It is going to be the opt-out clause in CC Sabathia's contract. It was always going to be an issue, what with the Yankee rotation down to CC and a lot of hopes and dreams, but his comments about it on Monday guarantee that it is going to be a constant source of grist for the mill. He said that he's a Yankee, here to help the team and doesn't want to constantly address his contract before ensuring that it will keep coming up when pressed about the clause.
"I have no idea," Sabathia said. "Anything's possible."
For some reason, this struck people as surprising. Presumably that's because Sabathia said in the middle of last season that he didn't want to become a free agent. He also said Cliff Lee's contract would have "no effect" on his ultimate decision in December, which was spun as a promise not to opt out without actually being one. Unless you really thought Sabathia was an idiot, though, you couldn't have been surprised by Sabathia's comments or by his decision to keep the threat of opting out on the table.
Sabathia has been one of the best free agent signings in Yankee history over his first two seasons and he's now the only reliable starter on a team that, as always, has designs on winning the World Series. The coming free agent crop of starting pitchers is weak and future years don't offer much more relief for the Yankees as teams concentrate on signing their own players before free agency comes calling. There is no way the Yankees can afford to let Sabathia walk, which means he'd be pretty silly to not make them pay the premium price to keep him.
Before you call Sabathia selfish for approaching things this way, remember that he is only walking through a door that the Yankees opened for him. They had already outbid every other team in baseball when they offered Sabathia this sweetener that they knew would be in play as long as Sabathia didn't get hurt in his first three seasons. And he still might get hurt, of course, or suffer some other downturn in performance that makes all of this a moot discussion.
Sabathia's only misstep was saying anything other than that anything was possible when he was asked about opting out in the past. He should never have done anything but straddled the fence from day one. Doing otherwise has opened the door for some to criticize him, something you can be sure they'll do any time he is less than sparkling on the mound.
Just remember, every time this comes up and gets blown up to something bigger than it really is, that there's not much chance Sabathia won't be a Yankee in 2012. At the end of the day, does any of the rest of it really matter.