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Let's take this from the top.
No. 1: The Indians, short of an early collapse this season, won't trade C.C. Sabathia.
No. 2: Regardless of Johan Santana's contract with the Mets last week, General Manager Mark Shapiro believes it will be Sabathia's call on whether he stays in Cleveland after the 2008 season.
No. 3: Shapiro thinks there are other contracts just as relevant to Sabathia's negotiations as Santana's record-setting, $137.5 million, six-year deal.
No. 4: The five-year contract extension the Indians made to Sabathia at the end of December is not an ultimatum.
No. 5: If Sabathia does go to another team, Shapiro said the Indians won't crumble in 2009.
Shapiro, in his annual lunch with reporters before the start of spring training, touched on a number of subjects Monday at Progressive Field. Most of them pertained to the future home of the Indians' defending American League Cy Young winner.
"I can't present you with a scenario where it's acceptable to us or to our relationship with our fans that involves trading C.C. or examining trading him," said Shapiro.
Shapiro believes trading Sabathia would hurt the Indians' chances of repeating as AL Central champs.
When asked to comment on Santana's contract and how it pertains to Sabathia, Shapiro said, "You're asking the wrong person. . . . There have been recent deals signed by pitchers as talented and capable as C.C., and in a more similar market than ours. But none of that matters. The only thing that matters is how relevant C.C. and his agents feel it is. Not to shift the burden to them, but I can't answer you how relevant it is."
The Indians' extension includes 2008, the last year of Sabathia's current contract, and four more years. The new money in the deal is believed to be between $17 million and $18 million per year. Those numbers are in line with the $17.3 million average-annual value of Jake Peavy's three-year extension with the Padres and Carlos Zambrano's $18.3 AAV in the five-year deal he signed with the Cubs.
Shapiro has not closed the door on further negotiations.
"A lot of our job is assessing risk," he said. "In recognizing the market we operate in, we have to be very aware of risk and very careful. There are players like C.C. that will push the boundaries of our risk tolerance.
"I can promise you that C.C. . . . will push our risk tolerance. Not limitlessly, but he will push the boundaries of that risk. Frankly, he already has."
If the Indians lose Sabathia, Shapiro says they will survive. Internally, Adam Miller, Jeremy Sowers or Aaron Laffey could fill the opening in the rotation.
"I don't see a major rebuild tied to one player," said Shapiro. "As I look into the future, I feel good about next year's team no matter what form it takes."
Shapiro also talked about these subjects:
Cliff Lee: "Cliff clearly is the staring pitcher with the greatest opportunity, with an improved performance, to impact the team this year. In order for him to improve, he's got to make adjustments. He just can't pitch like he did last year. That's obvious."
Asdrubal Cabrera: "There is some unknown when you take a first-year player at second base. . . . but we feel very confident in his long-term ability to be an everyday middle infielder."
Bullpen: Shapiro said there would be one spot open for competition.
Miller: Shapiro said he will not be considered for a spot in the rotation or bullpen coming out of spring training.
Left and right field: Shapiro hopes David Dellucci and Jason Michaels will win the left-field job and Franklin Gutierrez proves he can start in right. Ben Francisco and Shin-Soo Choo provide options.
Minors: Shapiro said reliever Jeff Stevens and outfielder Trevor Crowe could make it to Cleveland this year.
Moving: Shapiro would not comment on rumors saying the Indians will move their Class AAA club to Columbus from Buffalo after 2008.