If CC Sabathia signed with a team other than the Yankees, Brian Cashman would likely curse him for a moment or two and then call A.J. Burnett's agent to add a fifth year to the team's offer. The risks of such a deal are many, but the Yankees would be desperate. Desperate to save face after being jilted by the big ticket and desperate to add a quality arm to the top of their rotation.
The only problem with this little plan is that Burnett may not be there when the Yankees come calling. The Atlanta Braves are very interested in Burnett and numerous sources have reported that they're set to give him the fifth year that is scaring off many of his other suitors. This could all be posturing so that the Braves get the Padres to lower their trade demands for Jake Peavy, but the Braves did just deal four prospects for Javier Vasquez. That may signal they are out of the trading game and will be content to take Burnett as a free agent.
Buster Olney of ESPN makes a lot of sense when he says that the Braves will push Burnett to make a quick answer, knowing that the Yankees loom in the background. Everyone knows that the Bombers want Sabathia, but it has become clear that Sabathia would, at the very least, like to consider somewhere else. Somewhere like San Francisco, which is said to be making an offer and is believed to be Mrs. Sabathia's choice venue.
Reading Sabathia's mind isn't possible, but it would fit with everything we've heard if he sat and waited for the Giants to make an offer close enough to the Yankees that he wasn't leaving an insane amount of money on the table. He's got no time pressure to do so, knowing that he's a big enough fish that everyone will keep their line in the water until he decides to take a bite. He probably doesn't make much of Yankee threats to pull their offer, either. If he doesn't want to play for the Yankees, after all, it isn't a threat.
If the Yankees came out of the offseason with neither Sabathia nor Burnett, it would be a pretty big failure for the front office. Furthermore, if the reasons they lose out are team location and contract length, it would be a pretty big signal that the interlocking NY doesn't hold sway over all of baseball. That might be more damning to the team than the hole at the front of the rotation.