Published December 10, 2008
LAS VEGAS – CC Sabathia and the New York Yankees agreed Wednesday on the framework for a $161 million, seven-year contract, the richest for a pitcher in baseball history.
The Yankees and Sabathia's agents still need to work out all the details, a baseball official familiar with the talks told The Associated Press on Wednesday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal has not been completed and the pitcher must pass a physical.
Sabathia has the right to opt out after three seasons and become a free agent again.
"I'm sure every team in baseball would love to have him. He's a guy who's an intimidating factor on the mound," Yankees captain Derek Jeter said at the winter meetings.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman left Las Vegas on Tuesday for a quick trip to the pitcher's home in the San Francisco area, sparking the final stages of negotiations.
"There's a lot of layers in the process, Until that process is completed I'm kind of prevented from saying too much," Cashman said. "Legally I've got to protect myself. And, you know, you're never done until you're done, and so, we're not done."
Cashman made a six-year offer to the former AL Cy Young Award winner on Nov. 14, the first possible day to negotiate with free agents, and met with Sabathia in Las Vegas on Sunday and Monday. He had told the pitcher's agents that it would be helpful, he was willing to travel to meet with the Sabathia and his family in California.
At 3 p.m. Tuesday, Cashman received the invitation.
"I said, 'Let's go,"' he recalled. "When the opportunity was given, that's a flight I had to take."
He bought a one-way ticket for a 5 p.m. flight to Oakland and took a car service to Sabathia's home in Vallejo, where he met with the pitcher, Sabathia's wife and children and Brian Peters, one of the star's agents.
Cashman joked about flying commercial.
"We're not the Red Sox," he said, a reference to the team's use of owner John Henry private plane during negotiations with Daisuke Matsuzaka two offseasons ago.
"They certainly are not, thank goodness!" Red Sox president Larry Lucchino responded in an e-mail to the AP.
Cashman couldn't recall ever before making a recruiting trip to a free agent's home. He had remembered seeing it on an episode of "MTV Cribs."
"When I walked in, I did tell him, it was like: I've been here before," Cashman said.
After putting the framework for an agreement in place, Cashman spent the night at a San Francisco hotel before taking an 8 a.m. flight back to Las Vegas on Wednesday. Yankees officials, meanwhile, participated in negotiations by phone.
Sabathia will give the Yankees a new marquee star as they head into the new $1.3 billion Yankee Stadium, where seats sell for up to $2,500 each. His deal will top the previous mark for a pitcher, a $137.5 million, six-year contract agreed to by Johan Santana and the New York Mets last winter. His $23 million average salary is just ahead of Santana's $22.9 million
Among all players, it will trail only Alex Rodriguez's $275 million, 10-year contract with the Yankees, A-Rod's earlier $252 million, 10-year agreement with Texas and Derek Jeter's $189 million, 10-year contract with the Yankees.
"He's left-handed. He's a tremendous competitor. His talent is obvious," Cashman said. "And he matches that with his character at the same time."
Signing Sabathia was the No. 1 offseason priority for the Yankees, whose streak of 13 consecutive playoff appearances ended this year. He would join a rotation that includes Chien-Ming Wang and Joba Chamberlain.
New York hopes to re-sign Andy Pettitte, who also is a free agent, and has had talks this week with Ben Sheets and the agents for A.J. Burnett.
Many of Sabathia's questions to the Yankees had been about what it would be like to pitch in New York, and part of the reason Cashman traveled to California was to meet with the Sabathia's wife, Amber, along with the player to discuss that issue.
"The only times people tend to struggle is when they put pressure on themselves," Jeter said. "It's still the same game whether you're playing in New York, or you're playing in Cleveland, Milwaukee, Tampa."
Milwaukee acquired Sabathia from Cleveland in July, and he went 11-2 for the Brewers. Sabathia was a workhorse, throwing seven complete games and three shutouts in 17 starts as the Brewers made the playoffs for the first time since 1982.
GM Doug Melvin, who had offered a five-year deal worth about $100 million, said he was notified at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday that the Brewers were no longer in the running.
"We put our best foot forward," Melvin said. "We made a substantial offer. We looked at some numbers and we gave some serious consideration to offering a sixth year. We didn't do it, but we had given it consideration. We were still mulling the numbers on the sixth year, we asked our financial people to look at it. But it appears it would not have made a difference, anyway."