The Negotiating Strategies of CC Sabathia

December 14, 2008

Baseball fans mark each season by a few big events — Opening Day, the All-Star game and of course the playoffs. Baseball fanatics are just as interested in the off season and all of the horse trading that goes on after the World Series. Although baseball players are traded like cards all year, November and December are the busiest months for general managers as each team pursues free agents (the older players no longer under contract) and trades for whatever else they need for the upcoming year.

CC Sabathia

This year has been mostly quiet, not too many huge name players are available and the economy is supposedly keeping baseball’s owners from being overly aggressive. Yeah, maybe. One of the biggest names, pitcher CC Sabathia , finally signed with the Yankees for $161m last week almost a month after getting an offer from the Yankees that was closer to $140m. By many accounts, Sabathia had the Yankees bidding against themselves.

How did he do it?

  • Deny he’s even negotiating: “Contrary to wide-spread opinion, it isn’t a lock that CC Sabathia will be wearing a uniform other than the Milwaukee Brewers’ next season. At least, that’s the opinion of Scott Parker and he should know. After all, Parker is one of Sabathia’s agents.”
  • Find other bidders:  “In the Bellagio Hotel Sunday night, free-agent pitcher CC Sabathia ran into general manager Ned Colletti and told him he wants to be a Dodger, Colletti said Monday.”
  • Act like it’s not about money: “So Sabathia called the GM of the Yankees late Tuesday afternoon and invited him for another chat – their third face-to-face visit in the past three days. Except this one included Amber Sabathia, the wife of CC and a woman who clearly has questions of her own about whether New York is right for both of them.”
  • Play to the buyer’s worst fears: “Although indications are strong that the Red Sox are not invested in a serious pursuit of free agent CC Sabathia, it was learned the team met with the left-hander yesterday at another casino.”
  • Give other bidders a perceived unfair advantage: “If the Giants make an offer, a mere $100 million-plus may be enough for him to allow his heart to rule his head.”

Brilliant. And he should end up more than $20 million richer because of it.

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