AS USUAL, the Yankees upstaged the Mets by agreeing a deal with CC Sabathia less than 24 hours after their cross-town rivals had signed Francisco Rodriguez.
While the Yanks have the cash to splash on Sabathia, the Mets have made a more modest outlay on K-Rod and JJ Putz.
The Yanks are not finished yet. But when this winter’s wheeling and dealing is finally done, it may well turn out that Mets general manager Omar Minaya is the overall winner of The Price is Right.
Let’s to be honest, you don’t have to be the shrewdest businessman in the world to close a deal with the top free agent when you’re willing to outbid your competitors by more than $60 million.
Such was the Yankees’ desperation to sign a genuine No. 1 pitcher that no one was going to stand in their way – not even CC’s wife, Amber.
In comparison to the $161 million, seven-year deal handed to Sabathia, K-Rod is a steal at $37 million for three years.
He may not be the best closer in baseball – I’d put Mariano Rivera and Jonathan Papelbon ahead of him – but neither of them had anywhere close to 62 saves last season.
But while Rodriguez was a straightforward money signing, Minaya had to get creative to acquire the services of JJ Putz in a three-team, 12-player trade involving the Seattle Mariners and Cleveland Indians.
K-Rod and JJ to pack powerful one-two punch
Putz, who will be 32 in February, was among the best closers in baseball in 2007 with 40 saves and the lowest ERA (1.38) among Major League relievers.
He was troubled by injuries last season but still managed 15 saves an ERA of 3.88.
If Putz stays healthy in 2009, the Mets are going to have the best eighth and ninth inning combination in the National League.
Compare that to this year when the bullpen blew an amazing 29 saves and gave up 61 home runs from the seventh inning on.
But for their ninth inning profligacy, the Mets would have finished the regular season five games ahead of the Philadelphia in the NL East…and we all know what the Phillies went on to accomplish.
All Minaya gave up to acquire a man with 101 saves in 308 games were Aaron Heilman, Joe Smith and Endy Chavez.
Of those three, only Smith could be considered a major loss. Heilman was a disaster this year in key situations and while Chavez made some spectacular catches in the outfield, he was a lightweight with the bat.
On paper, the Yanks have more cracks to fill in than the Mets. But they may live to regret the folly of handing out long-terms deals to seasoned players.
Judging by his physique, Sabathia is going to be a hungry player. But whether that hunger is for success or merely fast food remains to be seen.