LAS VEGAS -- CC Sabathia has decided to sign with the Yankees, CBSSports.com has confirmed.
Sabathia, the top free agent on this winter's market, will get a seven-year deal for $161 million, a source familiar with the deal said this morning. That's a year and $20 million more than the Yankees' original offer, made last month, and far more than any other team was willing to pay.
The Yankees gave Sabathia an opt-out clause, allowing him to get out of the contract after three years. Because of Sabathia's uncertainty about wanting to play in New York, it's believed that the clause was a key to getting the deal done.
The Yankees knew all along that Sabathia preferred to sign with a West Coast team, preferably one that plays in the National League. They knew their only chance was to overwhelm him with money, while at the same time hoping that none of his favored teams would step up and offer anything similar.
In the end, the strategy worked, in part because the Yankees could offer so much more money than anyone else, and also because the West Coast suitors never really materialized. While the Angels had long coveted Sabathia as well, owner Arte Moreno also loved Mark Teixeira and wasn't prepared to approach the numbers the Yankees were talking about. The Dodgers and Giants thought about it, but never emerged as serious options.
Sabathia did receive an offer from the Brewers, the team that acquired him from the Indians in a midseason trade last summer. But Brewers people always sensed they were a longshot, and Sabathia informed them early this morning that he was going to the Yankees.
As it became clear in recent days that the Yankees could be Sabathia's best option, the pitcher met several times with general manager Brian Cashman and other Yankee officials. Monday, Cashman left the winter meetings to fly to San Francisco to meet with Sabathia again -- and, as it turns out, to get his agreement.
Even though seven years at $160 million works out to a little less than $23 million a year, the source said it's still too early to determine where the contract will rank in terms of average annual value. While it's technically just behind the six-year, $137.5 million deal that Johan Santana signed last winter with the Mets, Sabathia's contract will apparently include less deferred money than Santana's.
The Yankees, whose rotation ranked ninth in the American League with a 4.58 ERA, had understandably focused on starting pitching this winter. They're not done yet, as they'd still like to sign two out of three other big-name starters -- Derek Lowe, Ben Sheets and A.J. Burnett.
It's believed that they have the best chance with Lowe and Sheets, because Burnett has attracted more serious bidders. The Braves have already made Burnett a large offer.
The Yankees' agreement with Sabathia was first reported by the New York Post.