

Although pitching is the Yankees’ priority, and they traded for first baseman/outfielder Nick Swisher last week, a source said the Yankees have expressed an interest in first baseman Mark Teixeira. The Gold Glover is, with Manny Ramirez, the top free-agent offensive player available. The Yankees might simply be trying to drive the price up for the Red Sox and Angels by indicating interest in Teixeira, or they could be hedging their bets in case something falls through on the pitching front and they have money to spend.

So based on O’Brien’s sources, the Yanks have contacted every top free agent except for Manny Ramirez in the last few days. I wonder when Manny gets his phone call.

Meanwhile, these unnamed sources also answered Joe’s overnight query. CC is reportedly “mulling things over” while in Houston this weekend. As the Yankees turn, so baseball turns. The dominoes, I predict, won’t fall until someone signs with the Yankees first. So we wait.

Where’s CC?

You know how yesterday morning I mentioned how it was perfectly normal that we hadn’t heard anything about CC’s response to the Yankees offer? Turns out, we didn’t hear back because the dude was booked solid. And we probably didn’t hear back today because he was freakin’ exhausted.

First, let’s start with Jon Heyman’s guy, who says that Sabathia was “in Las Vegas over the weekend participating in a [golf] and poker tournament for sports stars.” Hey, the guy’s got money to burn. Unfortunately, I was not able to find the results of this tournament. According to this dude, Sabathia is no good at poker.

CC must have been flying this weekend, because Peter Gammons has word that he was in Houston attending a high school football game. Fellow free agents Adam Dunn and Orlando Hudson were also supposedly present, along with “other friends.” I’m guessing these friends who won’t be signing multimillion-dollar contracts this winter.

Kat O’Brien spoke to “someone close to the lefty” and found out that he was at a wedding. I wonder if this wedding was in Houston or Las Vegas. Ken Davidoff says that Sabathia “took the weekend off to chill out with friends and family,” but how mich chillin’ can you do if you’ve always got a flight to catch?

The economics of the Sabathia offer

In a column this morning, Dan Granziano of NJ.com analyzed the Sabathia offer via an economic spectrum. While, as Brewers GM Doug Melvin said, the Yanks may very well be bidding against themselves, the offer makes perfect sense if you assume the viewpoint of the Yanks. To them, Sabathia is an investment worth at least $140 million over six years.

It’s true that the Yanks probably would have had the current top bid had they offered “only” $110 million over six years, but then the Brewers could have counter-offered. The Yankees didn’t want to take that chance, and the powers-that-be felt that an initial offer of $140 million over six years was a true expression of the value of CC Sabathia to the Yankees for the length of the contract. This is a good point to remember when other teams and their officials and fans start complaining about the Yanks’ riches. It’s all about the economy.

Monday morning CC thought

It seems that despite the free agent signing period opening on Friday, baseball took the weekend off. The most we got was a rumor that K-Rod was in New York for a physical. Well, that and the Yankees’ mega offer for CC Sabathia. Does the fact that CC hasn’t yet accepted this offer, and likely will not accept it in the next few days, mean anything in the long run of the Yankees pursuit of the hefty lefty?

Not at all. Why should it? Clearly, Sabathia’s agent wants to field a few more offers before making any sort of decision. He likely wants to see how things go with Mark Teixeira and the Angels, since that club is a likely suitor for his client. He probably wants to see how the Manny situation develops. He also probably wants to get an idea of offers made to other free agent pitchers. In other words, he wants to give the situation time to develop so he can better gauge what is in his client’s best interests.

As much as we wish this would play out quickly, that’s just not likely. We’re talking about the best pitcher on the free agent market, possibly the best one to hit the market in the past five to ten years. Yes, the Yankees offer was generous, and I’m sure he appreciates the gesture. That doesn’t mean, however, that he’s just going to sign it. He probably wants to see what’s going on elsewhere. And that’s no insult to the Yankees.

Imagine this scenario, though. CC claims that he wants to get this done quickly: “I want to get it done pretty quick. I try to be as less free as possible. All that is is stress, having it drag on through the winter. We’ll see what happens.” So here’s how he could not only get this done quickly, but maximize his return in the process.

Now that the weekend has passed, Sabathia’s agent, Greg Genske, could/should go to Cashman and say: “We appreciate your more than generous offer. While we understand that this will make CC the highest paid pitcher in the history of the game, there are other factors to consider. However, my client has made it known that he doesn’t want to drag this out all winter. Our counteroffer is six years, $150 million. If offered, we will sign immediately.”

Pie in the sky? I don’t think so. It works for Sabathia because he won’t find that kind of money elsewhere. It works for the Yankees because it reels in their top target, allowing them to focus on the rest of the roster. Once again, it’s not likely. But it sure is neat to think about.