The big lefty for the New York Yankees can expect a final season full of accomplishments and, hopefully, a ring.
The CC Sabathia Farewell Tour for the New York Yankees will not outdraw the Rolling Stones. It may not even get the same attention as his former teammates, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. When those two hung it up, there was fanfare all over the place.
Mo received so many gifts from other teams in his final season of 2013, it might as well have been a months-long Christmas for him. The same thing happened with Jeter. I guess the moral here is if you want presents up the wazoo, become a nationally beloved baseball player! Anyway, I digress.
Sabathia inked a one-year, $8 million deal to return to the Yankees in 2019. All signs point to it being his last season, per Joel Sherman of The New York Post. Sabathia confirmed that theory on his podcast “R2C2” with Ryan Ruocco.
I hear #Yankees and CC Sabathia are working thru final details of what, when finalized, would be a 1-yr, $8M deal. Hear Sabathia, in planned last season, didn't want to look around, wanted to quickly work out something with NYY.
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) November 6, 2018
Sabathia was 9-7 with a 3.65 ERA last season and dealt with both knee and hamstring issues once again. He still tossed 150 innings and proved effective despite turning 38 in July.
And in terms of next season, Sabathia probably won’t get the same treatment as his former teammates. He’ll probably take the mound when asked, do his best, and get the obligatory hugs and applause in his last appearance. It will be baseball’s equivalent of handing someone a gold watch and sending them on their way.
But that’s okay. CC Sabathia’s last season may not have the same bells and whistles, but will still be worth watching.
A workhorse recognized
CC Sabathia is a way different pitcher now than he was when he first arrived with the Yankees in 2009. Back then, he relied heavily on his four-seam fastball. In fact, he threw it 58.7 percent of the time in his first five seasons in pinstripes. He has since lost his velocity and, after reinventing himself, has thrown it an average of 25 percent of the time the last three years.
And though he no longer blows hitters away with a mid-90s fastball, Sabathia still gets the job done. Rather than rely on tricky breaking pitches to fool hitters, he instead tries to generate soft contact. His career soft contact rate is a modest 19.2 percent, but the last three years show a mark of 24.4 percent.
Sabathia also hasn’t thrown 200 innings since 2013 and can no longer be called an innings eater. Gone is the ace who won the AL Cy Young in 2007. We said farewell to the prospect of him having a 20-win season long ago. The man who was once Darth Vader-level intimidating is a little less so.
But don’t tell that to CC Sabathia. He may be getting up there in years, but he’s still the team watchdog and will act accordingly if necessary. His bark is just as bad as his bite when it needs to be. Don’t believe me? Let’s not forget this is the same guy who forfeited a $500,000 bonus when this happened.
This is exactly why CC Sabathia needed to be re-signed, pitching talent aside. The Yankees are a young team, especially in the starting rotation. With Sabathia back for next year, the Yankees only have five other players over 30 on the roster. Until someone else steps up as team protector, the job is his.
Also, let’s not forget CC Sabathia will reach some key career milestones in 2019. He’s only 14 strikeouts away from 3,000 for his career. He would be the 17th pitcher to reach that mark and it would punch his ticket to Cooperstown. This milestone matters a bit less, but he is also four wins away from 250. In an era dominated by caps on innings and, maybe in the future, bullpenning, this may as well be the new 300.
Why is this important? Well, consider it from this perspective. Sabathia originally came to New York on a seven-year, $161 million deal. He could have opted out after 2011, but instead just negotiated a one-year extension plus an option. He has since returned to the Yankees on two separate one-year contracts.
This is because unlike a lot of ballplayers who sign new contracts, Sabathia moved his whole family with him. They live in Alpine, NJ all year, so Sabathia clearly has no plans to leave the Tri-State Area anytime soon.
The man has embraced New York as his home. He loves this city despite growing up in northern California. Thus, it’s only fitting he end his Hall of Fame career in a Yankee uniform.
He may not receive the grand sendoffs of Rivera and Jeter, but make no mistake. Once CC Sabathia walks off the mound for the last time in 2019, the ovation he gets will be deafening.