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Sabathia, Tribe have two years to work deal.
Andy Call, Canton Repository

While Barry Zito's mammoth new contract may have occurred in a sphere far from the Indians, it has reverberations much closer to home, namely, what CC Sabathia can get in two years when he's eligible for free agency.

"I was excited," Sabathia said Friday. "It's a good market for pitchers. Hopefully, if I can stay healthy and have some good years, I'll be in the position those guys were in."

I'm certainly not going to blame CC for looking to cash in after the 2008 season, but that also means that the Indians will not be able to keep him if he files for free agency. So the best opportunity to keep him for the long-term will come this spring, when the Indians will apparently try to extend him. But there's also now a giant carrot for Sabathia to chase, because if Zito got $18.5M a year, what will a younger and probably better pitcher fetch in an environment where teams are constantly searching for an ace?

Of course, Sabathia isn't the only potential free agent the Indians have to worry about. Jake Westbrook can become a free agent after this season, and could easily get a $40M contract via free agency. Travis Hafner could test the market in two years. So they will most likely have to pick and choose who to aggressively target. If they can lock one or two of the three up by the time the season starts, they'll have a much clearer picture to go on as the year progresses. We've seen what happens when contract negotiations get drawn out as free agency approaches.