Only hours after apparently sealing a seven-year deal with Sabathia, in fact, the Yankees -- according to a report -- may have been closing in on a four-year, $65 million contract with Derek Lowe, one of the top remaining free-agent starters. And a person familiar with the Yankees' thinking said on Wednesday that the team was willing and prepared to top the four-year, $60 million contract the Braves have offered to A.J. Burnett, though the Braves themselves bested that offer on Wednesday, making a five-year, $80 million proposal to the right-hander.
"He got a real taste of what winning and success was all about when he went on those couple of runs in Toronto this year," Burnett's agent, Darek Braunecker, said earlier this week at the Winter Meetings. "Now, he understands how much fun winning is. That's one of the primary criteria that he's looking for from his next employer."
Other options include left-hander Andy Pettitte, who rejected the Yankees' $10 million offer earlier this offseason, and Ben Sheets, who met with the team on Monday. The Yankees have indicated that they would like to sign at least one, and perhaps two, more starters to fill out their rotation, which remains hampered with injury and youth questions heading into next season.
"His numbers stack up against anyone's," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Sheets. "He's healthy now, we believe. He's had some injuries, but injuries are what have kept him out of that class. When he's on the mound, he's dynamite."
Yet such potential signings may come with even more adversity than the Yankees faced in their quest to lock up Sabathia to a long-term deal. Unlike the pursuit of Sabathia, which saw other suitors fall well short of the contract details the Yankees were able to offer, the Yankees will face heated competition for other top free-agent starters. The Red Sox, Mets and Phillies -- all big-market teams -- have indicated interest in Lowe, and the Braves revealed their intentions when they offered a contract to Burnett.
That's not to say the Yankees won't press for those players -- if their signing of Sabathia has proven anything, it's that the Yankees are willing to outmuscle competitors to acquire precisely whom they want. Just because they signed Sabathia to a record contract for a pitcher doesn't mean they'll hesitate to offer up a few more rich contracts.
What the Yankees won't do, most likely, is pursue first baseman Mark Teixeira. Though they seemed to be a player earlier this offseason to acquire Teixeira -- widely considered to be the top hitter on the free-agent market -- the Yankees had lost a degree of interest in the slugger, a person familiar with the club's thinking said on Wednesday.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has made it clear since season's end that his priority is pitching, and that much hasn't changed. Now that he has locked up Sabathia, he'll need to be wise in allocating the club's remaining resources.
Even the Yankees, it seems, have limits.
The next few days should be telling on that front and should provide a much clearer picture of the Yankees' intended direction. If the Yankees sign either Lowe or Burnett, it would significantly decrease their chances of adding another expensive free-agent pitcher. Pettitte, for one, seems to be a fallback plan. Since he rejected the team's $10 million contract offer, the two sides have not been in contact with one another.
Pettitte will remain an option as long as the Yankees need -- or want -- another starter. But with Burnett and Lowe still available, the team's priorities will remain elsewhere.
Yet regardless of what happens in the upcoming weeks, the Yankees will be judged by what transpired early Wednesday morning. They landed Sabathia, the man they wanted most, and no upcoming deal could possibly match that one in scope.