Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Are the Yankees buying another title?

I'm not going to make a profound statement here about the great divide in Major League Baseball between small- and large-market teams. I think small-market teams have done pretty well the last few years, all things considered, while the Yankees and their record-setting payrolls have fallen.

But in advance of the 2009 season, the Yankees are making serious moves to re-load their cannons. They seem hell-bent on winning another series - maybe one final championship for George Steinbrenner.

They've made all the big off-season moves this winter, and hooked three of the biggest fish in the free-agent pond, with eight-figure contracts given to C.C. Sabathia, Mark Teixiera and A.J. Burnett. That's impressive and all, but it's the smaller moves where the Yankees are flexing their muscles.

The most spine-tingling signing they've made happened just this week by signing Andy Pettitte to a one-year, $5.5 million contract.

It's impressive because Pettitte last year was paid $16 million. He expected a little bit of a pay cut - he's nearing the end of his career and he didn't have a very good season in 2008 - but he was deeply, personally offended by the Yankees' offer.

Did I mention that the Yankees had originally offered $10 million?

That's right. $10 million. Pettitte told them where to stick it.

So the Yankees waited. Pettitte decided he didn't want to play anywhere else besides the Bronx.

He came back.

But the Yankees had pulled that $10 million offer off the table. The new offer was $5.5 million, with performance incentives that could add a few million more.

Pettitte is probably going to be the Yankees' No. 5 starter this season. On any other team, he'd probably be the No. 1 or No. 2 starter.

If you hate the Yankees for "ruining baseball," as many critics have argued, you have to at least respect the Yankee management for having the best business sense in all of the MLB.

--Matt Kelsey

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