Yankees ace pitcher CC Sabathia alluded to the opt-out clause in his seven-year, $161 million contract the other day, suggesting that he held "hope'' that it might cause the Yankees to offer to extend his deal. Sabathia hasn't discussed the situation at length since declining to talk about the well-known clause upon arriving in spring training -- but competing executives say they are certain that he will use it to extend his deal or leave.
One competing American League exec said it's "100 percent'' that Sabathia will let the opt-out work for him.
"It was negotiated into the deal,'' another AL exec said of the opt-out that's available to Sabathia after this season. 'It would make no sense not to take advantage of it.''
Sabathia will have a healthy $92 million and four years to go on his deal after this season, but it's also known that his friend and former Indians teammate Cliff Lee was offered $148 million over seven years by the Yankees. And Lee was 32 years old at the time, two years older than Sabathia is now, at the time of that offer.
As the execs predict, the great likelihood is that Sabathia, who is 4-3 with a 3.06 ERA, uses the opt-out. And of course, once a player opts out, anything can happen -- though folks around the team, who are unanimous in their praise for Sabathia, think he's pretty well entrenched as a Yankee. When approached on Sunday, Sabathia seemed aware of Lee's negotiations with the Yankees (though he mistakenly thought the final offer to Lee was for six years). When it was suggested to Sabathia that the Yankees would surely give him another couple years or more, he responded, "I hope so.'' To be sure, it was a brief conversation. But it was the clearest direct indication of what has been assumed -- that Sabathia will seek a deal with more years.
Sabathia -- who said he is still laying off the Cap'n Crunch in the diet that shaved 25 pounds to get him to 290 -- fooled us all the first time by acting like the Yankees were down the list of teams he targeted. When it was mentioned what a great poker face he showed last time, he said, "a few" folks did know that he had the Yankees in mind. This time, it seems clear that he would like to stay. But based on the last time, he won't necessarily stay cheap. This time, he appears to have put down roots in the New York area. He and his wife, Amber, built a beautiful, highly detailed home across the George Washington Bridge in New Jersey that has been featured in magazines. He also seems entrenched with this storied team, a star who has been a remarkably consistent force with no issues since he left Milwaukee, after pitching the Brewers into the playoffs for the first time in 26 years.
"He's the heart of this team,'' one Yankee said, indicating that he believed Sabathia would stay in New York.
The conventional wisdom is that he stays. But if he does, it will surely be with at least another two years on his deal, maybe three.
• Longtime Mets owner Fred Wilpon sounded like a frustrated man when he gave candid appraisals of Jose Reyes, David Wright and Carlos Beltran in an interview with The New Yorker. But while Wilpon is clearly upset with the turn that his franchise has taken in the past three or four years, he has given no indication of wanting to give up control of the franchise. In sales talks with prospective limited partners, Wilpon has been intent on keeping control in his family unless financial constraints due to the Madoff mess make that impossible. In the New Yorker article, he mentions how Reyes is overshooting in contract demands, saying, "He thinks he's going to get Carl Crawford money. He's had everything wrong with him. He won't get it.'' He says David Wright is "a really good kid. A very good player. Not a superstar.'' And he laments giving Beltran a $119 million contract, suggesting that he foolishly based it on Beltran's great playoff series in 2004. The surprise here isn't necessarily what Wilpon said but that he said it publicly. What do we take out of this? Just that, as we suspected, free-agents-to-be Reyes and Beltran will very likely be traded if the Mets aren't in the thick of the race and that Wright probably isn't an untouchable anymore. As far as Wilpon himself leaving, there's no real evidence that he's strongly considering that.
• Early indications are that Wilpon may feel he was caught off guard. There's consideration now to have him explain his comments to the players involved and conductin another interview, this time with Mets writers.
• Team personnel still seem to believe David Wright may be back in a week. Also, Johan Santana is expected to be back throwing off a mound this week. He is said by team people to be "on schedule'' for a possible early July return.
• Current Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has a decent chance not to meet payroll this month, according to people familiar with his financial situation. If MLB has to fund the player payroll, a potential case for a sale becomes stronger. With McCourt's soon-to-be-ex-wife Jamie McCourt also trying to force a sale, McCourt seems to have one foot out the door. His claim this week that he's living in a one-bedroom place is a funny one in that he has the penthouse at The Montage, one of Beverly Hills' most exclusive hotels. (Since I've never been there, I can't confirm the penthouse has only one bedroom.)
• Daisuke Matsuzaka may need Tommy John surgery. After getting word from Boston doctors that he had a tear in his elbow ligament and would need rest and rehab for at least a month, Dice-K is said to have asked to see a Japanese surgeon. He will see a diagnostic doctor of his own choosing first, to determine whether it is agreed that rehab is worth trying.
• Jarrod Saltalamacchia is rewarding Red Sox people who had faith in him, homering in three of his last four games. Salty's stock had been falling around the game, but Red Sox people still saw the potential that everyone once saw. He was seen as the prime player who went to Texas in the Mark Teixeira trade, but many people around the game were starting to have their doubts.
• Carl Crawford, a disappointment so far for the Red Sox (but a "real professional,'' according to a Red Sox person), in some ways has the best contract ever given to an outfielder. In terms of PDV (present day values, which take into account deferrals), Crawford's $142 million, seven-year deal is $20.383 million per year, easily beating the $17.854-million, PDV on Manny Ramirez's eight-year, $160 million Red Sox deal. Ryan Braun's PDV of $20.365 million on his five-year, $105 million extension is right there as well. On a shorter deal, Manny still has the record with his $45 million, two-year contract (with an "out'' after one year, no less, which he didn't choose to exercise).
• The Marlins remain hopeful that star pitcher Josh Johnson will be able to return to pitch by June 1, despite shoulder inflammation.
• There's expected to be a six-month rehab after Kendry Morales' May 26 surgery on his left lower leg. The surgery was needed so as not to risk Morales' long-term health.
• Hank Conger is a "terrific young player," one AL scout said of the Angels catcher.
• Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz are both expected back on Monday, which should lift the Rangers. Texas was 9-1 when Hamilton suffered a broken arm on a head-first slide into home. Hamilton is back ahead of schedule.
• Brian Roberts has had multiple head injuries, and needs to be careful with how he proceeds. He suffered the latest on a head-first slide. He plans to consult with a concussion specialist.
• Nick Swisher appeared to think that he was lining up for a big score when he switched agents to Dan Lozano. But Swisher may be in for a rude awakening. The way he's playing, he's a strong threat not to have his $10.25 million option picked up by the Yankees.
• Chase Ultey's Monday return should be a big boost to the offensively-limited Phillies. But they still need a right-handed bat. Hunter Pence was suggested as a trade target by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, but Rosenthal pointed out several issues there, including Houston's new ownership (Jim Crane), Pence's $6.9 million salary (awarded with an arbitration win) and the Phillies' reluctance to part with prospects. Pence himself isn't expecting to be traded.
• Sabathia, by the way, pegs Miguel Cabrera as the league's best hitter -- though he said that Jose Bautista would need to be considered now, the way he's hitting. Yankees coach Robbie Thomson says that Bautista is a great all-around player, not just a hitter. "He plays great defense, runs the bases well and throws well,'' Thomson pointed out.
• The Nats have a chance to be baseball's most improved team next year, with Stephen Strasburg and possibly Bryce Harper, who was said last week by GM Mike Rizzo to be destined to spend at least the entirety of this year in the minors, preventing him from becoming the first 18-year-old to reach the majors since Alex Rodriguez jetted from Triple-A Calgary to the Mariners. Harper has been brilliant for Class-A Hagerstown, especially so since he got contact lenses on April 19. He says he sees things in HD now. One scout said that Harper is in the top three for bat speed he's ever seen. The other two? Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey Jr.
• Dylan Bundy, the right-handed prep pitcher from Oklahoma who's been wowing folks by throwing 100 mph, is seeking an unprecedented $30 million, six-year contract as a draft-eligible player. One MLB exec called that request "nuts,'' while another said it was "a joke.'' But Bundy is no joke, and has an excellent breaking pitch as well. Execs estimate that $6 to $7 million would be more in line. Bundy has a scholarship offer to the University of Texas but is seen as likely to sign. His agent, Jay Franklin, didn't return phone calls. Franklin is said to be seeking $20 million and five years for another client, Archie Bradley, another Oklahoma high school right-hander. No prep right-hander has ever been taken No. 1 overall.
• University of Virginia left-hander Danny Hultzen, UCLA right-hander Trevor Bauer and Kansas high school outfielder Bubba Starling are all moving up in the draft. Hultzen was wise to turn down $2 million from the Diamondbacks in a pervious draft,. The D-backs pick No. 3 and 7 this year, so they may get another crack. Some see the Cubs, who don't mind two-sport stars (they have Jeff Samardzija), as likely to take Starling at No. 9 if he's still available. Starling has a scholarship to play quarterback for the University of Nebraska.
• Omar Vizquel is the second player ever to play shortstop at 44. The first, Bobby Wallace, in 1918, batted .153. So Vizquel is the best 44-year-old shortstop.
• Rest in pace, Harmon Killebrew, a great ballplayer and by all accounts a lovely man.