More than a month before the free-agent left-hander reached agreement on the terms of a stunning seven-year, $161 million contract with the Yankees that stole the headlines of baseball's Winter Meetings, Sabathia sought out Jeter as a sounding board for what the experience of playing in the Bronx might be like.
The sales pitch wasn't quite as aggressive as the one laid out by Yankees special advisor Reggie Jackson on Sunday in Las Vegas. But Jeter, who was in town for a World Baseball Classic announcement, made his points clear.
"I won't get into any specifics of it, but basically, I don't ever try to sell New York," Jeter said. "He wanted to talk to me, so I called him up. It wasn't like it was a recruiting call. It was basically [about] this is his opportunity as a free agent. You look at all of your options and make the best decision for you. I was basically there just to answer questions."
Because the Yankees have not officially announced their agreement with Sabathia -- general manager Brian Cashman returned to Las Vegas on Wednesday after a late-night visit near San Francisco and stated he had little to report besides "significant progress" -- Jeter said he would need to remain guarded in his analysis.
But without a doubt, the Yankees have drawn up blueprints for their 2009 season and beyond that factor Sabathia prominently in the starting rotation. In the past 24 hours, those plans began to look more and more like reality.
"Nothing's final, so I think it's premature to comment on it," Jeter said. "All you can say is how great of a pitcher he is. Any team in baseball would love to have him. He's a guy that's an intimidating factor on the mound, and hopefully, we can get things done.
"He throws upper 90s and he's a big guy. He's got a power slider and he knows what he's doing. When he first came up, he used to just rear back and throw. Now, he tends to pitch a little more. I think that's why he's become a lot more successful throughout the years. He can pretty much do anything. He's a great athlete, and the list goes on and on."
Jeter said he spoke with Sabathia during the first week of November, two weeks before the Yankees blew other clubs away with an initial six-year, $140 million offer that bested the Brewers' proposal by one year and $40 million.
It took the addition of another year and another $21 million to actually reach the framework of a deal, and Jeter said that he was not surprised that the California-born Sabathia took his time in deciding whether the Yankees' offer would be right for him or not.
"Normally when you're a free agent, it takes a long time before you decide where you want to go and play," Jeter said. "It's more than just playing a game. You're moving your entire family and you're talking about relocating for a long time. You have to put a lot of thought into it, and you can't rush into a decision. When you rush into a decision, that's when you tend to regret it."
Jeter said that he was looking forward to seeing what else Cashman might procure before the Yankees report to Tampa, Fla., for Spring Training in February.
Another starting pitcher is almost surely in the works, with feelers out among the representatives for right-handers A.J. Burnett, Derek Lowe, Ben Sheets and others, and the Yankees have not ruled out the idea of adding another bat to a lineup that they believe will bounce back from a disappointing 2008 campaign.
"There's always work to be done, and there's always ways to improve teams," Jeter said. "I think Cash has been pretty vocal about wanting to improve some things this offseason. If this were to happen, it's a great first step, but I'm sure he's not finished."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.