The New York Yankees have reached a preliminary agreement with free agent pitcer C.C. Sabathia. The deal is reportedly for 7 years and $161 million with an opt-out clause (similar to the one A.J. Burnett exercised this year to become a free agent) after the third year. The deal is the biggest ever given to a pitcher, with an average annual value of $23 million, and is the 4th biggest contract overall, coming in behind the two deals given Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez’s previous contract.
Sabathia had been the Yankee’s top target since the offseason began and the team made an offer of 6 years, $140 million right outof the gate. Sabathia left that offer on the table for more than a month and it paid off. The Yankees reportedly added the 7th year on their offer to seal the deal, making it the larget ever contract for a pitcher.
Also, with the opt-out clause after the 3rd year, Sabathia can become a free agent again at the age of 31 and cash in once again, assuming he is still pitching well. As we saw with Burnett, the opt-out clause essentially makes the deal a 3 year deal if Sabathia is performing well. If he’s not, the Yankees will be stuck paying an under-performing pitcher $23 million a year. While the clause is of no benefit to the Bombers, it has been reported that it was a pre-requisit for any team that was going to sign Sabathia.
With their new ace in the fold, the Yankees are still expected to make a run at another free agent pitcher, likely AJ Burnett. After losing Mike Mussina to retirement and Andy Pettitte now a free agent, the Yankees rotation now consists of Sabathia, Wang, and a host of young inexperienced pitchers such as Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, and Phil Hughes. The prevailing feeling around baseball is that Pettitte will ultimately wind resigning with Yankees and if they also manage to land Burnett it would be an incredibly imposing rotation.