|Saturday, February 23
Indians give Sabathia four-year, $9.5M pact
The contract, which contains a club option for a fifth year, could be worth up to $19.75 million over five years.
It is the largest contract given to a pitcher with just one year's experience, ESPN's Peter Gammons reports.
"It's been like a whirlwind," Sabathia said. "Last year going in, I didn't even know if I was going to make the team. Now I'm getting a long-term deal."
Sabathia, the Indians' No. 1 pick in the 1998 draft, went 17-5 with a 4.39 ERA in 33 starts last season and finished second to Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki in the AL Rookie of the Year voting.
Indians general manager Mark Shapiro called the contract unprecedented for someone as young as Sabathia, who turned 21 last July 21.
"It's a tremendous burden for a person of his age, but we're confident he can handle it on and off the field," Shapiro said.
Sabathia was one of the major reasons the Indians were able to win the AL Central last season. He tied for sixth in the league in wins, held opponents to a .228 batting average and recorded 171 strikeouts in 180 1/3 innings. Sabathia became the youngest pitcher ever to win an AL division series when he beat Seattle in Game 3.
Both the Indians and Sabathia took some risks with the contract. The Indians possibly are committing to a player with only one year in the majors and gambling that Sabathia won't get injured.
"In every situation, you weigh the risk versus the reward," Shapiro said. "More important, you examine the person. We can live with the risk."
Projecting what a young pitcher will do in the future also is difficult, as the Indians learned with right-hander Jaret Wright.
Following the 1998 season, the Indians signed Wright, who went 20-13 in his first two seasons, to a four-year contract with an option for a fifth year. Since then, he's 13-16, has had two shoulder operations the last two years and is a question mark going into this season.
The Indians have had more success with right-hander Bartolo Colon, who signed a four-year deal with a club option before the 1999 season. Colon is 47-25 since then and has become a dominating pitcher.
Meanwhile, Sabathia is giving up his arbitration years and an opportunity for substantial raises. He would have been eligible for arbitration after the 2003 season.
Shapiro and Sabathia's agent, Jeff Moorad, began negotiations soon after last season ended. Moorad admitted Sabathia might be underpaid during the contract.
"There's always a risk of undercompensation when you lock into a long-term deal, but C.C. felt the security was important," Moorad said.
Sabathia gets a $1 million signing bonus, $450,000 this year, $850,000 in 2003, $2.45 million in 2004 and $4.5 million in 2005. The Indians have a $7 million option for 2006 with a $250,000 buyout, a year that would become guaranteed if he pitches 405 innings in 2004 and 2005 or 540 innings from 2003 through 2005.
In addition, his salary for 2005 can climb to $6 million and the option for 2006 can rise to $9 million if he reaches certain levels of performances.