Brian Cashman's Gambling: Paid Too Much for CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett

Don White@Patriot CallContributor IDecember 19, 2008

Friday, December 19, 2008

Yankees Sign Two Unknown Quantity Pitchers

Don't get me wrong. I like the idea that Brian Cashman was able to sign two of MLB's best pitchers. But when you look at the records, you wonder how CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett could be worth over $161 million for seven years and $82 million for four years, respectively.

Let's discuss Burnett: His 10-year win-loss record isn't that shiny. He won 87 and lost almost as many, 76, but his career ERA is a pretty good .386. Compare him to Barry Zito who posted a 10-17 win-loss record last season with a whopping 5.15 ERA and pocketed a cool US$14.5 million. A. J. in comparison was almost unhittable in the second half of the season and won 18 games while striking out an American League-high 231 batters.

We pretty well know that he is a journeyman pitcher and can win some games, especially with a strong-hitting Yankee lineup behind him. Is he as good as Mike Mussina, 20-8, who recently retired? Hardly. The way Burnett is going he won't make the Hall of Fame, but I predict despite not getting 300 wins Mussina will make the Hall, but of course I'm biased.

Sabathia is an unknown quantity. Oh, really? Yes. We don't really know who the real CC Sabathia is. He won a lot of games last year with Milwaukee, going 11-2 and looking unbeatable a lot. He was an all-star pitcher who really carried the Brewers as Cashman and Joe Giardi hope he will do for the Bronx Bombers. But in his introduction interview at Yankee Stadium Thursday he was asked how he accomplished the change from a losing Cleveland pitcher one year, 6-8, to a winner the following year? He didn't know the answer.

The only answer CC could give was that he was a slow starter and things happen. My view is that "things do happen," but for a reason. I believe he is grossly overweight and when he got later into the season he gradually raounded into shape.

The Yankees should insist that he pare 30 pounds off his 290-pound frame. Then he would be able to show up at spring training in great shape and would have a big presence and a winning record from day one.

But, I believe Cashman wanted him so badly—it was his job on the line—that he didn't put any reasonable conditions on this young man. Namely, I would have said you can have $161 million over seven years but you must show up each season to spring training in great shape or we fine you $10 million off the top, then write into the contract the definition of "great condition" for CC.

"Great shape" means he would 1) weigh-in at 265 pounds or less; 2) that he could verify his winter workout regime, which all good pitchers can do because they either work out with trainers or with someone else who can verify their training ethics. And finally, he would be able to prove that he has not abused himself. That is by liquor, drugs, smoking, carousing, or drunk driving episodes like Joba Chamberlain did when he was cited for drunken driving following the 2008 season.

Being a great GM has much more to do with getting conditions down in black and white than merely signing a player. Expectations are everything. If CC believes he can come to New York and play around for the first three months of the season because he is not in shape, I would have made it abundantly clear in writing that his salary will suffer. This may sound like ridiculous talk right now, but not by the time the season opens.

In Cashman's mind he is probably saying, "I think Hank and Hal owe me a big raise. I've gone out with an elephant gun (the Yankee's millions) and landed the four biggest ivories in the world." Forget that kind of thinking. It's all about winning and we won't know what kind of a job Brian Cashman did until World Series time 2009.

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