12/10/08 10:20 PM EST
With one down, Yanks resume chase
Sabathia's in the bag -- but Burnett, others still ripe for signing
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
Doing so did not come cheaply, with a reported pact weighing in at seven years and $161 million, but the Yankees intended all along to make Sabathia the best-paid pitcher in the game's history.
With Cashman back at the Bellagio hotel after an impromptu late-night getaway to Sabathia's estate in Vallejo, Calif., on Tuesday at the hurler's invitation, the Yankees resumed business as they continue to attempt to assemble an upgraded pitching rotation.
"Believe me, I'd like to get everything we need done taken care of, and that way feel good about our team moving forward," Cashman said. "Unfortunately, we have to go through a lot of steps, a lot of failures and conversations to get to that point."
That pursuit has apparently led them first to Burnett, who opted out of his contract with the Blue Jays this year, but just may hang around the American League East if the Yankees step to the dish as expected. ESPN.com first reported that the Yankees had pushed their long-awaited proposal to Burnett.
With agent Darek Braunecker reportedly seeking a five-year contract in the range of the $91.5 million that Carlos Zambrano secured from the Cubs, Burnett may have found his match in one of the three clubs pursuing him most fervently.
The Yankees had been reluctant to guarantee a fifth year for Burnett, but their level of interest in the right-hander has been well known. The Braves and Red Sox also remain engaged, which may have spurred the Yankees on in preparing an offer that could fall within the $80-85 million range.
"We continue our dialogue and see if things wind up coming into realistic opportunity," Cashman said, speaking of the pitching market as a whole. "So far, that hasn't been the case."
Burnett, who will turn 32 in January, is considered along with Derek Lowe -- another target of the Yankees -- among the top right-handed starters on the market. Atlanta reportedly tendered Burnett an offer of four years and $60 million with an attainable fifth year, which Yankees sources said could be surpassed.
Braunecker said that he could not discuss offers, and noted earlier in the week that he did not travel to Las Vegas with the intention of having Burnett sign by the time clubs check out of the Bellagio on Thursday.
But Sabathia's signing may have altered the landscape. With the Yankees' addition of Sabathia, Burnett could find a situation more amenable to his mind-set, having enjoyed being the No. 2 starter on a Blue Jays staff paced by Roy Halladay.
With larger-than-life media attention expected for Sabathia in New York, Burnett could have an easier time assimilating into Joe Girardi's clubhouse than he might have if Sabathia had signed elsewhere.
There are few flashier options than Burnett, who set career highs in wins and innings pitched in 2008, going 18-10 with a 4.41 ERA in 221 1/3 innings for the Blue Jays. But his career has been marred by injuries, and there are naturally no guarantees that Burnett would avoid the disabled list in New York.
The Yankees have stated that they hope to sign three free-agent starters, and knocking Sabathia off their list is a huge first step. He would join Chien-Ming Wang and Joba Chamberlain as the Yankees' guaranteed rotation members, leaving two more vacancies to fill.
Cashman said that he had "nothing to report" concerning Andy Pettitte, who drew interest as the Yankees' fourth or fifth starter, and a trip to the podium in the media work room appears unlikely. But the Yankees could still make an offer to an option like Ben Sheets by the time the Winter Meetings conclude.
"I'm more than ready to move if common ground is found," Cashman said. "That's been difficult."
Candidates like Phil Hughes, Alfredo Aceves and Ian Kennedy could contend for spots if more arms are not obtained, but may be more likely to begin the year at Triple-A.
With mega-dollars already committed to chasing Sabathia and other pitchers, it continues to appear that the Yankees will not spend big on a hitter. Cashman has not made an offer to first baseman Mark Teixeira, despite meeting with him last week in Maryland.
The Yankees are also not hurrying to line up for outfielder Manny Ramirez, despite a SI.com note that said Hank Steinbrenner is interested in adding the dreadlocked outfielder to the club's lineup. Quizzed on the topic of Ramirez, Cashman struck an intentionally vague chord.
"I'm open to anything that makes us better and fits the overall program," Cashman said. "There's players on the board that fit that program and make us better, and I'm all for it."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.