First Pitch: CC's superlative contract

There is a prevailing thought that the horror of Alex Rodriguez's 10-year, $275 million contract (plus bonuses) could scare the Yankees into taking a more cautious free-agent approach with Robinson Cano.

It certainly might give them some pause, but agent Scott Boras could point to the deal for CC Sabathia as one that has been a great, multiyear, $100-plus million contract for the Yankees.

It might just become the greatest free-agent deal the Yankees have ever made. Sabathia, who starts Friday (his first start this spring), signed in 2009 for seven years and $161 million. Through his first four seasons, Sabathia has averaged an 18-7 record and a 3.22 ERA. In 2009, Sabathia’s playoff heroics, on three days' rest, made it possible for Rodriguez to have his breakout postseason. So CC has already led a parade.

Sabathia is a star with a lunch pail. He has not only showed up big in almost all his postseason starts, but he grinds through the regular season. As a Yankee, he has averaged 226 innings per season.

If you classify a quality start as a six-inning, three-run outing, then a team needs 972 starter innings over 162 games. In 2012, Sabathia’s 226 made up 23 percent of those innings, and he averaged better than a quality start.

In turn, Sabathia saves the bullpen by giving it days off, while allowing his manager to have his relievers ready when lesser starters are on the mound.

Sabathia is 32 years old, so his bill may be coming due. It is, of course, the back half of these contracts that take their toll, and the Yankees have added two more years because of the threat of his opting out. Sabathia did go on the DL twice in 2012 and had to have bone spurs cleaned up in his left elbow.

Still, thus far, Sabathia’s deal is rivaling Reggie Jackson’s, Goose Gossage’s and Mike Mussina’s as the best big-money contracts the Yankees have ever handed out.

Jackson, in 1977, received $3.5 million for five years and smashed three homers in Game 6 of that year’s World Series. He led them to the 1978 title, as well.

Gossage, in 1978, got $2.8 million for six years. He saved the Bucky Dent game and the World Series clincher his first year and closed the door with style on his way to the Hall of Fame.

Mussina, in 2001, received a seven-year, $88.5 million deal. While Mussina missed out on a championship, he saved the Yankees in the 2003 ALCS against the Red Sox and averaged a 15-9 record with a 3.88 ERA in what turned out to be eight seasons in the Bronx. He punched the clock every year, throwing, on average, 194 innings per season.

Sabathia, despite the enormity of his deal, could end up topping all three.

UP NOW: Wallace Matthews witnessed the Yankees’ horror show against the Blue Jays on Thursday. I asked who would you rather have -- Cano or David Wright?

ON DECK: Wally is in Tampa for CC’s first start. The game is at 1 p.m. ET on YES.

QUESTION: With Sabathia’s career still incomplete, what do you think is the best free-agent contract in Yankees history?