LAS VEGAS – The third time seems to be the charm for the Yankees.
After meeting with free agent CC Sabathia twice at the Wynn hotel this past week, general manager Brian Cashman made one last effort by taking the one hour flight from Las Vegas to the lefthander’s home in San Francisco.
And it worked as Sabathia came to an agreement with the Yankees on a seven-year, $160 million dollar contract, bringing the big lefty to New York to be the Yankees ace.
What was supposed to be a slam dunk for the Yankees almost turned into a disaster. After coming on strong with a six-year, $140 million bid on the first weekend of free agency, Sabathia waited to see if a West Coast and possibly a National League team would join the bidding. The former Milwaukee Brewer enjoyed his time in the Senior Circuit and also made it no secret about his desire to play in his native California.
But nothing really materialized, at least not in the Yankees range, but it didn’t mean the Bomber brass was able to land the best pitcher on the market with just money. Cashman needed to convince the 28 year-old that New York was the place to be. Although he looks larger than life, Sabathia seems to be more comfortable in the small town setting, which is why he was interested in returning to the Brewers.
So on Sunday, Cashman reportedly met with Sabathia along with Reggie Jackson, a Yankee advisor and a West Coast player who flourished in New York. And ultimately Cashman had to take the extra step, flying to San Francisco to meet with the Sabathia family. Add to that a seventh year and $20 million more, Sabathia was a Yankee.
The Bombers needed this. Before the Sabathia signing their staff consisted of Chien-Ming Wang, who is coming off an injury, Joba Chamberlain, also coming off injury and unproven as a starter, and Phil Hughes, who the Yankees expected to step up last season, but couldn’t cut it. Also with the Red Sox boasting Josh Beckett and the Rays having Scott Kazmir lead their staff, the Yankees didn’t have someone of that ilk.
So they had to get an ace and Sabathia filled the bill. Last season, the hefty lefty was 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA for the Brewers after the trade with the Cleveland Indians on Jul.7 [He was 6-8 with a 3.83 ERA for the Tribe]. Essentially willing the Brewers into the playoffs, he was the team’s main drive and focus down the stretch.
“All I can say is how great a pitcher he is and we are happy to have him,” said Yankee captain Derek Jeter after a press conference on the World Baseball Classic. “He’s an intimidating factor on the mound.”
And now the Yankees have him. Although it could be argued the Bombers had to overpay Sabathia, he fills their No. 1 hole, much like the Mets did yesterday when they signed K-Rod to a three-year contract.
Of course the Bombers are not done and they have to get another starter and maybe some bullpen help, but as of right now the Yankees can consider this trip to Vegas a successful one, even though it took three tries to win their prize.