We know both the Yankees and especially the Red Sox would love a second chance at those decisions.
Fast forward to today. There again aren't any elite starting pitchers in the free agent class (though Sabathia is likely to opt out of his deal in New York, he surely isn't going anywhere). Available are guys like Mark Buerhle, Edwin Jackson, and, the guy who is showing up at the top of a lot of teams' lists, C.J. Wilson.
Wilson has emerged over the last two seasons as a very good starting pitcher. In 427.1 innings since Texas converted him to the rotation, he's given them 427+ innings in two seasons and a shiny 3.14 ERA while pitching in arguably the AL's worst ballpark for pitchers.
Wilson's peripherals indicate that he's been a bit lucky, with xFIPs of 4.06 and 3.41. But he's got excellent ground ball rates (49%) and this year he improved both his K rate and BB rate and put up a K:BB ratio just a hair under 3. That's fantastic. Plus, he's 30 years old and doesn't have ton of mileage on his arm given his history as a reliever. And he's left-handed.
All this is to say that especially with so few options available, some team will again convince themselves to massively overpay for a good, not great, starting pitcher.
Let's hope it's not the Nationals. They should let the Red Sox or Yankees make this mistake again. Pitchers are incredibly volatile commodities, and it's almost always a bad gamble to commit the kind of money that Burnett and Lackey got, unless you're talking about a truly elite pitcher like Sabathia (or last season's top free agent Cliff Lee).
Fans in Washington suffered through so many years of skinflint ownership that it's almost impossible to imagine worrying about overspending. But it's really easy to end up in a box like the Cubs are in now--old, bad teams, locked into huge contracts that are impossible to move, and a bad farm system undercut by years of lost free agent compensation picks.
Jayson Werth is essentially the Nationals' version of Alfonso Soriano. Wilson could easily become their Carlos Zambrano.
To make the playoffs next year, the Nationals need to add a starting pitcher or two in free agency, but they'd be much better off throwing two-year deals at guys like Buerhle or Jackson or a one-year deal for Hiroki Kuroda or even Jason Marquis.
Even if they have to overpay on a per-year basis to get one of those guys, they'd be better off than getting into a bidding war for the best pitcher available who isn't really that good.