CC signing draws attention of 29 clubs
Jilted suitors, new rivals take notice of Yankees deal
Only a few teams were in the CC Sabathia sweepstakes, and some would say only one truly was. But every single team in baseball was paying attention.You could probably count on one hand the GMs who thought he'd end up anywhere else than with the Yankees, which he did in agreeing Wednesday to a seven-year deal worth about $161 million. But every one of them raised an eyebrow when he saw the deal was made.
It was the kind of deal that gets everybody talking, and the kind of deal that touches everybody in the game somehow.Some more than others. And few more than the Indians, the team that drafted him out of Vallejo, Calif., only a decade earlier. "I'm thrilled for CC," said Indians general manager Mark Shapiro, who received a text message from Sabathia with the news late Tuesday night. "I'm thinking about him as an 18-year-old and where he comes from, and I can't help but feel happy for him and his mom and his family. It's a great thing for him, and anyone who cares for him has got to be thrilled." Even those who care for him and who happen to make their living in the American League East might not use the word "thrilled" in describing this course of events. "Bad news for us. Good news for Sabathia and good news for the Yankees," said Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston. "I was hoping that he would actually go out to San Francisco or somewhere else. I know he's just one guy, but he's a tough guy to beat." He is one guy, true. But Red Sox manager Terry Francona can do the math.
"We're probably going to face him six times a year for the next seven years. There's 42 times," Francona said. "He's one of the premier pitchers in the game. I don't know him well, but I have come across him. I respect him a lot. What he did in Milwaukee at the end of the year, it's hard not to be a fan of his during that time just because he took the ball every three days and all he had riding on it. He obviously put the team first. That was really impressive. Saying that, I hope he doesn't do it again."For everyone else in the AL East, it's a matter of dealing with him when you have to deal with him and taking care of things from there, as Rays manager Joe Maddon put it. "I don't want to say I don't care, of course we care," Maddon said. "But it's just that there's nothing we can do about it. And they're not done. They're going to keep adding those guys on." And the Orioles' Lee McPhail: "It was big. We have our job to do. The Yankees do what they think is in their best interest. We have our hands full in doing what we think is in the best interest of the Baltimore Orioles." There was another subset of teams affected: the ones who pursued or at least were thought to be pursuing Sabathia. And right at the top of the list is the Brewers, who benefited from that late run Francona mentioned. The Brewers put out a $100 million offer, but it wound up being a distant second to the Yankees', leaving the Brewers with some exciting memories but nothing more. Said GM Doug Melvin in a statement: "CC provided a tremendous amount of excitement to the organization, the city of Milwaukee and our fans this summer. Though his days in a Brewers uniform were limited, his impact will never be forgotten. We wish CC all the best." And the reaction of the West Coast teams supposedly in on Sabathia? They all said they weren't, for one thing. "One way or the other, it's not going to affect us," Giants general manager Brian Sabean said, calling it "the longest of longshots." The Dodgers never presented Sabathia an offer, either. Said general manager Ned Colletti: "We were very interested in the person and talent, not the duration." And not everybody in baseball saw a rosy picture in this signing. Asked about Sabathia, Marlins president David Samson responded: "I would only say, when we analyze long-term contracts at that level for pitchers, it has been a rare occasion where they have been successful for the team. I would say that the Yankees operate as they operate. But I do have a lot of family and friends in New York, and I am very aware of the economic problems that are happening in New York. I don't view what the Yankees do as a leading indicator of what the league is like. They are just not." The Marlins will face Yanks in Interleague Play in Miami in 2009, and manager Fredi Gonzalez has more practical thoughts in mind. "We missed facing him last year," Gonzalez said. "I hope we miss him again when they come to our place this year." The Yankees got bigger with the big lefty. Not a lot of people in baseball were startled by this turn of events. "What are you going to do?" White Sox GM Ken Williams said. "The Yankees are the Yankees and they've been operating like that for a long time." Certainly, you won't find any surprised looks in Boston. "Their commitment to winning is just as important as ours is," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, the American League's Most Valuable Player in '08. "We obviously knew that they were going to go out and get some of the top free agents. They definitely got a lot better today." Added Sox shortstop Jed Lowrie: "There's no question that a guy like CC Sabathia coming in with the track record and the history that he had in the American League will be big. He's a quality starter that will make the Yankees a better team." Now the question on everyone's lips: Do you think CC will be able to make it in New York? "I do," said Maddon. "I think he's got the personality to handle it very well." And that's part of the package the Yankees signed on for, a package his former manager Eric Wedge of the Indians says includes a lot more than a big body with a golden left arm attached. "As great a pitcher as he is," Wedge said, "the first thing that comes to mind for me is just the type of person he is, the husband that he is, the father that he is, the son that he is and just what he's meant to the Cleveland Indians organization and just how many lives he's impacted both on and off the field, whether it be family, friendships or teammates. "He brings a lot to the table."
John Schlegel is an executive editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.