C.C. Sabathia is the unquestioned ace of the New York Yankees pitching staff, but he could leave for greener pastures after the 2011 season.
Sabathia was the Yankees No. 1 target during their free agent bonanza before the 2009 season began. General Manager Brian Cashman knew the rotation had to be upgraded, and there was no one better than Sabathia available.
Sabathia had won over executives throughout baseball for his willingness to pitch on three days rest for three consecutive starts during the Milwaukee Brewers run towards a playoff berth. Sabathia knew he was going to be a free agent and could have protected his arm from injury, but instead showed the most important thing to his is winning.
Cashman had heard the rumors swirling of Sabathia not wanting to play on the East Coast, preferring instead to stay near his hometown in California. Because of the rumors, Cashman made a last ditch effort to obtain Sabathia's signature on the dotted line by traveling out to California himself.
It was obvious Cashman was not going to leave Sabathia's home without a commitment and by offering over $60 million more than any other team, he got his man. However, there was one part of the contract which has not received much attention as of late.
A little clause in Sabathia's contract allows him to opt-out after his first three years are completed. Sabathia had insisted the clause be put in the contract for him to sign on the dotted line, so Cashman reluctantly did it.
Sabathia had said he wanted the clause just in case his family did not adapt well to N.Y. However, after being the single most important piece to last year's World Series championship and following it up with a 21-win campaign, Sabathia is in position to make even more money on the open market.
Through his first two starts of the playoffs, Sabathia has not been dominant, but if he can turn it around and have a few Cliff Lee-like outings, he can see the money floating around him.
For those who don't think Sabathia won't opt-out of a $161 million dollar contract, they should consider these two factors. For starters just look at how fragile the state of pitching is.
This season saw the debut of a flame-throwing rookie phenom named Stephen Strasburg. In his first major league start, Strasburg struck out 14 batters including a stretch of seven in a row. Unfortunately, he only lasted a few more starts before he had to undergo Tommy-John surgery.
Pitching is hard to predict and pitchers never know when their career could end, in which case it makes it important to make as much money as possible during their careers. Secondly there was another famous Yankees player who opted out of a contract which was much bigger than Sabathia's.
The man in question is Alex Rodriguez. He opted out of a $252 million contract to only sign a contract which was worth almost $50 million more than his previous one.
We will find out soon if Sabathia cares about winning or money more. If he cares about money, we will see him pull an A-Rod, and if it's winning, then more championships are on the horizon.