CC Sabathia wants to play in 2019, but is it worth it for the New York Yankees to bring back the crafty veteran?
The New York Yankees have a lot of decisions to make this offseason and a big one involves CC Sabathia. Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweeted on Monday that the big lefty “definitely” wants to play in 2019.
CC Sabathia says he definitely wants to pitch next year. #Yankees
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) October 8, 2018
He had a lackluster showing in what may have been his final start as a Yankee, allowing three runs on five hits and two walks in three innings of work. It seems like a strange note for CC to end on.
Sabathia turned 38 in July and went 9-7 with a 3.65 ERA this season. He missed time with knee and hamstring injuries but still pitched fairly well. Sabathia also ended the regular season with 2,986 career strikeouts, meaning he’ll punch his ticket to Cooperstown with his 3,000th next year.
And CC Sabathia has also been a phenomenal leader of a young Yankees pitching staff, all at the cool price of $10 million. As his career reaches its end, should the Yankees bring him back?
A long New York history
CC Sabathia is not a career Yankee, but he’s been with the team long enough so he may as well be. He signed a seven-year, $161 million deal prior to the 2009 season after spending eight years with the Cleveland Indians and Milwaukee Brewers. The big lefty made an immediate impact, winning 19 games and posting a 1.98 postseason ERA. The Yankees won the World Series that season and Sabathia was named MVP of the American League Championship Series.
The following year, Sabathia became a 20-game winner for the first and only time of his career, going 21-7. He loved being a Yankee so much that after the 2011 season, he negotiated a one-year, $25 million extension on his contract. This was done in lieu of opting out, and the Yankees even tacked on a vesting option for the same amount.
At first glance, it looked like Sabathia would remain a Yankee for the rest of his career. The Yankees now must decide if that will become a reality.
Sabathia dealt with bone spurs in his pitching elbow in 2012. He had surgery ahead of the 2013 season and when he returned, he was not himself. The operation robbed him of his velocity and the numbers showed it. From 2013 to 2015, he was 23-27 with a 4.81 ERA and also dealt with lingering knee issues. 2014 saw him start just eight games because of the knee, issues he has since corrected with a brace.
Enter the 2016 season and CC Sabathia looked like a new man. Rather than try and compensate for his lack of velocity, he embraced it and became a control pitcher.
For example, per Fangraphs, Sabathia threw his fastball 61.6 percent of the time in 2009. In 2018, he threw it just 17.2 percent of the time and relied more on the cutter he started throwing in 2014. That was his majority pitch this season at 41.8 percent.
The point is that just when CC was starting to look like a payroll burden, his reinvention made him a boon. In an era where velocity and K/9 rule the roost, he showed they weren’t needed to succeed.
Age before money
That brings the conversation to Sabathia today. As well as he’s pitched at multiple points throughout the season, he isn’t getting any younger. He turns 39 next summer and whatever his next deal is, it must be less than or equal to what he made in 2018.
Sabathia’s approach right now is so highly dependent on his cutter. If he can’t locate it, he often gets shelled. We saw that more than a few times this year as Sabathia had some rough months. He had a 5.92 ERA in May, one of 5.48 in July, and a mark of 5.40 in September.
This is just the sad truth about control pitchers. If their location is off just a tick, that could be the difference between a good or bad outing. Sabathia is no exception. As much as the addition of the cutter has helped him, it has also hurt him. With the Yankees desperately needing to upgrade the rotation next year, should they bring back an aging veteran?
The verdict: Re-sign CC
For all of CC Sabathia’s issues, his value to the New York Yankees is undeniable. He’s such a positive influence on the younger pitchers and needs to stick around for that very reason. Not only that, but he thrives in big-game situations. He was 10-1 after a Yankees loss last year. If he walks in free agency, who steps up to fill that role? Rather, who protects the team like this?
Not only that, but Sabathia and his family are unlike a majority of MLB players. They live in nearby Alpine, New Jersey all year round, rather than Sabathia having a place for himself in the city and them staying in his native California. They spent $15 million on the home, and they are rooted in the area.
Sabathia loves being with the Yankees, and he clearly loves living in the area. He’s also at the point in his career where winning matters more than cash, and his current team can give him both. I mean, honestly, where else could he play that can give him that and keep him close to his family? The Washington Nationals? Maybe the Philadelphia Phillies?
Make no mistake, folks. CC Sabathia is a Yankee through and through. Even if it means paying him another $10 million, he must be back with the team in 2019.