Posted by Steve
I figure it’s about time I address the biggest issue with the Brewers right now. I was waiting to say much on CC Sabathia until the offers started to become clearer. Until yesterday, the only two reported offers were the Brewers’ offer of five years for $100 million and the Yankees’ offer of six years for $140 million. Obviously, the Yankees’ offer is the superior one between those two, although costs of living probably make them a lot closer than it seems.
New York’s strategy was clear, and it was probably an effective one: Make an incredibly high initial offer in effort to discourage other teams from even bothering to pursue Sabathia. Once free agency officially began, the Yankees immediately leaked their offer to the media, which is a different strategy than the Brewers (Doug Melvin has not even confirmed the widely reported Brewers’ offer of 5/100 mil).
For five or six days, it seemed like the Yankees’ strategy may be working. No reports surfaced of any other team even interested in signing Sabathia. Yesterday though, we found out the Giants will make Sabathia an offer, and that the Angels are strongly considering it as well.
It would have been very interesting if the Yankees and Brewers were the only two suitors, but that wasn’t very realistic. The more teams involved, the less of a chance the Brewers have of retaining Sabathia. I’m assuming the Brewers will come back with a counteroffer, but the question is obviously what type of offer they’ll make.
In case you’re at all interested, here’s the approach I would take. The initial reaction is probably to increase the years and total dollar amount. The Brewers can’t match 6 years/140 mil, but a sensible reaction might be to suggest the Brewers improve their offer to 6 years/120 and see if cost of living and/or a preference to play in Milwaukee trumps 6/140 from New York in CC’s eyes. I disagree with that strategy for a couple reasons. One, a six-year contract for a mid-market team, especially one for a pitcher, is incredibly risky. In fact, under virtually no circumstance would I be on board with the Brewers handing out a six-year deal to a pitcher. Second, the Angels/Giants/Dodgers/somebody would likely match or exceed 6 years/120 mil, and Sabathia is from California.
Instead, the final offer I would make would be $100 million over four years. The 25 mil/year is a higher per-year offer than the Yankees and very likely higher than what the Giants or any other west coast team will offer. Four years/100 is attractive to the Brewers because they aren’t locked in for six years, and the risk is lower. More importantly, four years should be attractive to Sabathia because of his eventual next contract. After a four-year deal, CC would hit free agency again at age 33, where he’d still be highly coveted if he continues to pitch well. Common sense tells us teams will generally pay more for a good 33-year-old pitcher than a good 35-year-old pitcher, which would mean CC’s next contract would most likely be bigger if he accepted a shorter deal.
The Brewers can’t compete with six or seven year deals for 140+ million, so they need to get creative. The odds of re-signing Sabathia have never been high, but this is the one approach that makes me think they still at least have a shot. The one advantage the Brewers have over the other suitors is cost of living. Housing is exponentially more expensive in New York or California than it is in Wisconsin, so that’s a multi-million dollar advantage to the Brewers. In order for the Yankees, Giants, Dodgers or Angels to match the Brewers’ offer of 25 mil/year they’d have to go quite a bit higher than the Brewers on a per-year level.
If I’m Doug Melvin, this is the point I’m trying to drive home. ‘We’ll give you 100 mil over four years, and here’s why it’s a great offer for you. You’ll make an ungodly amount of money each year, you’ll save millions in living expenses by staying in the Midwest and you’ll hit free agency two or three years sooner and be in line for yet another absurd contract.’
That’s probably the only realistic shot the Brewers have.