After the 1997 season, Baltimore Orioles ace Mike Mussina signed a three-year contract extension with the team worth $20.2 million, well below the market value at the time for a frontline starting pitcher.
Braves left-hander (and fellow Players Association member) Tom Glavine criticized Mussina for accepting the contract and lowering the asking price for top pitchers.
With the deal expiring after the 2000 season, Mussina asked the Orioles for a six-year deal at fair-market value. Negotiations with owner Peter Angelos dragged on from Spring Training to midseason. When the Orioles—who were in the midst of a third consecutive losing season—dealt veterans Will Clark, Harold Baines, Mike Bordick, Mike Timlin, Charles Johnson, and B.J. Surhoff at the trade deadline, it became clear to Mussina that the Orioles were rebuilding.
With that, Mussina entered free agency as the market's most coveted starting pitcher. Stating his desire to pitch close to his Pennsylvania home, Mussina's top suitors were the New York Yankees, the cross-town Mets, and the Boston Red Sox.
The Red Sox—coming off their third straight second-place finish in the AL East—planned to increase payroll by nearly $50 million, and made strong pushes to sign both Mussina and free agent starter Denny Neagle.
The Yankees were coming off their fourth World Series title in five years and were looking for a replacement for aging right-hander David Cone—who would go on to sign with the Red Sox. Though Mussina had previously expressed doubts over playing in a bustling city like New York, Yankees skipper Joe Torre, along with Derek Jeter, Paul O'Neill, and Andy Pettite made recruiting calls to the pitcher, emphasizing the merits of playing for the Yankees.
On November 30 he signed a six-year, $88.5 million deal to join the Yankees. At the end of the day, it was the phone call from Torre that Mussina would credit for bringing him to the Bronx. That, and his desire to add a World Series win to his resume.
Though he never won that elusive World Championship, Mussina went 123-72 over the next eight years with New York, and in 2008 won 20 games in a season for the first time in his career.
The Red Sox, having been spurned by both Mussina and Neagle (who signed a five year deal with Colorado) added the biggest bat on the free agent market: Cleveland outfielder Manny Ramirez, for eight-years and $160 million.
Ramirez would go on to win two World Series rings with Boston, and was named Series MVP in 2004.