Big pitcher, big money: Yanks land Sabathia

LAS VEGAS — The free-spending New York Yankees secured the biggest pitching prize on the market, giving CC Sabathia a record $161 million contract.

Across town, the Mets remade their tattered bullpen with a pair of major moves.

And everyone was wondering when Mark Teixeira and Manny Ramirez would sort through their suitors and make selections.

Business was booming on Day Three at baseball's winter meetings, and the Yankees made quite a splash.

Flexing the economic muscle of a new billion-dollar ballpark and ignoring industrywide nervousness over big-money deals, New York agreed Wednesday to the framework of a $161 million, seven-year contract with Sabathia.

"I'm sure every team in baseball would love to have him. He's a guy who's an intimidating factor on the mound," Yankees captain Derek Jeter said.

The amount is a record for a pitcher and the fourth-highest ever in baseball. It signaled a new willingness by the Yankees to spend in an attempt to regain dominance and win the World Series for the first time since 2000.

"It illustrates that baseball is a very different economic model than the real world," said Scott Boras, the agent for Teixeira, Ramirez and other free agents also seeking big deals.

Sabathia's contract figure seems quite appropriate — in February the Yankees move across 161st Street in the Bronx to their monumental $1.3 billion palace, where tickets cost up to $2,500, fans can watch games at a martini bar and the clubhouse contains a swimming pool, hot tub and every imaginable convenience.

The way the schedule lines up, there's a good chance Sabathia would pitch the opener there April 16 against Cleveland — which traded him to Milwaukee last July.

"It's all subject on the physical," Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner said. "Obviously, we're going to try and get it done as fast as possible."

Steinbrenner called Sabathia "our top choice, our main target."

"We just got the best pitcher in baseball," he said.

As part of the deal, Sabathia even has the right to opt out after three seasons and $69 million to become a free agent again. He also gets a full no-trade clause.

Most teams didn't think Sabathia's money would trickle down to others.

"That would be like saying Madonna sold her penthouse in Columbus Circle, so therefore that may have an impact on whether my house would sell in Danville," Oakland general manager Billy Beane said.

The two New York teams have made the most noise in the slow market. The Mets, moving into $800 million Citi Field, finalized their $37 million, three-year contract with closer Francisco Rodriguez and acquired reliever J.J. Putz from Seattle in a three-team, 12-player deal that included Cleveland.

"All I kept on hearing in the streets of New York when you go get bagels in the morning was, 'Omar, please address the bullpen,'" Mets general manager Omar Minaya said. "Well, to all you Mets fans, we've addressed the bullpen."

New York shipped reliever Aaron Heilman, outfielder Endy Chavez, lefty Jason Vargas and three minor leaguers to the Mariners for Putz, center fielder Jeremy Reed and reliever Sean Green in the first trade by new Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik.

Promising outfielder Franklin Gutierrez was sent from the Indians to Seattle. Cleveland got reliever Joe Smith from the Mets and 23-year-old second baseman Luis Valbuena from the Mariners.

"It helps all of us," Zduriencik said.

Also, the Tigers acquired right-hander Edwin Jackson from Tampa Bay for outfielder Matt Joyce, Detroit's second trade in three days.

Teixeira has drawn interest from the Los Angeles Angels, Boston, Washington, Baltimore and the Yankees. Boras said "numerous" teams have made offers, and the Nationals are known to have presented one to the Maryland native. Speculation had the Red Sox as front-runners for the slugging first baseman.

"The considerations of his family, the economics, winning, all those are in the evaluation of what he wants to do," Boras said.

While other clubs worry about losing revenue — General Motors informed the Pittsburgh Pirates they were ending their sponsorship — the New York teams appear to be awash with cash. The Yankees have the sport's three biggest current contracts, with Sabathia slotting behind Alex Rodriguez ($275 million for 10 years) and Jeter ($189 million for 10 years).

New York hopes to re-sign Andy Pettitte and has intensified talks this week for free-agent pitchers A.J. Burnett and Ben Sheets.

"I think that would be expected. I think that's just the way it is," said Cleveland's Eric Wedge, Sabathia's old manager, while also noting: "I think everybody has to be respectful to the economy and what people are going through. There's nobody who should be oblivious to it."

Burnett was told the Yankees would be prepared to give him five guaranteed years, matching the length of Atlanta's offer.

K-Rod probably was acquired at a discount — his agent had once talked of a five-year deal for perhaps $75 million. Sabathia got a contract as big as his body — 6-foot-7 and nearly 300 pounds.

"As a Yankees fan, we've struggled the last few years with our pitching, our starting rotation," said NBA star LeBron James, a friend of Sabathia's. "It's good to get a pitcher in there that can make things happen and don't need many runs to win a ballgame."

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman left Las Vegas on Tuesday for a quick trip to the pitcher's home in the San Francisco area, sparking the final stages of negotiations.

The 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner joins a Yankees rotation that includes Chien-Ming Wang and Joba Chamberlain. Sabathia went 11-2 for the Brewers after the trade and was a workhorse, throwing seven complete games and three shutouts in 17 starts as Milwaukee made the playoffs for the first time since 1982.


AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum, AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley, AP Sports Writer Colin Fly in Milwaukee, AP Sports Writer Dan Gelston in Philadelphia and AP freelance writer Mark Didtler in Tampa, Fla., contributed to this report.

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