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Brewers make their pitch for Sabathia

by Matt Smith

You have to give the Brewers credit for trying.  It might prove to be a hopeless case, but they are not going to let CC Sabathia walk away without doing all they can to keep him.  After spending half the season trying to sell the delights of Milwaukee to the former Indian, the Brewers have now tabled an official first offer reportedly worth in excess of $100m. That would amount to a considerable commitment for a team that started the 2008 season with a payroll of $81m.

Unfortunately for the Brewers, a considerable commitment for them can be much more affordable for other teams. 

The Brewers put forward their first proposal and in doing so took advantage of the exclusive period they have now that Sabathia has filed for free agency.  Only the player’s most recent team can discuss financial terms with a free agent up until 13 November. In truth, it doesn’t amount to much of an advantage at all.  Every other team is able to discuss basically everything apart from dollars during this period. 

More to the point, like all free agents eligible for the first time, Sabathia has waited six Major League seasons before he could be in a position to sell his talents on the open market.  Now that he is just two weeks away from that point, he’s not about to give up that right.  The most basic rule of the market is that when more than one team is in the running, they have no choice but to try and trump the other(s).  Even if the Brewers had smacked an astonishing deal on the table (not that $100m won’t make you sit up and take notice), Sabathia and his agent wouldn’t have signed without seeing what else was out there.  If he was worth X to the Brewers, what would another team pay for him?

The elephant in the room is, as per usual, the Yankees.  They have a pressing need for at least one top line starter (probably two) and they have more than enough money to outbid anyone else if they want to.  The prospect of Sabathia taking the mound at the opening of the new Yankee Stadium would surely fill any Yankee fan with glee, just as much as it will dampen the spirits of the rest of the American League.  Everyone expects the Yankees to pull out all the stops to put Sabathia in pinstripes and it would be no surprise if it happens, particularly after missing out on Johan Santana in different circumstances last year.

There have been plenty of stories reporting ‘sources’ close to Sabathia claiming that he would prefer to sign with a team in California and that he would like to stay in the National League due to his fondness for hitting.  Both factors would point to the Dodgers being potential front runners and it will be interesting to see how the Manny Ramirez situation affects this.  It’s extremely unlikely they could sign both, so which way should they go?  While pitchers are always riskier investments, I would much rather have Sabathia on a 5/6 year deal than Manny on a 4/5 year deal.  It’s not a bad dilemma to ponder in any case.

Other teams will probably be mentioned as well and each one makes it a little less likely that the Brewers will keep hold of their new star.  Breaking up is always hard to do, particularly in a relationship that burned so brightly and could then be over in such a short space of time.  People in Milwaukee may be having nightmares about CC wearing the interlocking NY and it’s hard not to feel for them a bit, but they knew that his stay could be a brief one when they welcomed him in July.

Brewers fans will be living in hope rather than expectation and maybe that sums up the organization’s offer as well.  If he does leave for pastures new, at least the Brewers can look back on a memorable three months and say they did their best to keep him.

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Chico November 5, 2008 - 4:41 pm

Great piece Matt. That should be published in the Milwaukee papers! You have a gift for informative, concise writing. Outstanding! On another note if I could: Barack Obama is a White Sox fan and I predict he will throw out the first pitch at The Cell on opening day. I will be there and hope to witness it. Chicago is making headlines, and as a born and raised Southsider, I’m sure the Sox will get a mention or two during next season.

Matt Smith November 5, 2008 - 5:50 pm

Thanks for your continuing support Chico.

While I’m in no position to speak for the whole of Britain, I think most people here greatly respect the fact that so many Americans casted their vote in this election. For some good reasons there is quite a lot of apathy towards politicans, but the right to vote should not be taken for granted. That’s as political a comment as you’ll get from me! If Obama does throw out the first pitch, I’m sure it will be a memorable occasion.


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