First of all, the New York Yankees do not overbid.
The Milwaukee Brewers have been the Milwaukee Brewers long enough (and the Yankees the Yankees long enough) to know how this works.
The Brewers extend themselves to the final brick in their ballpark, to the very last season ticket and to the brink of fiscal optimism, all maybe beyond what they can afford.
They take a long, hard breath and let ride $100 million, almost half of what Mark Attanasio paid for the franchise just three years ago, because they'd rather not go another quarter-century without October.
And then the Yankees make it rain.
But, and here's the thing, there's a reason why the Yankees' offer to CC Sabathia – believed to be for about $140 million over six years – hasn't seemed to scare anybody off.
“Maybe,” said a GM who'd rather see CC in his colors, “he doesn't want to pitch there.”
Dodgers GM Ned Colletti said Wednesday evening a report that his club was on the verge of making an offer to Sabathia in the six-year, $110 million range was "inaccurate," but industry sources expect the Dodgers to be one of a handful of teams to eventually enter the bidding.
It's not a fresh hunch. Sabathia is a Northern California guy who for eight seasons pitched (contentedly) in the Midwest. He pitched poorly at old Yankee Stadium, and the new one sets up similarly. Life is different in New York. Some say it's better. Sabathia might not agree.
So Sabathia continues to draw interest from teams that probably won't match the Yankees' offer. The Dodgers are in, though so far without an offer. The Angels are believed to be determining Mark Teixeira's course first, but are staying in touch with Greg Genske, Sabathia's representative. The White Sox are seeking a few smart moves that will lighten their payroll, perhaps allowing them to afford Sabathia. If the Yankees are in, the Red Sox (who, like the Angels, prefer Teixeira) are in. And the Mariners and Tigers should be. And then there's the Brewers, whom Sabathia kind of liked.
Yankees sources grant they'll have to pay more to convince Sabathia to move East. They also believe their offer will not be matched – which was the plan, obviously – but probably will have to be increased anyway. Yankees management used to complain about there being a “Yankee price” for free agents. Well, here they are again. They might have to make the sledgehammer offer just to compete. Otherwise, it'd be a fairly simple exercise for Genske to simply shop the Yankees offer. If it were that easy, Sabathia would be in pinstripes by now.
In case there's no buying Sabathia, the Yankees have contingencies. If not Sabathia as the big ticket, then Teixeira. Sources said the Steinbrenners aren't likely to do Sabathia and Teixeira (though didn't rule it out altogether), but probably would attempt to do Teixeira and Derek Lowe and A.J. Burnett.
On reports that agent Scott Boras was asking Barry Zito average annual value for the 36-year-old Lowe, one major-league official had his doubts.
“That one's going to take forever,” he said of Lowe. “I don't see any way he's going to get that. Or close to it.”
That doesn't mean Boras won't try. Of course, in Lowe, the Yankees have a guy who's desperate to return to the East Coast. So, no Yankee price there.
Notes: Padres GM Kevin Towers is awaiting word on whether the Cubs will continue trade talks for Jake Peavy after the signing of Ryan Dempster. … Andruw Jones has told the Dodgers he'll begin playing in the Dominican winter league Dec. 6, about a week short of the anniversary of signing his two-year, $36.2-million contract. Still just 31, Jones is working with a personal trainer in an attempt to strengthen his knee and cut weight. He presumably hopes the winter at-bats will help him find his stroke, which, after signs of trouble in 2007, deserted him in 2008. Meantime, the Dodgers have yet to measure the market on Juan Pierre, whom they'll need if Jones is still the flailing Jones in 2009. Due $28.5 million over the next three years, Pierre will be a tough sell, of course. … Casey Blake is finding his market is nearly as strong as an outfielder as it is a third baseman. In a year his strongest free-agent competition is coming from Joe Crede, however, he'll almost certainly report to spring training with a third-base glove. Minnesota appears to be the front-runner still, but the Dodgers and Indians – the two teams he played for last season – remain involved. … Among the teams that have admitted interest in shortstop Orlando Cabrera – who had a forgettable year in Chicago – are the Giants, Orioles, Indians and Royals. The Giants and Orioles are waiting on Rafael Furcal first. … Arn Tellem, the agent for Mike Mussina, would not confirm or deny a report that his client had decided to retire. "Mike will be making a decision on his intentions shortly," Tellem wrote in an email. "Given the significance of this to Mike, I would hope you can respect his desire to be the author of any such announcement consistent with his own time table. A decision of this magnitude should not be the subject of unconfirmed rumors and speculation. Accordingly, I am not going to make any further comment until Mike has made his final decision." … A handful of teams have requested reliever Tom Gordon's medical records. Gordon had surgery to clean up his right elbow before the end of the season. He is expected to throw again in three months. … Get your outfielders: Amid reports the Cubs have an interest in Royals outfielder Mark Teahen, the Royals went out and acquired another outfielder – Coco Crisp – for reliever Ramon Ramirez. That puts Teahen, Crisp, Jose Guillen and David DeJesus in KC. Something else is coming.