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Thursday, December 18, 2008
'I'm all-in': Sabathia joins Yankees

ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- Ten minutes after New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman left the home of CC Sabathia last week, Sabathia phoned Cashman.

"I'm all-in," he said.

With those words, Sabathia committed to a seven-year, $161 million deal with the Yankees, a record amount for a pitcher.

"I think this is the best place for me to try to win a championship," Sabathia said Thursday, on his way to the news conference where he was formally introduced, along with right-hander A.J. Burnett. "Everybody had speculated about me staying in California. I had always talked about winning a championship, and you look at the Yankees, it's something they contend for just about every year."

Sabathia was phoned twice during his negotiations by Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter -- recruiting calls -- and Jeter told him about how much fun it was playing in New York. The day after he reached his agreement with the Yankees, he called Jeter, and the friends talked again about what it would be like to play together.

Two days before Sabathia made his decision, Reggie Jackson had been in Las Vegas at the winter meetings as part of the Yankees' delegation that met with the left-hander. Sabathia, who grew up in the Bay Area, found himself distracted by the presence of the Hall of Famer: "I was just thinking, 'Would it be weird to ask [Jackson] for an autograph?'"

It wasn't until subsequent meetings that Sabathia got to dig in and, without Jackson around, ask questions about the Yankees and New York. And now, he and his wife, Amber, are in the process of looking at houses in Alpine, N.J., the left-hander said. The Sabathias intend to permanently move to the area.

They said the one-month gap between the Yankees' initial offer and Sabathia's acceptance was partly because they have a new child and partly because he wanted to hear from every interested team. He was concerned New York would withdraw its offer and move on.

"I was worried about the public perception here," Sabathia said. "I don't want anybody to think that I didn't want to come here."

Burnett also pulled on pinstripes Thursday as part of the introductions. The right-hander, who turns 32 in January, agreed to an $82.5 million, five-year deal last week. He opted out of his five-year contract with the Toronto Blue Jays after three seasons to become a free agent -- it was the first opt-out provision ever in a pitcher's contract.

The right-hander even received a recruiting call from Alex Rodriguez. Last September, Burnett got an unexpected recommendation to sign with the Yankees: from Carl Pavano.

His former Florida teammate, maligned for multiple injuries during his four seasons in New York, spoke with him during batting practice at Yankee Stadium.

"It's a great place to play. It's a great place to live," Burnett said Pavano told him. "I was expecting to hear, you know, different things."

Playing near his home in Maryland was important to Burnett. So was the chance to win.

"I'm not going to say money wasn't an issue," Burnett said. "I'm not going to lie; of course money had something to do with it. But I have a chance to win five years in a row. Whether you admit you love them or hate them, everybody wants to be a Yankee.

"I wanted to come to a place with a big stage. I wanted to pitch in the postseason. That's all I'm here for. I'm here to win."

Sabathia and Burnett headline a projected starting rotation that includes Chien-Ming Wang, Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes.

"We got the two gentlemen we really wanted," manager Joe Girardi said, according to Bloomberg Sports. "It's such a big Christmas gift, I told my wife Kim she didn't have to get me anything. We wanted to add two top-of-the-rotation guys and I think we got the two best."

Information from ESPN The Magazine senior writer Buster Olney and The Associated Press was used in this report.