Even as CC Sabathia talked with the Angels and Blue Jays about potentially leaving the Bronx in free agency, two things always seemed abundantly clear: 1. The Yankees wanted Sabathia back for 2018 and 2. Sabathia wanted to be back for 2018.
In the end, there was unfinished business – and Sabathia wasn’t about to leave the place he and his family have called home since 2009. And so he will stay, as the two sides agreed to a one-year, $10 million deal, pending a physical, the News confirmed Saturday.
More than anything, the team valued Sabathia’s leadership of its group of Baby Bombers, who will go from the hunters to the hunted next season – young and likeable no longer with the arrival of $295 million man Giancarlo Stanton. But he was also their stopper and big-game pitcher too – bringing new life to the largely dormant Yankees-Red Sox rivalry by verbally expressing his distain with those who tried to bunt on him. Maybe it made little sense to those around him, but it worked for the 37-year-old competitor.
Sabathia’s 2017 campaign was not without its trials and tribulations. On May 9, his ERA was 5.77. And, on Aug. 8, he re-injured his right knee and thought his career might be over as a result. But Sabathia overcame it all, finishing the regular season 14-5 with a 3.69 ERA – including 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA following a Yankee loss.
He performed well in October, too, with guts and guile, delivering in Game 5 of the ALDS before his magic finally ran out in Game 7 of the ALCS, as the Bombers fell one win shy of a return to the World Series.
As it is, the Yankees could put together a 2018 rotation of Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, Sonny Gray, Jordan Montgomery and Sabathia. But given the injury histories of Tanaka and Sabathia, combined with the fact that Severino and Montgomery are coming off career-highs in innings pitched, it makes perfect sense to add another starter and go with a six-man rotation next season.
To that end, the Bombers have looked into Gerrit Cole, Michael Fulmer, Patrick Corbin and Danny Duffy – all younger and on reasonable deals that fit in-line with ownership’s mandate to get under the $197 million luxury-tax threshold. During their trade talks for Cole, the Pirates have reportedly wanted Gleyber Torres.
Maybe if Gerrit Cole was Clayton Kershaw or the like they’d consider, but there’s no way the Yankees would trade the 21-year-old Torres, considered the second-best prospect in all of baseball by MLB.com, for a 27-year-old righty who pitched to a 4.26 ERA and surrendered 31 homers in the National League last season. Plus, Torres should very-well be considered as their everyday second or third baseman for 2018, with the hope of Manny Machado joining the infield alive and well come next offseason when he’ll be a free agent.
A more reasonable trade package: tantalizing outfielder Clint Frazier, a top pitching-prospect like Chance Adams (who may be a reliever, according to some scouts) and perhaps someone else in return for Cole. Regardless, with a deep farm system, the Bombers can afford to be patient in their search, and don’t need to rush or get suckered into being fleeced.
Another starter and perhaps a veteran infielder like Todd Frazier or Eduardo Nunez will do just fine.
Anyway, the Yankees figure to have a talented roster next season, a 28th World Series championship in their sights. But the clubhouse dynamic is going to change, with low-maintenance veterans like Starlin Castro and Chase Headley no longer in the room. Still, at least they have Sabathia and Brett Gardner holding down the fort, showing the others the right way to play.
Sabathia has had to overcome so much in pinstripes, from his battle with alcoholism to having to rediscover himself as a pitcher. He may not be making $25 million anymore, but this was the perfect compromise between player and team, a lower but more than fair offer that allows Sabathia to continue on the mound for the only franchise he wants to play for.
It was the right move at the right price, and an absolutely necessary move at that.
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