Nobody does gluttony quite like the New York Yankees, and there have been few Yankees quite like these Yankees, who missed the playoffs and have a new ballpark to sell out and a recession to balance and a couple new Steinbrenners at the top.
They came to terms Friday afternoon with free-agent pitcher A.J. Burnett on a five-year contract for $82.5 million, driving their 48-hour, two-pitcher payout over $240 million.
The Rays and the Red Sox, it turns out, just managed to tick the Yankees off.
“Good to be king,” one AL general manager said on his way out of the Bellagio hotel this week.
The Yankees scrapped their plan – and it was going to be an organizational philosophy, actually, which is even bigger than a plan – to wait on the young arms they so believed in. Now, with CC Sabathia and Burnett on their way to the Bronx and Andy Pettitte or Ben Sheets still possibilities, the only comer they’ve saved a place for is Joba Chamberlain.
They might just as likely sign Derek Lowe, too, which would seem too much for everyone but them. The Phillies are no longer in on Lowe, turning their attention instead to re-signing Jamie Moyer, and it remains to be seen whether the Yankees’ four-year, $64 million offer still stands after the Burnett signing.
By the end of the winter meetings, Brian Cashman was flying off to Texas for a sit-down with Pettitte, Cashman now fully embracing the offseason recruiting trip. His former manager – Joe Torre – said he’d done some lobbying for the Dodgers, but understood Pettitte’s heart was in New York. The Yankees have offered a one-year contract at the cut rate of $10 million.
“I have a sense he’d like to pitch again,” Torre said this week. “Certainly the Yankees are his first choice.”
Pettitte will be 37 soon and had a miserable second half to 2008 and will be done one day, but Torre doesn’t think that’s arrived yet. Obviously, neither do the Yankees.
“Andy Pettitte’s a stand-up guy,” he said. “He finds a way to get things done.”
That’s surely why Cashman was in Houston on Thursday, and who knows where he could be next, perhaps ringing Mark Teixeira’s doorbell.
Hey, the Yankees tried to be like the rest of baseball and look where it got them. They tried to become more athletic and tried to trim some of their financial fat, then they missed the playoffs and then they gave the 300-pound guy the largest-ever contract for a pitcher and then they gave the guy who can’t stay off the disabled list (nine times since 2000) a five-year contract.
Sabathia is a wonderful athlete and deserving of his contract, especially after being ridden so hard down the stretch last season. Burnett, by Yankees’ accounting, is worth half of that. So, good for him. He has some of the best stuff in the game; ask the hitters who stood in against him, ask the catchers who caught him.
There was some thought that Lowe would become Cashman’s priority after the Sabathia signing, for no other reason than Lowe almost never misses a start. One could say the same for Sabathia, but scouts do wonder about his body holding up as he pitches into his 30s. Those are the scouts, primarily, whose teams weren’t in on Sabathia, however, for reasons of need or economics. And it’s as likely Sabathia will perform like the similarly rotund David Wells, who was turning in 30-start seasons into his 40s. There is no formula for these things, but Sabathia works hard and lives right. Besides, he might not spend more than three years in New York anyway, given his opt-out clause.
And now the Yankees are the Yankees again, buying up the best two pitchers on the market and you just know they’re not going to back away from Teixeira now, if only to drive up the price for the Red Sox and/or Angels, or – in their best scenario, perhaps – pushing him to the Nationals or Orioles.
They are the early favorites in the AL East, with or without Teixeira, because they can pitch with the Red Sox, Rays and Blue Jays again. But that probably won’t be good enough for the Steinbrenners. So, you can assume they’re still returning Scott Boras’ calls, both for Lowe and Teixeira. Maybe it’s not gluttony. Not when you’re the Yankees, and you’re ticked off.