Sabathia's extension, which includes the Indians picking up their $7 million club option for 2006, is the third significant move made this spring by owner Larry Dolan to keep its core of young players together. It's the same blueprint the Indians used in the 1990s when they emerged from decades of losing to get to the World Series twice.
Sabathia, who could have become a free agent after next season,
will make $8.75 million in 2007 and $9 million in 2008. His salary
for 2006 can increase to $9 million if he reaches performance
incentives and finishes among the top two in Cy Young voting or in
the top five for MVP.
"Over the winter, I was thinking about letting things play out
and eventually seeing what I could get on the [free agent]
market," Sabathia said. "But when I got to spring training and
was around all the guys -- who are more than just my teammates,
they're my friends -- I called my agent and said 'This is where I
need to be.'
"I'm just so comfortable here. It is like my family."
Sabathia can make a maximum of $11.75 million in 2007 and 2008 with similar bonuses.
"The Dolan family has consistently demonstrated that keeping
our core players is essential for this organization's future,"
Indians general manager Mark Shapiro said. "C.C. is a special
talent and special person and we are very fortunate to have someone
with his ability and character leading our organization into what
we hope is the next championship era."
Since the Indians drafted him in the first round (20th overall) in 1998, Sabathia has been on a fast track to stardom, and his new deal solidifies the 6-foot-7, 290-pounder as not only Cleveland's ace but one of the AL's top pitchers.
The Indians had been negotiating the extension with Sabathia's agents since spring training, but talks stalled when he strained a side muscle while warming up for an exhibition game on March 6.
Sabathia began the season on the disabled list and made his debut on April 17 against Minnesota. He got a no-decision against the Twins and got his first win last Friday in Seattle, holding the Mariners to one run and seven hits in seven innings.
Sabathia, who is 55-35 in five seasons, went 17-5 as a rookie in 2001. He won 13 games the next two seasons before going 11-10 in 2004, a season in which personal problems weighed on Sabathia.
He lost his father, uncle and a close cousin while trying to anchor Cleveland's young pitching staff. A hamstring injury ended Sabathia's season a few weeks early. Still, he made 30 starts and became the first Indians pitcher since Bob Feller to make 100 career starts
before turning 24.
Sabathia's weight has been an issue with many Cleveland fans, and it became one for him this winter, too. With guidance from a trainer sent to his Vallejo, Calif., home by the Indians, Sabathia dedicated himself to a strict workout regime and diet and came to training camp in the best shape of his career.