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SportsColumnistsAnthony Rieber

Yanks should say 'see ya' if CC opts out

New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia on the

New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia on the mound in the 5th inning during Game 5 of the American League Division Series against the Detroit Tigers. (Oct. 6, 2011) Photo Credit: Thomas A. Ferrara

There are three slam-dunk obvious moves the Yankees have to make before their offseason can really get going:

Re-sign Brian Cashman;

Say a fond farewell to Jorge Posada;

Let CC Sabathia walk if he wants to.

Wait . . . what?

Sabathia? Aren't the Yankees desperate to keep him if he, as expected, opts out of his contract?

They might be.

They shouldn't be.

The last player who opted out and got a new contract from the Yankees was Alex Rodriguez. How's that deal looking about now?

At age 36 and with a body that is breaking down, A-Rod still has six years and $143 million left.

Sabathia is a terrific pitcher and person. A leader on the mound and in the clubhouse.

He's also 31 years old and has averaged more than 255 innings (regular season and postseason) in the last five years. After dropping some weight in the offseason, he gained that back and more during the Yankees' season, which ended Thursday night in Game 5 of the ALDS against Detroit.

Sabathia has four years and a guaranteed $92 million remaining on the seven-year, $161-million deal he signed with the Yankees before the 2009 season.

At that time, the Yankees were coming off their first playoff-less full season since 1993. Desperate for an ace, they blew him away with a offer that far surpassed what he would have gotten elsewhere. The opt-out provision was an escape clause for Sabathia if he didn't like New York and also a way for him to earn even more money if he excelled, which he has.

Is he going to use it? He'd be crazy not to. In a pitching-poor free-agent market in which C.J. Wilson, Edwin Jackson and Mark Buehrle are among the top availables, Sabathia would jump to the head of the class.

Some team will offer him more than $92 million. But should the Yankees be that team? Sure, if Sabathia will take one more guaranteed year. That's a fair exchange for not using the opt-out. But if he exercises it, the Yankees should let some other team better five years and $115 million. Let another team take the risk.

Could the Yankees survive without Sabathia? Well, they have a recent example of a team that lost its ace and not only survived, but is in the ALCS while the Yankees are home.

Much has been said and written about the Yankees losing out on Cliff Lee last offseason. The Rangers also lost out on keeping him after he led them to the World Series. But instead of panicking, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels got creative. He signed a third baseman in Adrian Beltre and found a starting rotation from within. Wilson, Matt Harrison, Alexi Ogando, Derek Holland and Colby Lewis won a combined 73 games in the regular season. They earned less than $12 million. Total.

Baseball is the ultimate team sport. One great player can't carry a franchise to a title. Ask Jose Bautista and Matt Kemp about that. One great player leaving can be an opportunity, not a curse, as the Rangers have proven.

As we said, the first order of business for the Yankees is re-signing Cashman. Once that occurs, the easy thing for him to do would be to back up an armored car to Sabathia's New Jersey house and let the Big Fella grab what he wants.

The smart, creative, exciting thing? Make one best offer. If Sabathia won't take it, say goodbye and go about building a team with brains instead of bucks. For a change.

New York Sports