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.

CC under pressure?

According to Anthony McCarran, CC Sabathia may be feeling the heat from the Players Association to accept the Yanks’ record-setting contract. While on the record, PA reps deny the charge, McCarran’s sources seem to suggest that the lefty’s contract should set the market for pitchers. I doubt the union would exert explicit pressure on CC, but I can see why the rest of the union would want him to sign the best deal out there.

If Moose retires, CC becomes a necessity

Joe Torre hosted his annual Safe at Home Foundation dinner last night. While the news out of the annual gathering of Yankee luminaries included much of what we already know, Joe Girardi dropped something of a Mike Mussina bombshell.

As far as the Yankee skipper knows, Mussina will be calling it quits some time soon. While this is information Moose passed onto Girardi at the end of the season, Joe had no reason to expect Moose to change his mind.

For the Yankees, this decision has immediate impact. Moose threw 200.1 innings last year to the tune of a 3.37 ERA. He won 20 games for the first time in his career and was 12th in the AL in VORP for pitchers, trailing James Shields by just a few tenths of a point. In other words, he was the Yankee ace, and while he probably wasn’t going to duplicate these numbers next year, his potential departure leaves a gaping hole in the front end of the Yankee rotation, Andy Pettitte or no Andy Pettitte.

Enter Derek Jeter. It seems that Mr. Jeter is fulfilling his role as captain. As NJ.com’s Ed Price reported a few hours ago, Derek and CC Sabathia had a chat about New York. Derek didn’t go into detail, but it sounds like the two players had a nice talk about coming to New York. Clearly, the recruiting effort is on.

If the Yanks land Sabathia — and that’s a big “if” right now with so many other teams involved — the deal will be fraught with risks. The Yankees will be committing a lot of money and a lot of years to a pitcher who has racked up 1659.1 innings and is just a few months past his 28th birthday. In fact, only 45 other players in the history of the game have thrown more innings by that age. As with any long-term deal, it’s a risk.

I believe that it’s a risk the Yankees have to take. Sabathia would immediately stabilize the Yankee rotation and give them a front-end trio with the potential to be as good as any other team in baseball. How many times would you imagine the Yanks losing three games in a row with Sabathia, Chien-Ming Wang and Joba Chamberlain throwing in back-to-back-to-back games?

Of course, the Yankees have a lot of competition for Sabathia. He likes the NL; he’s very good at pitching in the NL and seems to enjoy hitting too. He could end up back near his home in Southern California as well. But the Yankees are interested, and they’re going to put the full-court press on. With Mussina out of the pitcher, Sabathia is the ace the Yanks need. Here’s to hoping they can land him.