CC Sabathia stood ready Monday night to opt out of his contract with the New York Yankees. That would have activated the bidding war for his services, and eventually, set a sky-high market rate for starting pitching in free agency this winter.
Scrap those plans.
Instead, Sabathia agreed to an extension with the Yankees, adding two years and $50 million to his current deal. That contract, signed December 2008, already had him slated to earn $92 million through 2015.
The deal is remarkably team-friendly, given the major concession Sabathia made by forgoing the free-agent process. Only $30 million of the extra cash is guaranteed, the rest tied to his health in 2016—when he will turn 36 years old.
Sabathia's deal was signed without testing the true market, so it may not have much impact on the rest of the pitchers who will hit free agency this winter. Then again, so much of baseball price-setting is based upon precedent that this deal could dampen the ones received by the second tier of free agents to come.
Here are 10 guys who will wish Sabathia had held out and gotten much more before this winter is over.
The term 'grossly underrated' comes to mind. Maholm does not strike batters out, has won 53 games but lost 73 in his career and lacks any pitch that can dominate opposing batters.
Lacking any of those flashy traits, Maholm often gets overlooked, and sometimes, he is maligned without good reason. He still does several things very well. He keeps the ball on the ground (52.3 percent career ground-ball rate) and does not walk batters.
The Pirates still declined their $9.75-million option for 2012 on Maholm, but he had a real chance (depending on Sabathia's performance in the market) to get well into eight figures on a two-year deal. Now that Sabathia has left $50 million on the table, Maholm might have to settle for a much lesser deal.
Think about it: Why did the Yankees turn to Colon at all last winter? It was out of desperation, really. They needed pitching badly.
Colon's best bet for getting more than a minor-league deal in 2012 was that Sabathia would waffle and hang in the market long enough for New York to decide they needed to buy an insurance policy against the loss of Sabathia. Now that the Yankees have their main man, they're much less likely to lunge after Colon.
Garcia is like Colon, and then again, he isn't. As much fun as everyone had poking at the tandem of Garcia and Colon in the rotation for New York last season, it ought not to be forgotten that Garcia, 35, is not really as gassed as his fatter foil.
He still should command a big-league contract, the kind that will rate the Yankees a supplemental draft pick. Garcia lost something like $2 million when Sabathia signed, though, because without the Yankees against whom to bid, other teams are not going to pay as much to land him.
Garcia's problem is soon to be Harang's. With the Yankees now seeking only to add true impact arms, the richest organization in the game has bowed out of the possible pool of interested teams when it comes to Harang.
Harang has one other problem. He is a volume guy. Harang eats innings, and as such, has major value in the middle of a rotation. He had more, though, back when it looked as though teams would pay huge money just for that sort of value by volume. The Yankees got a health incentive built into the final year of Sabathia's extension. Expect to see a similar clause in whatever contract Harang signs this winter.
As high-risk as he is, Darvish is the only pitcher who figures to become available this winter and who has anything like Sabathia's upside value.
He probably hoped to see Sabathia ring up $175 million or so over seven years in the market, which would have set Darvish up to make a solid $75 million himself on a big-league deal. The new target number for Darvish's representation might have to be something like $50 million.
Iwakuma, unlike Darvish, is a true free agent. He need not be posted by a Japanese team; he can come over for the best offer he gets.
That best offer will be a bit lower now, though, because the ceiling of the market it lower than expected and Iwakuma, being such an unknown, is likely to have his value defined powerfully by the market, not by any team or teams' opinions of him alone.
Jackson proved he had the stuff to succeed in the AL, even the AL East, with the Rays and Tigers and White Sox over the past few seasons. Pitchers with the raw stuff to do that are hard to find, so Jackson derived a good deal of extra value from the possibility (perhaps improbable, but far from impossible) that the Red Sox, Yankees and Blue Jays would be in on the bidding for him.
Now the guys with the biggest dollar signs in their eyes have turned those eyes away from Jackson. That inevitably hurts.
Again, Kuroda loses money when Sabathia gives it away, because Kuroda was one of the guys compared (however unfavorably) to Sabathia, and because the Yankees entertained acquiring him in the past.
Kuroda is an aging hurler but has been exceptionally durable. That might have protected him from some front-office hesitation and incentives, but no more. If the Yankees can build in a health qualification for the remarkably strong Sabathia, it's not hard to picture someone demanding the same of Kuroda.
The Phillies declined Oswalt's $16-million option for 2012, but although he did not get that amount, that figure was the starting point, the focal point of the anchoring bias that rules so much of baseball's free-agent market. Oswalt was in line for a cool $12 million or so each year in what could easily have been a two- or three-year contract.
Sabathia, though, did not wade into the market and make his mark. If he had, that would have created another point pulling Oswalt's value upward. Inefficient or not, that is how the market works in baseball. Because Sabathia's salary for 2012 will be static relative to 2011 and will be less than it would have been if he had become a free agent, Oswalt loses money, too.
This one is obvious. Wilson had a poor postseason. He looked tired, which makes that poor performance even more ominous because it leads teams to wonder whether he is injured on top of being fatigued. He is left-handed, like Sabathia. He shares Sabathia's general profile, though he is not quite as good in any single respect.
Wilson is tied in too many ways to Sabathia for this not to hurt him. The Yankees will no longer take any interest in him. The suitors remaining are not as enthusiastic about him as New York briefly was. He will still make some money, but Wilson lost an awful lot over the past five weeks.