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Sabathia, Yankees agree on framework of deal

Posted by David Lefort, Boston.com Staff  December 10, 2008 01:12 PM

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It appears the top pitching prize on the free agent market has chosen his new baseball home, and it's located in the Bronx.

According to multiple reports, lefthander CC Sabathia and the New York Yankees have agreed on the framework of a seven-year contract for $161 million -- the richest deal ever awarded to a pitcher, topping the six-year deal for $137.5 million that Johan Santana signed with the Mets before last season.

There has been no official confirmation of the signing from the Yankees or Sabathia's representatives, but a baseball official familiar with the talks told the Associated Press this afternoon that the formal agreement will soon be reached. The sides are still working on the no-trade language for a clause that is still being negotiated, according to ESPN's Jayson Stark. Sabathia is expected to fly to New York for a physical in the next few days.

"There’s a lot of layers in the process. Until that process is completed I'm kind of prevented from saying too much," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told the AP. "Legally I've got to protect myself. And, you know, you're never done until you're done, and so, we're not done."

Gordon Edes and Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports reported that Sabathia has the right to opt out of the contract after the first three years, by which time he will have been paid $69 million. The report said Sabathia had insisted on the clause to satisfy concerns he and his family had about playing in New York.

Sabathia decided to join the Yankees after Cashman met with the pitcher at his home in San Francisco Tuesday, the sides' third meeting in three days.

Cashman traveled to San Francisco after being invited by Sabathia. He joked about flying commercial, even getting in a jab at the Yankees' chief rival.

"We’re not the Red Sox," he said, a reference to the team's use of owner John Henry private plane during negotiations with Daisuke Matsuzaka two offseasons ago.

"They certainly are not, thank goodness!" Red Sox president Larry Lucchino responded in an e-mail to the AP.

Cashman couldn’t recall ever before making a recruiting trip to a free agent’s home. He had remembered seeing it on an episode of “MTV Cribs.”

“When I walked in, I did tell him, it was like: I’ve been here before,” Cashman said.

After putting the framework for an agreement in place, Cashman spent the night at a San Francisco hotel before taking an 8 a.m. flight back to Las Vegas today, the AP reported. Yankees officials, meanwhile, participated in negotiations by phone.

Sabathia, 28, led the Milwaukee Brewers to the playoffs last season going 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA in 17 starts after a midseason trade from Cleveland. Despite his limited time in the National League, he led the circuit with seven complete games.

Sabathia, who is 117-73 with a 3.66 ERA in his eight-year career, won the 2007 Cy Young Award with the Indians after going 19-7 with a 3.21 ERA.

According to the AP, among all players, Sabathia's deal will trail Alex Rodriguez's $252 million, 10-year agreement with Texas, A-Rod's $275 million, 10-year deal with the Yankees and Derek Jeter's $189 million, 10-year contract with the Yankees, ending up in the same area as Manny Ramirez's $160 million, eight-year contract with Boston.

Chad Finn of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Material from the Associated Press was also used.

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