In the end, CC thrilled to be a Yankee
California native mulled over decision before accepting offer
NEW YORK -- The dotted line for a big, glitzy news conference in the Bronx waited in CC Sabathia's back pocket for more than three weeks. So what took so long to find the dotted line?
Finally donning the interlocking "NY" and calling himself a Yankee after all, the left-handed ace said guaranteeing the seventh year of a $161 million contract certainly didn't hurt. But more than anything, Sabathia was just waiting to have all offers on his table.
"It was kind of a stressful deal," Sabathia said Thursday at Yankee Stadium. "I was just trying to make sure I made the right decision. Being here now and coming here and seeing the way people are, I definitely made the right choice."
Sabathia said that the Yankees were always in his top three, with the organization's interest in him having been one of the game's worst-kept secrets. The Brewers and Angels were also in the mix, but New York came out with checkbooks blazing, blowing away the competition.
"I don't want anybody to think that I didn't want to come here, because that's definitely not the case," Sabathia said. "That was all playing in my head at the time."
In fact, what the California-born Sabathia was so strongly considering was uprooting his entire family to the East Coast -- not just for the season, or even three years, but for the course of a seven-year contract. There may soon be some prime real estate up for grabs in the San Francisco suburb of Vallejo, Calif.
Amber Sabathia said that they had spent part of this week looking at homes in leafy Alpine, N.J., on a recommendation from Johnny Damon's wife, Michelle. Even though general manager Brian Cashman equipped Sabathia's contract with an opt-out clause after the 2011 season, his wife said that the family is looking at spending the better part of the next decade in the Yankees fold.
"It was almost Cashman's way of saying, 'I know you're going to love it here,'" Amber Sabathia said. "And if you're not happy after three years, I want you not to be here. But I know you're going to love it and it's going to be your home. When he said that, I said, 'We're in.'"
Having explored the more tony areas immediately over the George Washington Bridge, Sabathia said he could see his future including a whole lot of New York. He called the suburbs "beautiful."
"The decision took longer than people wanted, but that's why," Sabathia said. "I planned on that wherever I play is where I'm going to live. I made the decision to play here, so I'm going to live here. ... I look at it as though I'm going to be here through the duration of the contract."
Though Derek Jeter had put in a few recruiting calls in November, Sabathia had intended to decide sometime near the Winter Meetings. Given a window, the Yankees swayed him by trotting out special advisor Reggie Jackson to discuss the New York experience.
Cashman followed up last Tuesday with more specifics about what it would be like to be a Yankee, and by mid-afternoon Wednesday, the GM was on a commercial flight to the Bay Area intending to close a deal.
"I feel good about moving my family here and being here year-round," Sabathia said. "That's really the deal-breaker. Ten minutes after [Cashman] left my house, I called him and looked at my wife and said, 'I'm going to be a Yankee.' I still get chills every time I say that."
Cashman revealed that the Yankees had internal discussions about Sabathia last winter, noting that if they did not trade Phil Hughes and Melky Cabrera for Johan Santana, they could always make a serious push to sign Sabathia as a free agent after the 2008 season.
That is the sequence of events that played out, with the Yankees slamming a stunning six-year, $140 million offer on Sabathia's doorstep on Nov. 14 -- the first day they could officially discuss financial figures. The Brewers could not match that, not improving their five-year, $100 million offer, and the Angels never got into the mix.
"I wasn't really concerned about CC's reluctance," Cashman said. "You've got to understand it for what it is. He's a premier free agent who grew up on the West Coast. He was never against coming to the Yankees. I've known that we've been on his list for quite some time. What you can do from my perspective is put an offer out there and educate."
Not that you can't run off a decent life in Milwaukee with the dollar amount the Brewers were offering, but when Cashman arrived in Vallejo last Wednesday and put a guaranteed seventh year on the table, Sabathia agreed to make New York his new home.
"With the economy being the way it is, the teams offering the huge amounts of money was pretty crazy," Sabathia said. "That's our game, I guess. I was just trying to sit back and decipher through everything and make a decision."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi grinned Thursday, recalling a run-in with Sabathia that sheds a little light on the player who has just joined his stable. On a Friday night in April, the Yankees beat Sabathia in Cleveland, 1-0, on a Melky Cabrera solo home run.
The next morning at about 9, Girardi dropped by the workout room at Progressive Field and discovered Sabathia -- less than 12 hours removed from hurling eight innings -- grunting on the machines.
"That told me something about his work ethic," Girardi said. "There's no way you log in the innings that he logs unless you work."
The newly crowned ace of the Yankees, Sabathia reflected of another time in his career when he looked to step to the next level. In 2002, the Indians dealt Bartolo Colon to the Expos, creating a void in Cleveland's rotation. Sabathia wanted to be "that guy," but the results were never quite what he hoped to achieve.
"I definitely wasn't ready at that time to do that," Sabathia said. "I think now, being 28 years old and in this game for eight years, I know what I need to do to get ready. Look at the guys I've got on my side. This could be easy to go out there and just do my job."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.