Heavy expectations (cont.)
Posted: Monday March 3, 2008 1:32PM; Updated: Tuesday March 4, 2008 1:23AM
Nonetheless, Sabathia appears to remain unfazed by the pressure of his walk year. He knows that whatever transpires, riches lie ahead. After a rough spring opener, he and his boyhood pal from Oakland, Dontrelle Willis, joked and compared notes outside the cramped visitors clubhouse here.
Both before and after he convened with Willis, Sabathia happily spoke to reporters about almost all matters, though he's trying to steer clear of two subjects -- past negotiations and future plans. To that end, both he and the Indians suggest inquiring minds review his thoughts on those savory subjects, on an in-house Web site under multimedia.Indians.com. So at least, he and the Indians are working amicably to thwart the potential distraction of the contractual situation.
Considering what's at stake here (and the likelihood that this will be it for Sabathia), the sides remain on remarkably good terms. Indians people talk about Sabathia in glowing terms, speaking about what a great person, family man and teammate he is. It's a tribute to their admiration for Sabathia that they didn't even whisper or hint at the risk his shape could bring in a multiyear deal when I brought it up.
The conventional wisdom suggests it'll be quite a coup if Cleveland can keep Sabathia beyond this season. Santana's new Mets deal for $137.5 million, with a chance to make $150.75 million, didn't help -- though deferred monies put the true value of that deal closer to the $125 million range. "Santana is one reference point, and (Jake) Peavy, (Carlos) Zambrano, (Roy) Halladay and (Chris) Carpenter are others,'' Shapiro points out, naming contracts of aces that ranged from $14 million to $19 million.
If Sabathia should leave, it'll be a blow -- as Antonetti conceded, "You can't replace him in house'' -- but they'd have some money to spend elsewhere and are better prepared than many to absorb such a blow. The Indians have another potential ace, Fausto Carmona, and are fairly well-stocked with young pitchers, including the highly regarded right-hander Adam Miller. The reason they didn't seriously entertain the possibility of trading Sabathia is a good one; they're returning practically the same team that came within one game of reaching the World Series. Shapiro said, "I couldn't conceive of any trade that wouldn't compromise our desire to contend and win this year.''
This was their only choice since they couldn't exactly throw away another real chance at glory (and their first World Series title in 60 years). This could well be a fun finale for Sabathia and the Indians. No sense spoiling that.
Sabathia's probable suitors
Assuming the Indians can't bridge the gap of millions to keep him beyond this season, here are the three most likely landing spots:
1. Yankees. Long seen as the most logical destination for Sabathia, the big reason they balked at Santana was their reluctance to part with top pitching prospects Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy. Since it'll only cost them money (and draft choices), and Mike Mussina, Carl Pavano, Jason Giambi and Andy Pettitte could be coming off the books, they remain the favorite. A perfect replacement in case this is Pettitte's last year, a real possibility.
2. Dodgers. They can afford Sabathia, and they have a some age and injury questions in their rotation.
3. Giants. Pitching isn't their problem. And they already sunk $126 million into a left-hander (Zito). But they have the wherewithal and desire to win, and perhaps Sabathia has a hankering to go home.