($122 million will buy a lot of parachute pants.)
So here's the deal. I was at home after work, putting a post together for today to comment on the whole "CC opting out" storyline and how I hoped it didn't play out in a long, drawn out fashion. And then I went to meet a buddy of mine for a few beers and some food at a bar that's pretty close to my apartment (we went to Hooters, don't judge). While I was there, it seemed like video clips of Sabathia were popping up way too much on ESPN so I finally had to go over and check it out. What I saw was breaking news that Sabathia had agreed to a contract extension and would not be opting out. While that basically killed the whole plot of my post, I still think it's relevant to discuss what I would have said and all the positives that now come out of that worst case scenario not playing out. Here's what I was going to say today about the negotiations:
CC Sabathia is and always was going to opt out of his contract. That's fine. Anybody who expected him to not opt out is delusional. Why would he and his agent work to get that clause included in his deal back when he signed if they weren't planning on using it? It was a smart move on their part to be able to build in some extra wiggle room if it turned out he didn't enjoy pitching in New York or to earn himself some more money if he pitched well, which he has. And there's really nothing wrong with that. Last time I checked this was still America and CC still has the right to go out and try to get himself as much money as he can. I know if I had the opportunity to make more money at the place I worked, I'd use that opportunity to my advantage without even thinking about; anybody would. And for that reason, Yankee fans should not be thinking or talking negatively about CC as he goes through this process.
What could inspire some negative press and negative sentiment from the Yankee fanbase, however, would be if Sabathia decides to let this process of signing a new deal drag on into the next couple weeks or even months. The Yankees have made it very clear to both Sabathia and their fanbase that re-signing CC is Priority Number 1 and 2 for them this offseason as part of their plan to upgrade the rotation for 2012. And they have followed through with that prioritization by meeting in Tampa last week to start working on a new contract offer for CC and then presenting it to him over the weekend.
As of today, neither CC nor his agent had commented on the offer and details are not known, but all signs appear to be pointing towards CC testing the market, something that seemingly flies in the face of the "I love it here in New York" stance he has taken since basically the first day he put on a Yankee uniform, and ignores the obvious efforts the Yankee brass is already making in an attempt to meet his needs. Whether this is an attempt by CC to actually see what his value is and seriously entertain offers from other teams or just a ploy being used to drive up the Yankees' offer is unknown, but after the previous offseason where Cliff Lee took a bit of a discount to go to the team that he said he wanted to play for all along, CC not following that same path despite his "I heart NY" rhetoric could leave a bad taste in the mouths of fans, the media that loves to stir the pot, and the Yankee front office.
We saw how Cash handled the Jeter negotiations last offseason, and while he's younger than Jeter and still in his prime, CC doesn't have nearly the legacy in pinstripes that Jeter does. If Cash and Co. start getting the impression that CC and his agent aren't making an honest attempt to meet them halfway and get a deal done, I'd hate to see things get ugly in the media like they did last year with Jeter. That would just serve to fan the flames of unhappy fan feelings and turn the entire negotiation into a much more painful process than it should be.
Not to mention that the rest of the Yankees' offseason plans for rebuilding the 2012 rotation almost certainly center around CC being back as the ace. We can sit here and come up with ideas about how the Yankees could be better off without him if they sign this guy, trade for that guy, and whatever, and to a certain degree I'm sure the Yankee front office has a contingency plan in place. But with CC never having given them a reason to suspect that he won't come back up until now, it only makes sense that the Yankees would focus all of their efforts on making that a reality and then finding a way to build around CC and the rest of the returning staff rather than let him walk and come up with Plan B.
I think the Yankees are going to make CC the best offer he's going to get from anybody this offseason. I think CC knows that as well and fully intends to re-sign with the Yankees. But despite thinking that, I still think it would be nice for both sides, the organization as a whole, and the Yankee fans if they got this new deal done quickly. It allows the team to clear its biggest offseason hurdle and set their sights forward on the rest of their offseason plan and spares us from the NYC media...
... And that's where I stopped before I went to the bar, but you get the point I was trying to make. An extended negotiation process probably wouldn't have ended well for either side. CC would have lost some of the goodwill he had built up amongst the Yankee fanbase since originally signing, and the Yankees would have been so focused on CC that the rest of their offseason plan would have taken a backseat, and they probably would have ended up overpaying in terms of years, money, or both. Luckily, both sides were smart enough to take the proactive approach to addressing this issue and it was resolved before it could even become an issue in what turns out to be a tremendous win-win for both sides.
CC comes out a winner in this new deal in every way imaginable. He's still the ace of the biggest baseball team in the world, an organization that does everything it can to put a championship-caliber team on the field each year, thus giving him more opportunities to win championship rings and chase 300 career wins. He once again becomes the highest-paid pitcher in baseball with a minimum 5 year/$122 million deal, and likely 6 years/$142 million. And he avoids any messy backlash from the New York media and fans that could have arisen if this turned into a real free agent situation with tense negotiations and other offers from other teams. Now CC gets to come into Spring Training next year with more money in his pocket and focused on answering questions about the only thing that matters, getting back to the World Series and winning it.
The Yankees come out winners in this because they handled this situation almost flawlessly from the moment it first started being talked about before this season. They said they weren't going to let it be a distraction during the season and it wasn't. They said they were going to be aggressive in rebuilding the rotation for 2012 after the season and they were, focusing their efforts on getting CC back before doing anything else. And they didn't make the same mistake they made with A-Rod and Jeter by offering more guaranteed years than they should have. They paid more money up front for one guaranteed year, enough to make CC the highest paid again, and then made him a fair offer with another high-dollar option year that they maintain a slight bit of control over. The offer they put together was fair for both sides, forced CC to put his money where his mouth is, and CC was smart enough to realize it.
There is no way to not love this deal if you're a Yankee fan. Each side got what they wanted and they got it done quickly. Now we can all move on to the rest of the Hot Stove Season without constantly having to comment on this story and wondering what impact it will have on the other plans the Yankees have.
P.S.- Yes, I know I'm a complete jackass for saying "CC Sabathia is and always was going to opt out of his contract". I deserve whatever heckling I get for making that statement.