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Free-agent market may heat up with Sabathia deal; Manny Ramirez, A.J. Burnett, Derek Lowe, Jake Peavy all still available

December 10, 2008 | 10:35 am

LAS VEGAS -- Hours before his team reached a record-setting agreement with pitcher CC Sabathia, Yankee Manager Joe Girardi was asked why the free-agent market had been so slow to develop this winter.

"You know, that's probably not something that I understand or know," he said. "You think sometimes once one guy goes, things start to fall into place, and maybe when one guy goes, they don't have the offers from that team anymore and it starts to take shape. I think once someone goes, you'll see it maybe pick up a little bit."

Sabathia, who will jump from the Brewers to the Yankees, accepting a seven-year deal reportedly worth $160 million, is the second big-name free agent to switch teams, following closer Francisco Rodriguez, who Tuesday accepted the Mets' three-year, $37-million offer to leave the Angels. And if Girardi's right, those signings figure to free up money the Red Sox, Dodgers, Angels and others had been saving.

The Angels and Dodgers seemed pessimistic about Sabathia even before the 28-year-old left-hander reached terms with the Yankees early today, with the Angels saying they had made free-agent first baseman Mark Teixeira their top priority and the Dodgers meeting with agent Scott Boras to discuss Manny Ramirez.

But for those teams still looking for pitchers, the cupboard is hardly bare. The Braves are believed to be close to a deal with right-hander A.J. Burnett, although the Yankees are also pursing Burnett and those talks could soon accelerate. Boras is telling interested parties that former Dodger Derek Lowe wants $80 million over five years, a price that could drop even in the wake of Sabathia's record contract. The Yankees and Phillies were among those reportedly interested in Lowe. And another former Dodger, Brad Penny, is also looking for work and could wind up replacing Burnett, his former Marlin teammate, in Toronto.

The Cubs, meanwhile, could be closing in on a complicated deal with the Padres to acquire former Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy, the Indians are near completion of a deal with free-agent closer Kerry Wood and the Rangers are talking with free-agent right-hander Ben Sheets. Other pitchers who could change teams soon include Seattle closer J.J. Putz, who has drawn the interest of the Tigers, and former Yankee Carl Pavano, whose agent has met with representatives of the Marlins.

-- Kevin Baxter