At the end of 2008, the top free agent starter on the market was CC Sabathia. He’d nearly won the National League Cy Young after just 17 starts with the Brewers, and Brian Cashman made an aggressive push to sign him to a seven-year, $161-million contract.
At the end of 2009, the top free agent starter was John Lackey. He’d reached double digit wins in each of his full major league seasons, he’d finished five straight seasons with a sub-4.00 ERA and Cashman let him walk to the rival Red Sox on a five-year, $82.5-million deal.
This afternoon, Sabathia and Lackey will face one another in the second game of this four-game series. The pitcher Cashman went after, and the one he let go.
Cashman has been choosing his free agent battles. He went big in 2008, light in 2009 and should have the money to make a splash again this winter.
The Sabathia decision has been a good one, and so has the Lackey decision. Lackey’s been good but not great for the Red Sox. The Yankees, meanwhile, did not commit themselves to another long-term contract, and instead resigned Andy Pettitte, traded for Javier Vazquez and left an open rotation spot for Phil Hughes.
Whatever happens today, I don’t think Cashman would change his mind about which big fish to go after.