CC Is On FireBut Who Is Going To Pay Him?

Today, there is going to most likely be a lot hysteria over the release of the Mitchell Report. As for me, I honestly couldn’t care much less about the whole steroid thing. I don’t feel like talking about it. So I decided instead to focus on the Indians’ biggest task at hand right now….signing CC Sabathia to an extension.

GM Mark Shapiro has repeatedly stated that the team hopes to come to some kind of a resolution, one way or the other, by February. Prior to the GM’s Winter Meetings, there was a lot of talk about Shapiro being close to taking their proposal to the owner for approval, and that perhaps even the extension offer would be given to CC’s representation at the meetings. That proposal never happened (although Shapiro did meet with CC’s agent in Nashville, but only loose generalities were discussed), and all has been quiet now for a quite a while on the CC contract extension front.

Perhaps everyone is waiting to see what happens with Johan Santana. There isn’t much of a comparable market for a pitcher like Sabathia. Perhaps 2 of the closest comps are San Francisco’s Barry Zito and San Diego’s Jake Peavy.

Peavy, CC’s Cy Young counterpart in the National League, just signed a 3 year, $52 million extension with the Padres. Zito, the left handed Cy Young winner from 2002, signed a 7 year, $127 million deal with the Giants last year. So how, exactly, do all these pitchers match up to each other? Check out this table:
TableAll of these numbers are actually quite close to each other, particularly in age, seasons, and ERA. CC is in the middle in terms of age and seasons, but has the highest career ERA.

So what does all this really mean? Well, in a nutshell, the biggest numbers to look at is the New Contract Value Per Year column. You can bet Santana is going to go over $20 million per year based on this market. As for CC, well, I would guess that he fits right in at about that $18 million per year range. As I’ve said all along, though, the big issue is going to be the number of years. The Indians can afford to pay CC $18 million per year. But they won’t do it for 7 seasons like the Giants did with Zito. That’s just not going to happen.

The Indians would probably prefer to do what the Padres did, and go for a 3 year extension. 3 years, $55 million would probably be about what the Indians would like to offer. The thing is, though, there’s no way CC agrees to that deal. I can’t argue with that, either. He’d be foolish to sign such a short term deal right now. CC’s value has never been higher. He’s coming off his best season, a Cy Young award winning season. His agent, if doing his job properly, is going to make sure CC maximizes his worth right now.

The Indians have two things going for them. One, CC wants to be in Cleveland. In November, he told XM Radio “I’ve been an Indian my entire career. I grew up here, and I’ve been here since I was 17 years old, so I really can’t see myself leaving the organization. My agent is meeting with the team, and hopefully they can get something done real soon.” Two, there is a little bit of risk on CC’s part if he doesn’t sign an extension with the Indians right now. Had CC been a free agent this winter, there’s absolutely no way the Indians could have re-signed him. However, by being the only team that can negotiate with him right now, the Indians are at a decided advantage. If CC has a down year this season, or if he gets injured, has to have Tommy John surgery, anything like that….If anything bad happens, he will never get more money than he could right now. On the other hand, it would be hard for his ceiling to get much higher than it is right now, no matter how well he pitches this season (what I mean by this is that it’s hard to fathom a team going over $25 million for CC, so he is close to his max value right now as it is).

So risk vs reward is leaning slightly, and I mean slightly, on the risk side. All of this adds up to a bit of a perfect storm, where compromise on both sides seems to serve each side best. If the Indians can agree to do 5 years, and if CC can agree to settle around $18 million, I think a deal could be done for 5 years, in the $88 to $95 million range.

Obviously, this is still a LOT of money for the Indians organization. But they just signed Travis Hafner to a 4 year, $52 million extension, putting him at $13 per year. If you can pay Hafner $13 million, you can pay CC $18 million. Maybe the deal will end up being closer to a 4 year, $65 to $70 million range. The point is, the money is there, the incentive is there, and the talent is there. This is a deal that just might come together yet. I can tell you one thing, I’d rather be reading about Sabathia negotiations today than Mitchell Report revelations. Oh well.