NEW YORK — Joe Girardi said this week he’d enjoy showing free agents around the new Yankee Stadium. CC Sabathia is one of the players the New York manager has in mind for a tour of the spacious clubhouse, players lounge, indoor batting cage and underground hot tub.
Free-agent season opened Friday with the Yankees planning to give Sabathia a record offer for a pitcher.
Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner confirmed Friday night at the team’s spring training complex in Tampa, Fla., that an offer was made to Sabathia, and that proposals will be forthcoming for pitchers A.J. Burnett and Derek Lowe.
“Yes,” Steinbrenner said when asked if an offer was made to Sabathia. “And we’re prepared to make offers to Burnett and Lowe.”
The Yankees formulated a proposal to the big lefty that would exceed Johan Santana’s $137.5 million, six-year contract with the New York Mets both in total and average, a baseball official familiar with the negotiations said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to divulge details.
Steinbrenner declined to give details about the Sabathia offer.
“I’m starting to become very optimistic,” Steinbrenner said. “I think it’s going to be mutually beneficial to us and for these particular players that we’re after for them to join the Yankees.”
Sabathia went a combined 17-10 for Cleveland and Milwaukee this year after winning the 2007 AL Cy Young Award, and is considered the best starting pitcher in this year’s free-agent class.
On Friday morning, the Yankees gave a media tour of the new ballpark, scheduled to be substantially completed by Feb. 17.
Other top free-agent starters are likely to wait for Sabathia to set the price for pitchers.
“The signing of CC is going to create probably a truer market for a number of the pitchers, mainly because the clubs that are bidding on CC didn’t get him, and the demand for the other pitchers will be greater,” said agent Scott Boras, who represents free agents Oliver Perez and Lowe.
The 171 players who filed for free agency after the World Series could start negotiating money with all teams starting at 12:01 a.m. EST Friday. Boras, based in California, said his phone was ringing repeatedly late Thursday night.
“I got eight phone calls. They didn’t wait till the business day. You’re talking about owners, your talking about general managers, people taking very aggressive stances with particular players,” said Boras, who also represents outfielder Manny Ramirez and first baseman Mark Teixeira, among the top free-agent sluggers.
Francisco Rodriguez tops the available relief pitchers, a group that also includes Brian Fuentes and Kerry Wood. Agent Paul Kinzer said he had received inquiries from four teams about K-Rod, who saved a record 62 games for the Angels.
“I just think we’ve got to be patient. We’ll know when the fit’s right,” Kinzer said. “When we get closer, we’ll probably meet with the people, maybe check out the area, living arrangements, that type thing, and then make a decision.”
Other high-profile free agents include pitchers Ryan Dempster and Trevor Hoffman; first baseman Jason Giambi; outfielders Garret Anderson, Bobby Abreu, Milton Bradley, Pat Burrell, Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr.; catchers Jason Varitek and Ivan Rodriguez; and third baseman Casey Blake.
It’s rare that a player spends his entire career with one team. Wood wanted to stay with the Cubs, who instead acquired Kevin Gregg as a less costly alternative.
“It will be tough sitting on the other side,” Wood said.