Position: Left-handed Starter
Bats: Left – Throws: Left
Born: 7/21/1980 (37)
2017 Traditional Stats: 14-5, 3.69 ERA, 27 G, 27 GS, 148.2 IP, 120 K, 1.271 WHIP, 3.0 BB/9, 7.3 K/9
2017 Advanced Stats: 2.8 bWAR, 1.9 fWAR, 122 ERA+, 4.49 FIP
CC Sabathia‘s tenure with the Yankees could very well be coming to an end. If so, it will have been one long and dramatic ride for the lefty.
Before Sabathia opted out of his contract, everything was great. The Yankees won a World Series in 2009 with him as the ace of the staff, and he would finish in the top four in Cy Young voting all three years. On the strength of that run, he would exercise his opt-out clause. As he was not truly interested in becoming a free agent, he and the Yankees just reworked the final years of his deal.
Those final years were hard years for Sabathia as he declined as a player and faced some personal problems. Sabathia would make his last All-Star team in 2012, and he would not receive another Cy Young vote. The once durable pitcher who could be counted on to pitch 200 innings a year needed knee surgery in 2014.
The hardest moment for Sabathia came in 2015 when he had to leave a Yankees team making a postseason push. Sabathia finally faced the fact he was an alcoholic, and he left the team to get treatment. Sabathia has emerged from that incident a better man and a rejuvenated pitcher.
This year was his best season since that 2012 All-Star season. Sabathia would have double digit wins for the first time since that season, and he would have the fewest losses he would ever have in a full season.
The main reason was Joe Girardi used him judiciously. He would only throw over 100 pitches just twice all season. Not surprisingly, Sabathia would only pitch past the sixth inning in seven of his 27 starts. There was good reason for that as once Sabathia passed 75 pitches in a game, batters began to rake against him.
This year, once Sabathia hit 75 pitches batters hit .264/.347/.552 off of him. This isn’t a one year aberration either as batters hit .292/.358/.500 last year when Sabathia hit the 75 pitch mark. Overall, how Sabathia was used illustrates how he was able to sustain a remarkably low .278 BABIP against, and how he was able to rack up a large number of wins.
Of course, part of that is Sabathia would only have 12 quality starts on the season, and he would only have average 5.2 innings per start. When he was hit, he was typically hit hard with his having a terribly high 17.2 HR/FB ratio. Another function of that was Sabathia’s 8.0% walk rate and 3.0 BB/9.
A counter-point to that is Sabathia did walk two or fewer batters in 20 of his 27 starts, and he did pitch at least six innings in 14 of his 27 starts. In the end, Sabathia really proved himself to be a mixture of the crafty lefty and the wily veteran. That combination really adds up to his being a Major League fifth starter.
Taking everything into account, a good starting point for a potential Sabathia contract would be the contract the Atlanta Braves gave Bartolo Colon last offseason. Accordingly, he could reasonably fetch $12.5 million per season. Typically, pitchers of his age sign one-year deals, but if a market truly develops for him, he may actually get that second year.
One thing should be crystal clear here. If the Yankees want him back, Sabathia is going to return to the Yankees. With his first two starts this postseason, it would actually seems his chances of returning to the Yankees have actually improved. Still, with the Yankees in the first year of what should be a long run for this core group, the team may want to improve their rotation, and as a result, may part ways with Sabathia.
If Sabathia is truly a free agent, he could be of use to the Mets. He’s that veteran at the back end of the rotation Sandy Alderson said he was going to seek out this offseason. With a switch to the National League, pitching in more of a pitcher’s park, and the pitch framing abilities of Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki, Sabathia could very well repeat his 2017 season in a Mets uniform.
Still, Sabathia isn’t going to come cheap, and he’s not necessarily the innings eater the Mets want and need. However, he’s a fifth starter who can reliably take the ball every fifth day, which is something that shouldn’t be discounted after the last two seasons. In the end, Sabathia is an older pitcher, who takes the ball every fifth day, and may very well regress from this year. The Mets should be interested, but they should tread lightly and not plan for him to be anything more than a fifth starter and veteran clubhouse presence.