FA period opens for Brewers…Sabathia, Sheets still in the mix?

Free agent season is here!

For the Brewers, the ’08-’09 free agency season has all the makings of a losing proposition–as both their #1 and #2 starters from last year–Ben Sheets and CC Sabathia–are free agents and quite likely heading to greener pastures…or at least more greenbacks.

But not so fast.

The Brewers purportedly offered Sabathia a 5-year, $100 million contract…only to have the Yankees immediately counter with a 6-year, $140 million deal…to which Melvin came out and stated that the Evil Empire was “overbidding,” according to Tom Haudricourt of JSOnline.com.  Of course, there has been no official verification of either offer’s total dollars, length of time, or allocation…that said, one would be hard pressed to ignore an additional $40 million worth of cash…even if it meant going back to the American League and having to play in the Bronx and for another year.

Still, Melvin could make the decision a bit more difficult–say the Brewers were willing to fork out a $12-$15 million signing bonus upfront, one that Sabathia could invest while the stock market is low which could double in value–with some taxes deferred–over the next 5-6 years.  The club could also add incentives to the deal…say, an 18-win season would mean another $2 million per year added for each year remaining on the contract.  It all boils down to the Brewers’ income statement projections from 2009-2014…with Sabathia and without.

Reportedly, Sheets is still an option as well–ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick’s article.  Crasnick believes that Sheets is around the fifth most valuable starting pitcher on the free agent market (behind Sabathia, Derek Lowe, Ryan Dempster, and A.J. Burnett)…his late season injury has reportedly decreased his market value…especially in terms of length of contract, as teams are taking a “wait-and-see” approach and may be leaning more towards 2-year deals, according to Tim Dierkes of MLBTradeRumors.com.

If Sabathia winds up signing for around $24 million per year, and Lowe gets around $20 million per season, Dempster and Burnett are likelly to command around $18 million each, with Sheets getting a 2-year with club option for a third year at $35 million…this is something that Doug Melvin might be willing to gamble on…especially if he can add in a bonus clause for number of starts or number of innings.

At this point, long-time Brewer Ben Sheets’ return is a strong possibility than seeing CC in a Brew Crew uni again.

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