Tribe's Sabathia in line to cash in
Saturday, January 13, 2007
Plain Dealer Reporter
The free-agent pitching market this holiday season turned into the gift that keeps on giving for C.C. Sabathia.
Free agents Gil Meche ($55 million for five years), Ted Lilly ($40 million, four years), Jason Schmidt ($46 million, three years) and Mike Mussina ($23 million, two years) signed before Christmas. So did Japanese import Daisuke Matsuzaka, reaching a six- year, $52.5 million deal with Boston.
Then came the biggie. The one Santa couldn't de liver Christ mas Eve be cause the chimney was too narrow. On Jan. 2, San Francisco signed Barry Zito to a seven-year, $126 million contract.
Sabathia hasn't stopped smiling since.
Zito enters this season with 95 victories, the second most by a left-hander in the last six years. Sabathia, a left-hander with 81 victories over the same period, should be beyond Zito's win total after the 2008 season when he's eligible for free agency.
"Definitely excited," said Sabathia, when asked how he reacted to the recent signings.
"Hopefully, I can stay healthy and be in the position those guys are in."
The Indians have Sabathia under contract through 2008. He'll make $8.75 million this season and $9 million in 2008.
Indians General Manager Mark Shapiro said he'll approach Sabathia, Travis Hafner and Jake Westbrook about extensions during spring training.
"I'm always open to that," said Sabathia. "I've been here my whole career. I grew up here. I would definitely sit down and talk about it."
Sabathia, who returned to California on Friday, was in Cleveland to get his surgically repaired right knee examined. Indians trainers also wanted to check his conditioning.
"My knee is about 80 percent," said Sabathia.
Sabathia, looking fit, said he'll be ready to open spring training when pitchers and catchers report to Winter Haven, Fla., on Feb. 15. He's been throwing since November and has been cleared to start running.
Westbrook can be a free agent after this upcoming season. Hafner, like Sabathia, will be eligible for free agency after the 2008 season.
Sabathia said the Indians would have to make a significant offer to get him to sign an extension.
"It's going to be tough, not just for me, but for Jake and [Hafner], too," said Sabathia. "The people around here are going to have some tough decisions to make in the next two years."
Sabathia says one of the factors in negotiations will be the Tribe's ability to win.
"Everyone wants to play for a winner," he said. "I'm always going to have feelings for this place. I know everyone from top to bottom."
Sabathia said a desire to pitch closer to his home in Vallejo, Calif., is not an overriding factor.
"I want to be in a place where I'm comfortable," said Sabathia. "I feel comfortable here. I own a home here. This is like home, too.
"I've got a lot of thinking to do. I'm going to talk to my wife. Talk to my mom. So when the time comes, I'll be ready."
Sabathia, 26, was still in the minors when Manny Ramirez left the Indians through free agency following the 2000 season. He was in his second year when Jim Thome left the same way at the end of the 2002 season.
He said he hoped the Indians could make a commitment to him to make him stay.
"I know they went after Thome," said Sabathia. "They made the effort. So it's up to the player.