Yankees sign Sabathia to 7-year, $161M contract

Published 1:39 am Thursday, December 11, 2008

There is no recession for the New York Yankees.

Flexing the economic muscle of their new billion-dollar ballpark and ignoring industrywide nervousness over big-money deals, the Yankees landed the top free-agent pitcher when they agreed Wednesday to the framework of a $161 million, seven-year contract with CC Sabathia.

The amount is a record for a pitcher and the fourth-highest ever in baseball. It signaled a new willingness by the Yankees to spend in an attempt to regain dominance and win the World Series for the first time since 2000.

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‘‘I’m sure every team in baseball would love to have him. He’s a guy who’s an intimidating factor on the mound,’’ Yankees captain Derek Jeter said at the winter meetings.

Sabathia’s contract figure seems quite appropriate — in February the Yankees move across 161st Street in the Bronx to their monumental $1.3 billion palace, where tickets cost up to $2,500, fans can watch games at a martini bar and the clubhouse contains a swimming pool, hot tub and every imaginable convenience. The way the schedule lines up, there’s a good chance Sabathia would pitch the opener there April 16 against Cleveland — which traded him to Milwaukee last July.

‘‘It illustrates that baseball is a very different economic model than the real world,’’ said Scott Boras, the agent for Manny Ramirez, Mark Teixeira and other free agents also seeking big deals.

‘‘It’s all subject on the physical,’’ Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner said. ‘‘Obviously, we’re going to try and get it done as fast as possible.’’

Steinbrenner called Sabathia ‘‘our top choice, our main target.’’

‘‘We just got the best pitcher in baseball,’’ he said.

As part of the deal, Sabathia even has the right to opt out after three seasons and $69 million to become a free agent again. He also gets a full no-trade clause.

‘‘I think it’s a great deal for him and a great deal for the Yankees,’’ Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker said. ‘‘I’m sure he’s going to help them win.’’

The two New York teams have made the biggest splashes in the slow-moving free-agent market. The Mets, moving into $800 million Citi Field, finalized their $37 million, three-year contract with closer Francisco Rodriguez on Wednesday.