Of course CC Sabathia won't say on Valentine's Day that he's not opting out of his Yankees contract at the end of this year. Who in his right mind would? The opt-out clause is there for the player to use to his advantage if he can, and if Sabathia has the year he usually has, he'll surely be able to improve on the four-year, $92 million remainder of his deal next winter. He may do it. He may not do it. But he'd be a fool to rule it out in February.
Brian Cashman knows this, and he said as much Monday in response to first-day questions about this looming pseudo-catastrophe. The Yankees were utterly desperate to sign Sabathia in December of 2008 and he was lukewarm on New York, so they just kept throwing perks and more money at him until they got his signature on the paper. One of the perks was the right to opt out after three years, just in case he didn't like it here. Turns out he does like it here, but that doesn't have to be the reason he opts out. He can just do it to get more money, just like Alex Rodriguez did the winter before, and prey on the fact that the Yankees will be desperate enough to give it to him.
That is the cost of doing business the Yankee Way. Barring a Cliff Lee scenario, in which a guy makes a decision for unconventional reasons against which the Yankees and their checkbooks are powerless, the Yankees will spend whatever it takes to get the star player they want. This was the case in the winter of 2008-09, when they doled out a little less than half a billion dollars in guaranteed contracts to sign Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and (cough, cough) A.J. Burnett. Their reward was the 2009 World Series championship, and because of that they wouldn't go back and do a single thing differently. But everything comes with a price, and this is part of that.
Part of the price is that you get the unreliable A.J. Burnett for long stretches of his contract. Part of the price is that you have to watch Mark Teixeira hit in April and May to get the awesome June/July/August payoff. And part of the price, in the case of Sabathia, is that you may end up having to raise his already exorbitant salary and add years to his deal in order to keep him for more than three years.
While this may qualify as shocking news as pitchers and catchers reported in 2011 (and don't get me started on how far Yankees first-day news has fallen since the days when a Darryl Strawberry or a Dwight Gooden was guaranteed to get arrested and George Steinbrenner would say something crazy), it's not news or shocking to the people who run the Yankees. They're prepared for it. They'll probably end up doing just what they did with Rodriguez: Give him way too much for way too long because it's the only way to keep him and they've already cast their lot with him. They'll hope Sabathia doesn't make them look as dopey as Rodriguez has with his steroid admissions and his bum hip, but they won't let any such worries sway them from doing what they probably knew all along that they'd have to do. They'll pay the man. They are the Yankees, they have the money and that's what they do. It's the Yankee Way.