NEW YORK – Three days before the opening of the free-agent market, the Cleveland Indians acquired pitcher Derek Lowe from the Atlanta Braves for minor league left-hander Chris Jones on Monday in the first significant trade of the offseason.
Rather than become a free agent, CC Sabathia agreed to a new deal with the New York Yankees that adds an additional season and $30 million in guaranteed money, bringing the left-hander's total over the next five years to $122 million.
Several teams exercised contract options on pitchers, among them Tampa Bay on James Shields ($7.5 million), Texas on Colby Lewis ($4 million), Kansas City on Joakim Soria ($6 million) and the Chicago White Sox on Jason Frasor ($3.75 million).
The World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals exercised a $7 million option on catcher Yadier Molina and declined options on right-hander Octavio Dotel ($3.5 million), shortstop Rafael Furcal ($12 million) and outfielder Corey Patterson ($1.1 million).
Cleveland will have to pay Lowe $5 million of his $15 million salary next year, with the Braves responsible for the rest. The 38-year-old was 9-17 with a 5.05 ERA in 34 starts last season, leading the NL in losses. He'll join Ubaldo Jimenez, Justin Masterson, Josh Tomlin and Fausto Carmona in the starting rotation.
"He's a quality pitcher with durability, pitching 180 innings or more every year since 2002," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said. "The last time he was on the disabled list was 1995. In addition to his durability, there's some leadership potential. His experience will complement a very young rotation."
Cleveland also exercised Carmona's $7 million option and declined an $8.5 million option on outfielder Grady Sizemore, who gets a $500,000 buyout.
Sabathia had until midnight Monday to opt out of the $161 million, seven-year contract he agreed to before the 2009 season, a deal that calls for $23 million annual salaries in the next four seasons.
The new deal adds a $25 million salary for 2016 and gives the Yankees a $25 million option for 2017 with a $5 million buyout. Sabathia has gone 59-23 with a 3.18 ERA during the regular season for New York.
"My son loves it here. All my kids love it here. My wife loves it here, obviously, and I do, too. I love pitching for the Yankee fans and everything, so it was the easy choice," Sabathia said.
New York reliever Rafael Soriano did not notify the Yankees he was opting out of his deal, which calls for him to make $11 million next year and $14 million in 2013. Soriano was injured for much of this season and went 2-3 with a 4.12 ERA, losing his intended job as Mariano Rivera's setup man.
Angels outfielder Vernon Wells also didn't notify Los Angeles he would leave. Wells, who hit .218 with 25 homers and 66 RBIs, is owed $21 million in each of the next three seasons.
Among those whose options were exercised were Tampa Bay pitcher Kyle Farnsworth ($3.3 million), Toronto infielder Edwin Encarnacion ($3.5 million), Atlanta utilityman Eric Hinske ($1.55 million), Arizona catcher Henry Blanco ($1.15 million) and infielder Willie Bloomquist ($1.1 million)
Boston declined options on right-handers Scott Atchison (next year's minimum plus $200,000) and Dan Wheeler ($3 million); Arizona declined options on left-hander Zach Duke ($5.5 million) and infielder Aaron Hill, whose option covered 2012-14 at $26 million total. Pittsburgh turned down infielder Ronny Cedeno ($3 million), Ryan Doumit ($7.25 million), left-hander Paul Maholm ($9.75 million) and catcher Chris Snyder ($6.75 million).