Long-term damage was done with the open interference perpetrated by the Yankees top-tier hierarchy—Randy Levine, Hank and Hal Steinbrenner—on GM Brian Cashman in the Rafael Soriano negotiations and it’s going to harm the Yankees. The dispute influenced and emboldened C.C. Sabathia in his decision and open flirtation to void his contract after the 2011 season.
On the surface, the decision will have more to do with Sabathia’s earning potential on the open market plus the risk/reward of going for a new deal; but the weakness in the command structure is a factor that can’t be ignored.
You can read the NY Daily News story here.
I’m not prepared to put overwhelming credence on this headline-making suggestion that Sabathia might opt out; it’s February; there are few stories to write about and this is juicy; but you can account for circumstances and speculate the hows, wheres and whys.
Let’s do that.
An absence of unity cracks the foundation.
The lack of communication and cohesion with the Yankees has crafted the appearance of fissures in the command structure. The participants were foolish in their own right.
Cashman should’ve kept his mouth shut regarding his personal feelings of the value of Soriano vs the draft picks he’d need to surrender to sign him; the Steinbrenners and Levine need to make it clear to Cashman privately that Soriano was a fallback option in the event they were spurned by Cliff Lee; and all had to abstain from comment for fear of perception of fissure and dysfunction.
A chain-of-command in any business must be adhered to for fear of the enemy (and in this case, Sabathia and his agent are the enemy) exploiting weakness.
The way Alex Rodriguez and Scott Boras opted out of their contract during the 2007 World Series and the resulting turf war that ended with A-Rod firing Boras and groveling to return to the Yankees—and still getting a raise—prompted Cashman to demand and supposedly receive full autonomy in baseball matters.
We all know said autonomy is relative to the amount the owners are willing to give, but the players don’t know that for sure.
This opt out would not have been as great a possibility if there was still the perception of the brutal Cashman who told Derek Jeter to shop his offer around if he felt he could do better; if Sabathia examined the circumstances—circumstances that were all to clear to A-Rod in the aftermath of his mistake—that the Yankees are the only team who can afford to pay him what he wants; that he’d have nowhere else to go to gain that financial windfall—and kept his plans to himself without the saber rattling.
Cashman has been stripped of the aura of being in charge by that overrule by Levine and the Steinbrenners and it cracked the structure of who’s really running things with expensive long-term ramifications.
The market and the panic will dictate the decision.
Because the marketable pitchers like Hiroki Kuroda and Jorge de la Rosa signed early in the process and Lee made the rounds; because Pavano was laying in wait to see what happened with Lee and how it could improve his paycheck, there wasn’t much of a backup plan barring a trade. Once Zack Greinke was dealt, the Yankees had no choice—in the minds of the people above Cashman—but to go for a devastating bullpen to account for a questionable starting rotation.
Such is not the case next year.
Roy Oswalt, Ryan Dempster, Kuroda, Jon Garland, Edwin Jackson, Joel Pineiro, Scott Kazmir and C.J. Wilson are all available or probably available after the season. Then there’s Chris Carpenter who has a $15 million option, but might be obtainable in a trade.
None of these pitchers have the cachet of Sabathia, but they’re cheaper and some are quite good.
Who’s going to pay him?
The Yankees can. The Mets and Dodgers have ownership issues; the Cubs presumably could, but does he want to go to the Cubs and are they going to pay another pitcher a massive amount of money after the way Carlos Zambrano has been an enigma?
The Nationals? Really?
The Angels could pay him and he’d be heading back to California.
But no one, nowhere can reach the financial heights of the Yankees and there’s every chance that the other clubs might look at Sabathia and the way he walked away from a guaranteed $92 million as nothing more than a ploy to extract more money from the Yankees and, knowing they probably won’t get him, will offer a perfunctory amount of money to raise the cost to the Yankees.
Sabathia might even wind up with less!!
Let’s play chicken.
Cashman has been smart to keep his feelings to himself this time. Whereas he set lines in the dirt with A-Rod and saw his “decision” reversed by the ultimate judges in the matter—his bosses—he’s not saying what he’ll do if Sabathia does look for a new deal.
Maybe the confidence in his station has been diminished; or maybe he’s decided it’s better for him and the organization to not speak out as he did in the cases of Soriano and Jeter; or maybe he knows that if he makes a comment one way or the other, it will be seen as meaningless because he’s been overruled in the past and will be so again if the desperation hits.
The Yankees could go the route they did with Jeter and tell Sabathia that there’s no more water from the well and if he’s under the impression that the failure to get Lee and resulting fracture in the monolithic front office previously presented is going to be exploited, then he’s welcome to try his luck, but the gamble is too massive for it to be worthwhile.
Desperation led them to this point.
Lee went to the Phillies and Andy Pettitte didn’t waver in his decision to retire, they made a stupid attempt at Carl Pavano and called about Felix Hernandez. They got neither. With nothing else available, they publicized a split and signed Soriano, castrating their GM in the process.
Sabathia might have done this anyway, but the uncertainty isn’t helping.
And it’s either going to cost them a lot more money or C.C. Sabathia.
The Soriano and A-Rod aftershocks are still being felt and will be so all season long.
And they’re not going to stop.