The Yankees will make an offer to exceed Johan Santana's $137.5 million contract to top target CC Sabathia and closely follow that bold first strike with proposals within the next day or two to A.J. Burnett and Derek Lowe, SI.com has learned.
The Yankees' aggressive three-pronged free agent pitching approach puts them in position to dominate the free-agent market. The three offers together are expected to total in the $250 million range.
The Yankees are hoping to blow away the field for Sabathia, who prefers to play in California if all things are equal, then fashion the rest of their rotation from a very strong free-agent market for pitchers. The Yankees don't expect immediate acceptances from all three pitchers, but one competing executive said, "I wouldn't be shocked to see the Yankees sign all three guys.'' (That's probably a long shot, however.)
The Yankees expect Mike Mussina to make his decision whether to return for another year sometime next week, but they are still expecting him to retire. Meanwhile, Andy Pettitte appears to be a fallback option at this point -- though his chances to return are quite possible barring affirmative answers form the three free-agent pitching targets they covet.
The Yankees' proposal to Sabathia will exceed the total amount and actual value of the Mets deal for Santana, whose record $137.5 million contract is estimated to be worth about $123 million when deferred dollars are figured in. Sabathia's first offer this winter came from the Brewers and was for $100 million over five years. But people familiar with that deal say it is actually worth closer to $18 million annually when all the deferred dollars are figured, meaning it is with about what Barry Zito's deal is worth on an annual basis, though much less than Zito's total of $126 million.
The Yankees remain interested in Manny Ramirez but are concentrating on the pitchers now with the expectation that Ramirez won't sign quickly with anyone, certainly not the Dodgers, who bid $45 million over two years, far below Ramirez's request for a five- or six-year deal. Moreover, the Yankees chances to sign star free-agent first baseman Mark Texieira are greatly diminished now that they have acquired Nick Swisher.