WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Three years ago, C.C. Sabathia lived the dual lives of a guy working on a contract extension and a guy trying to prepare for a baseball season. Though a deal was eventually worked out with the Indians three weeks into the 2005 season, Sabathia doesn't look back on the experience fondly. "It was horrible," he said Tuesday. "I was on the phone with my agent all night. I was getting no sleep. I don't want to go through that again."
Sabathia, the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner, won't be going through it this year. Last week, he informed the Indians that he is tabling all talks of an extension until after the 2008 season, when he will be eligible for free agency. And on Tuesday, Sabathia addressed that decision with reporters for the first -- and final -- time. "The Indians sent a proposal over, and we really couldn't get any common ground [in] it," Sabathia said. "Coming into Spring Training here, I just wanted to focus on the team and not have it be a distraction. I've seen it be a distraction for guys in this clubhouse, and I don't want it to be that way for me. So I decided to put it on the shelf." The proposal on the shelf is believed to have been a four-year offer, through 2012, worth between $17 million and $18 million a year. By passing on that proposal and embarking upon '08, Sabathia, who will make $11.2 million this year, appears very likely to test the free-agent waters. Yet he insists he is happy in Cleveland and is hopeful a deal can be reached. "Everybody knows the way I feel about this place and the organization and the city," he said. "I think we'll have plenty of time after the season to hopefully get something done. I just didn't want to make it a bigger distraction. I know it can be." Ever since Sabathia posted the latest state of negotiations on his official Web site last week, the consensus among fans and the media has been that the Indians might as well assume their ace will be leaving them soon. The 27-year-old Sabathia, who has been in the Indians' organization ever since he was a 17-year-old Draft pick in 1998, was asked what his message is to those who have that perception. "You gotta have faith," he said. "We'll have plenty of time after the season to get it done. I just don't feel this is the time or place to do that, when this team is pretty much ready to get back to where it was last year." Helping the Indians reach their championship goals has always been Sabathia's priority. And his 19 wins and 3.21 ERA in '07 were instrumental in the club winning 96 games and the AL Central crown.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.