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CC gets an offer he couldn't refuse

Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor

Rounding Third Logo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The New York Yankees came into this offseason with one goal in mind: land CC Sabathia, apparently at any price. It may have cost them more than they or anyone else thought it would, but in the end, it was mission accomplished.

Early Wednesday morning, Sabathia agreed to a seven-year, $161 million deal with New York during his third meeting in as many days with Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, who flew to the pitcher's home in San Francisco on Tuesday primarily to sell Sabathia's wife on living in New York and hammer out a deal.

The contract reportedly includes an opt-out clause after the first three years, which are worth $69 million. At that point Sabathia would be 31, and if things go well he would likely receive another $100 million deal should he enjoy his time in New York.

Bottom line was Cashman was not coming back to the site of baseballs's Winter Meetings in Las Vegas without an agreement.

Milwaukee was prepared to go higher, perhaps a sixth year and another $20 million, and the Angels would have gone all in had they missed out on their top priority, first baseman Mark Teixeira. San Francisco and the Dodgers were peripherally involved, but the Yankees were not going to let anyone else play in this game.

By all accounts, Sabathia's first preference was to play on the west coast, meaning the Yankees had to bowl him over with money. In the end, it was just too much for Sabathia to turn down, as the Yankees offered more than $60 million more than anyone was offering.

Is it a lot of money? Of course it is, but the Yankees needed an ace and they got one. There are only a handful of true aces out there, and Sabathia is one of them.

It is the highest contract ever awarded to a pitcher, and the fourth-highest ever. If the numbers are correct, it is slightly under the average annual value of Johan Santana's deal with the New York Mets.

From a baseball standpoint, Sabathia vastly improves a Yankee rotation that just last year included the likes of Sidney Ponson and Darrell Rasner, among others. Sabathia, a returning Chien-Ming Wang and Joba Chamberlain at the top is pretty good, but the Yankees are prepared to get another pitcher this winter, be it Derek Lowe, A.J. Burnett or Ben Sheets. They are going to get someone, not to mention that Andy Pettitte will probably be back.

So things should be significantly better from a pitching standpoint.

Sabathia has evolved into one of the best pitchers in the game over the past two years, but he is a slow starter. Last year he lost five of his first six decisions, and eight of his first 11. For his career, he is just 11-10 in the month of April with a 4.47 earned run average.

If he gets off to that kind of start in the Bronx, he is going to hear it. Santana got booed off the Shea Stadium mound in his first start in Flushing. But he was able to bounce back and put forth one of the best seasons of his career.

How Sabathia handles that first bump in the road will go a long way in determining how he adjusts to life in the Big Apple.

Of course, though, this signing just further fuels the fire for those people, like myself, who think baseball needs a salary cap. The problem is there are only a handful of teams that can compete in free agency, and when it comes right down to it, none of them can offer the money New York can.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Ruddick at cruddick@sportsnetwork.com.

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