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Did the Yankees lowball Sabathia?

Oct 31, 2011, 11:34 AM EDT

CC Sabathia Getty Images

The Associated Press said yesterday that the Yankees have made Sabathia a new offer in an attempt to get him to forgo opting out of his deal. Yet, he appears to be opting out. Today Buster Olney speculates that they may have lowballed him, at least in terms of years:

Let’s say that the New York Yankees’ extension offer to CC Sabathia had been for two years at his current salary, $23 million a year … In that case, there almost certainly wouldn’t have been any deliberation, no reason to pause … But if the Yankees’ offer was for only one additional year, on top of the four years and $92 million that is already owed, that takes him into a gray area — which is where he seems to be today, in deciding whether to take what the Yankees are dangling or whether to opt out of his contract and test the free-agent market again.

Possible, I suppose. It’s also possible that he got that two-year offer and he’s just trying to sweeten it a bit anyway. It’s not like there’s a big downside to that. The Yankees aren’t so pitching rich right now that they can play the “the offer goes down by $2 million every day you wait, big guy!” game.  It’s all fun to wonder about.

Also fun to wonder about is what inspire Sabathia to actually take another team’s offer rather than go back to the Yankees.  Buster throws many idea out there — ones that would keep him in New York and ones that would make him leave. This one was fun:

If Sabathia goes to the National League, he could hit, something he loves to do.

To be fair to Buster, that wasn’t a major reason listed, but that reason makes me laugh anyway.  It seems every time there’s a big free agent pitcher that someone notes that they like to hit so watch out for the NL teams.

Has that ever really been a reason for a pitcher signing someplace? Sure, some people on Twitter said “Micah Owings” when I observed it a few minutes ago, but for a top flight guy?  Cliff Lee said something about liking to hit next year, but honestly, that can’t be in the top 15 reasons a pitcher signs someplace can it?  I think Buster is way more on point when he talks about the easier opposition and weaker offenses in the NL than a pitcher hitting.

As always, we know nothing until we know something.


  1. WhenMattStairsIsKing - Oct 31, 2011 at 11:36 AM

    Boo hoo.

  2. Jeff J. Snider - Oct 31, 2011 at 11:50 AM

    A quick Google search for:

    sabathia “liks to hit” “free agent” 2008

    returns 59,100 results. Many of those are articles from October/November 2008, mentioning Sabathia’s love of hitting as reasons why he might sign with an NL team. If my memory serves (although to be fair, it’s been three whole years, so who can remember for sure?), I think he signed with an AL team that year. I’d have to dig through baseball-reference to see for sure (if they even have that information???), so don’t quote me on it. It seems like if we could somehow learn what he did last time he was a free agent pitcher who loved to hit, it might help us guess what might happen this time.

    • Ari Collins - Oct 31, 2011 at 11:58 AM

      Nicely done.

  3. phukyouk - Oct 31, 2011 at 12:00 PM

    how in the hell would 1 more yr at 23 mil be considered a low ball offer…

    • paperlions - Oct 31, 2011 at 12:46 PM

      how is $45M for 3 years a low offer for an old SS that plays bad defense with no power and league average OB skills?

      When you are talking Yankee dollars, the numbers no longer make sense.

  4. Ari Collins - Oct 31, 2011 at 12:01 PM

    You should probably have linked the Olney piece, even if it’s Insider and no one will therefore read it.

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Oct 31, 2011 at 12:13 PM

      Heard this: Olney talks through his rump as to create diarrhea of the mouth.

  5. halladaysbiceps - Oct 31, 2011 at 12:02 PM

    “…easier opposition and weaker offenses in the NL”

    Come on, Craig. You are smarter than that. With the exception of the DH, there are no indications that the offense in the AL is any better than the NL. As a matter of fact, I would say that the pitching in the NL seems to be noticeably better than the AL in recent years, especially with the defections of Halladay and Lee to the NL, as well as the emergence of young pitchers like Lincecum, Cain and Hanson.

    The “weak offense” label for the NL is antiquated.

    • vintage1496 - Oct 31, 2011 at 12:10 PM

      Given that in 2011, the average AL team scored 722 runs and the average NL team scored 668 runs, I’d say that the weak offense label for the NL is quite accurate.

      • thomas2727 - Oct 31, 2011 at 12:20 PM

        How about factoring the obvious advantage the American League has by having a DH in American League parks versus the National League pitchers hitting?

        The A.L. still may be slightly ahead but not by almost 10% as you indicate.

      • halladaysbiceps - Oct 31, 2011 at 12:21 PM

        Because of the DH and weaker pitching. If you take the DH away in the AL, logic would say that the runs scored would be pretty even. It’s a 54 run difference. Turning over the lineup with a DH accounts for that.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 31, 2011 at 12:29 PM

        If you take the DH away in the AL, logic would say that the runs scored would be pretty even.

        And if you remove Carlos Slim, Bill Gates becomes the richest man in the world. You can’t just remove a factor that leads to the AL being a better offensive league than the NL and try to make a comparison. It’d be like saying the NL pitching is only better than AL because you get to face the pitcher 2-3x a game. If we remove that, maybe the AL is better.

        The DH is a huge contributing factor to the offensive superiority over the NL.

      • vintage1496 - Oct 31, 2011 at 12:29 PM

        Exactly, they have an advantage with the DH. That’s the point – If Sabathia were to pitch in the AL, he’d have to face DHs. If Sabathia were to pitch in the NL, he’d have to face pitchers.

        I’m not comparing the eight position players in one league to the eight position players in the other, I’m comparing the nine guys in the lineup, DH or not. And the data shows that AL lineups score more runs. Therefore, pitching in the NL would be easier.

      • halladaysbiceps - Oct 31, 2011 at 12:38 PM

        You guys are looking at totality of numbers, which is fine. We all agree this has everything to do with the DH. My main point is that this is not a factor with a decision by a pitcher to decide to change leagues, so he doesn’t have to face a DH. Pitchers are on equal footing in their own leagues. In the AL, all pitchers have to face a DH. In the NL, all pitchers face a pitcher hitting and can hit for themselves.

        I’m not a believer in this whole NL offense is inferior to AL mentality. Each league has different rules.

      • Jonny 5 - Oct 31, 2011 at 12:41 PM

        Biceps, it’s my firm belief, and the firm belief of many others that just because NL offense is weaker because the pitcher bats instead of a slugger, The NL is still superior. Please join this group of baseball fans that while admitting a weaker offense in the Senior league we shall proclaim baseball supremacy over the flash and glitz we do not need, which is found in the AL. The DH was created for weaker baseball fans, that’s all. Ones who need the long ball to stay interested….. These fans are not less than us, they just have shorter attention spans, that’s all. ;>P

      • vintage1496 - Oct 31, 2011 at 12:46 PM

        I’m banging my head against a wall trying to get this through to you.

        AL teams score more runs. It’s a fact, supported by data. Pitchers who play in the AL will have a harder time getting outs and their ERAs will be higher if they play in the AL because over the course of every nine batters faced, one of them will be a DH instead of a pitcher.

        All of this absolutely IS a factor – if you could do your job better at Company N (the NL) than at Company A (the AL), wouldn’t you do it? When looking at career numbers, we look at ERA, strikeouts, etc. And your numbers are going to be better when pitching in the NL. End of story.

      • halladaysbiceps - Oct 31, 2011 at 12:55 PM


        Calm down. I understand about baseball stats. I’ve been watching the game for over 30 years.

        Let’s back up. I’m not debating the totality of the numbers of runs scored and higher ERA in the AL. All I’m saying is that it doesn’t make a difference to a pitcher to change from one league to another to improve personal stats. Athletes don’t think that way. Why do you think that most pitchers will stay in one league their entire career? Because they are familiar with that league, the hitters, etc.

        Sabathia won’t change leagues just to improve his pitching line. That’s a ridiculous notion.

      • vintage1496 - Oct 31, 2011 at 1:17 PM

        Actually, what you said was “The “weak offense” label for the NL is antiquated.” We’re discussing the strength of offense in the NL vs. the AL, not its effect on a pitcher’s decision to move from one league to the other.

        But please, don’t let those pesky things like “facts” and “data” get in the way of your ironclad “opinion.”

      • halladaysbiceps - Oct 31, 2011 at 1:24 PM


        I don’t even know why I try discussing anything with you. You are a dunce.

      • vintage1496 - Oct 31, 2011 at 1:30 PM

        Resorting to name-calling after you’ve been proven wrong… gosh, I really miss those few weeks when you weren’t here.

      • halladaysbiceps - Oct 31, 2011 at 1:37 PM


        Dunce: a slow-witted or stupid person; a person incapable of learning.

        That’s sums you up pretty well. Now, I know this is hard for you to do, but reread the thread again starting with my initial comment, and follow through the progression of my comments and you will see my logic.

        By the way, you are the aggressor in this thread, not me. I was being kind by only calling you a dunce.

      • vintage1496 - Oct 31, 2011 at 2:08 PM

        Your first two posts said nothing about the offenses influencing a pitcher to choose one league over the other, only that you thought the NL did not have a weak offense.

        I proved your wrong about how AL offenses are better than NL, and then you changed the topic mid-stream when it was obvious you were wrong.

        Then you called me a dunce. But somehow I’m the agressor. Now you’re wrong AND a dunce.

      • halladaysbiceps - Oct 31, 2011 at 2:19 PM


        Tell me where I changed topics midstream and I will address it.

  6. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Oct 31, 2011 at 12:08 PM

    I just hope Randy Levine does not go to the press badmouthing Sabathia’s family or some other lowbrow tactic. The Yankees want CC, CC wants to be with the Yankees, let’s hope those crazy kids can work it all out.

    • bigharold - Oct 31, 2011 at 12:29 PM

      Nothing good can come of it when Randy is talking.

      Usually I’m saying that about my brother in law but it works here too.

  7. Jonny 5 - Oct 31, 2011 at 12:23 PM

    I think your last line summed it up perfectly…

  8. bigharold - Oct 31, 2011 at 12:25 PM

    Maybe the thing that the Yankees learned from the last go round with Sabathia is that there is no point in bidding against yourself.

    I doubt dollars per year is as important as total years. The Yankees can hang with any team in the dollars per year part but I ‘m pretty sure that they don’t want to give Sabathia a 7 or 8 year deal. I wager they’d like to keep it at 6 years but might go to an option for the 7th year. If they offer that right out of the gate it would be difficult not to end up with 7 years and an 8th as an option.

    In the end I think it’s 6 years with a 7th option. The real question might be does that option vest or it is a club option. I think the money will be in the 25 mil per range, except for the option year which likely will be smaller.

  9. lazlosother - Oct 31, 2011 at 12:41 PM

    Another reason he may be sitting on the offer is to see what else is out there. There is no downside for CC in opting out and entertaining other offers. Texas could be a suitor, as could Boston, or the dreaded “surprise team”.

    If CC’s agent isn’t telling him to chill and see what develops he isn’t doing his job.

  10. yankeesfanlen - Oct 31, 2011 at 12:49 PM

    “Yankees” and “lowball” in the same sentence? I think not.

    • paperlions - Oct 31, 2011 at 12:57 PM

      I think the problem is that people just assume the Yankees with throw money at them and bid against themselves repeatedly, in part, because they have some history of doing that….so any time the Yankees don’t make an offer that causes 90% of the media to call for a salary cap, or if they simply make reasonable offers, they are now “low balling”.

    • phukyouk - Oct 31, 2011 at 1:20 PM

      Leave Aro…. oh… sorry wrong payer… carry on

  11. jolink653 - Oct 31, 2011 at 2:45 PM

    Let me start by saying i’m a huge yankees fan and i love having cc in the rotation.

    That being said i hope the yankees tell him to f off if he chooses to opt out because i’m tired of the yankees habit of throwing money at players. They bid against themselves for A-Rod after swearing up and down he would never put on the pinstripes again only to have him come crawling back and they rewarded him with more money. Four months ago cc said opting out wasn’t even a thought in his head because he “enjoyed New York too much and his family was happy here” and now all of a sudden he’s expected to opt out? Go ahead chubs and see who is going to pay you the kind of money the yankees are paying you right now. Just another example of a player being overly greedy and trying to set an even worse precedent. Honestly how much money could he possibly need? 23 million a year isn’t enough? A chance at the World Series every year isn’t enough? Would he really go to a bottom feeder like the cubs or the nationals just for money? If he would then let him go.

    The rotation might be crappy for a year or two but we have up and coming talent in betances and banuelos as well as brackman if he ever gets his injuries figured out and i’m sure we can find serviceable starters on the market to hold us over until then while the offense carries the team to the playoffs again. I think the yankees really need to draw a line here even if it sets them back in the short term because if they give in to CC then cano is next to complain and then maybe granderson or maybe teixeira will want some kind of raise. Enough is enough.

    • Ari Collins - Oct 31, 2011 at 4:55 PM

      … I’m pretty sure the precedent of wanting the most money you can get was set a long, long time ago. Players will want a raise when they hit free agency and can get it. Paying or not paying Sabathia what he’s worth on the open market has no effect on that.

    • bigharold - Oct 31, 2011 at 5:44 PM

      “Just another example of a player being overly greedy and trying to set an even worse precedent. Honestly how much money could he possibly need? 23 million a year isn’t enough? ”

      It’s got nothing to do with greed, .. it’s business pure and simple. Like in the Godfather, .. “leave the gun take the ganol, .. er, .. it’s not personal it’s business.”

      The only time greed is EVER mentioned it’s in the context of a player asking for what he thinks he’s worth. The Yankees gave him this option, why anyone would hold it against him for using it is beyond me. I would wager the next few generations of Steinbrenner are going to be far wealthier than the next few generations of Sabathia. Also, how is it greed when a player avails himself of a contractually agreed upon provision as with Sabathia’s situation but when the Yankees threw Arron Boone over board because he violated his contract, costing him a lot of money, the Yankees weren’t being greedy. The Yankees certainly could have afforded carrying Boone for a few months while he worked his knee back in shape. Even if he didn’t play the entire year, the Yankees wouldn’t even feel it. Granted the money the Yankees saved canceling Boone’s contract was far smaller than what it’s about to cost them if they resign Sabathia but the principal is exactly the same. And, I’d think the Yankees could afford a few more years and say 70 million more to Sabathia than Boone could afford losing his contract with he Yankees.

      Players, unlike teams that are constant or even owners the stick around for decades, (unless they’re complete morons like McCourt or Hicks), but players have a very small window of opportunity so I think they should make every effort to maximize their earnings potential.

      Keep four things in mind here;

      1. This isn’t some Gary Sheffield act where he’s suddenly decided he’s not getting his due and he wants to renegotiate.
      2. Sabathia has done everything that could be reasonably expected of him. Even before he came to the Yankees, in his walk year with the Brewers, he willingly agreed to pitch on short rest that was one of the primary reason the Brewers made the playoffs in 08. He’s had a history of demonstrating his willingness to do what is best for the team, to take on responsibility and give it everything he has despite the personal risk involved, .. which would seem to be the opposite of greed.
      3. Sabathia was granted this stipulation by the Yankees in an effort to allay concerns about not liking the East Coast and because the they thought, and as it turns out rightly so, it would make the difference in finally signing him. The flip side they had to know that if he did as well as expected he could use this clause as leverage to get even more years and money from the Yankees. It’s not like he was a card shark taking school kid’s milk money. Cashman and the Steinbrenners knew what was at stake and accepted the risk.
      4. Last and most importantly, what happens on the field and in the clubhouse is baseball and the rest is business. Players and owners understand that but fans, .. not so much.

      If I thought Sabathia not opting out would so much as lower the hot dog prices at the Stadium I might think differently about it but it won’t do a thing. In general I’ve no problem with a player asking for what he thinks he’s worth. If he gets I guess he was right, if not hopefully he’ll accept it like a man. But, Sabathia isn’t asking for a thing he’s not entitled to. I don’r see that as greedy, .. just smart business. Just like the Yankees accepting a less than market value offer to the company running their concessions because concession money is subject to revenue sharing, hence the Yankees make less profit on concessions. But, at the same time the Yankees, (and the Dallas Cowboys that do the same), own the company that runs the concession which thanks to the generous contract terms makes more profit, which is not subject to revenue sharing. And don’t even get me started on the cable deal.

      Sabathia has earned this, it’s not greed. “… It’s just business”.

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