At Long Last, CC Sabathia Has Financial Security

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It’s been a long time in coming.

CC Sabathia: the corpulent and benevolent Yankees star did right by the club when he ensured that he’ll be with the Yankees for what’s most likely the rest of his career.

He didn’t do it for the extra $30 million in guaranteed salary.

No.

He did it for the security that he wouldn’t have had with the $92 million he was set to make through 2015.

Who can live on that? How would he rightfully have been expected to function with only four years remaining on his deal? What was he going to do when 2016 beckoned and he was distracted by the prospect of finding work—somewhere—under that cloud of uncertainty?

Sainthood awaits.

Well, only in the realm of the ridiculous.

The reactions of idol worship and accolades for Sabathia choosing not to opt-out of his Yankees contract in exchange for what amounts to a contract extension are ludicrous—even for Yankees fans and apologists.

Sabathia used his ability to leave; that the pitching market is relatively thin; a Yankees team that could afford to pay him and couldn’t afford to lose him; and his success in pinstripes to garner a definite $30 million and a likely $50 million.

Sabathia’s current contract pays him $23 million annually through 2015; with the new deal, he’ll receive $25 million for 2016, plus another vesting option for $25 million in 2017 that activates as long as his shoulder is healthy at the end of 2016; plus there’s a $5 million buyout.

So he’s getting at least another $30 million.

Could he have gotten a contract worth $140 million or more on the market?

Where?

The Red Sox weren’t going after him; the Phillies weren’t going after him; the Mets weren’t going after him; nor were the Angels, Cardinals, Dodgers, Giants or most other teams that could scrape together an offer in that ballpark.

Where was he going?

The Nationals?

The Mariners?

Yeah. Have fun over there.

These fantasy notions of Sabathia “understanding the rich tapestry of history in being a Yankee” or other such silliness are missing the point that Sabathia had nowhere else to go to get the kind of money the Yankees were going to pay him and he used the opt-out as a hammer to get it from the Yankees.

CC Sabathia is a great pitcher and good guy. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with what he did; presumably he enjoys pitching in New York and for the Yankees; but to imply that this was something more than a business decision is a Michael Kay-style dreamworld that doesn’t really exist.

Sabathia wanted to get paid.

And he did.

Don’t say that it’s anything more than that, because it isn’t.

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Yankees Need To Think Long, Hard And Round With CC Sabathia

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Without the snide jokes and the Moneyball references about fat players being the new sex symbols, CC Sabathia‘s weight is an issue that the Yankees have to consider—among others—if he opts out of his contract and wants what amounts to an extension.

Bill Madden wrote in his column that in the last 6-8 weeks of the season, Sabathia put on 35-40 pounds.

In two months!!!

It’s a problem.

And it’s something the Yankees have to address if Sabathia wants his contract basically extended so it’s a guaranteed $150 million.

In fact, I’d tell him straight out that he has to lose weight. Period. And I’d put it in the contract.

Much was made of Sabathia dropping significant poundage coming into this season to take pressure off his knees.

Sabathia’s a large man and he’s never going to be svelte, but there’s no excuse for him expanding like the reputation of The Most Interesting Man In The World.

(Sabathia needs to lay of the cerveza, by the way.)

What makes it all the more egregious is that he’s quite possibly going to be a free agent again. One would think at his age, 31, he’d be more conscientious about staying in some semblance of shape (for him). What was he doing on the extra day the Yankees gave him by using the 6-man rotation? Spending it making the rounds glad-handing in the all-you-can-eat section at Yankee Stadium? How is it possible to gain that much weight?

The Yankees have to think seriously and unemotionally about this before doling out a check to Sabathia. The entire team isn’t getting any younger; they have multiple holes in the starting rotation that they’re apparently not prepared to use Dellin Betances or Manny Banuelos to fill at the beginning of 2012; and when they do bring them up, they’re certainly not going to let them pitch like normal human beings; they’ll be on strict pitch/innings counts for at least the first two seasons of their big league careers.

So where are they getting those innings from?

Here’s what I’d do if I were the Yankees and Sabathia opted out of the contract.

I’d let him leave.

Sabathia’s current contract would call for $23 million annually through 2015; if he opts out and returns, one would assume he’ll want it extended through 2018 for another $60 million.

No.

If Sabathia isn’t willing to show a commitment for fitness, then there’s no new contract.

What the Yankees could do in lieu of Sabathia is pursue and get two of the three big name starting pitchers on the free agent market. Edwin Jackson, C.J. Wilson and Mark Buehrle are all out there and available.

Buehrle, 33 next March, is a guaranteed 220 innings; he’ll win 15-18 games; he’ll lose 8-12; and he’ll gut his way through with an ERA between 3.50 and 4.50, allow 20 or so homers allowed and maybe sprinkle a perfect game somewhere in there. Best of all with Buehrle, he’s constantly talking about when he’s going to retire, so he’s not going to require a 5-7 year contract a pitcher of his stature could reasonably ask for if he so desired.

Say he’s willing to take 3-years, $40 million.

Then you have Jackson and Wilson.

I think Jackson has star potential; he’s big and durable and because he was in the big leagues at 19, he’s only 28; even represented by Scott Boras, one would think a contract of 5-6 years at $75-80 million would get it done.

Wilson, 31, can be expected to provide 200+ innings a seasons for the foreseeable future in part because he was a reliever for the first 5 years of his big league career and the wear-and-tear on his arm is lessened as he enters his early-30s. Perhaps he wants a 6-year, $80-$90 million deal.

Rather than pay Sabathia that guaranteed cash and get the 200 innings a year—from an admittedly terrific pitcher—for the next couple of seasons, they could have two pitchers for the same money and get 400 innings and not have to worry about the burgeoning waistline of Sabathia.

If he opts out, they have to take a long, hard, round and ruthless look at it. If he’s too demanding or they have the above options in hand, they have to let him walk.

He could use the exercise anyway.

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Strasburg’s 2012 Innings Limit

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I’m not sure how a team that has designs on contention can regulate the innings of the pitcher upon whom the hopes of the franchise are resting, but that’s what the Nationals intend to do with Stephen Strasburg in 2012.

In this ESPN Story, GM Mike Rizzo doesn’t give an exact number for Strasburg, but you can presume it’s somewhere in the 160-175 range.

That number of innings are fine…for your fourth starter; but what are the Nats going to do for the top three slots in their rotation?

They’re said to be ready to spend some money and be aggressive; the name C.J. Wilson has been mentioned; it’s doubtful they’ll want to ante up the cash to get CC Sabathia if (when) he opts out of his Yankees contract, but it was the Nats who gave Jayson Werth $126 million, so you can never say never.

Jordan Zimmerman isn’t going to be ready to give them 200 innings; John Lannan can and is a nice pitcher, but is certainly not an ace. Can they expect 200 innings from Chien-Ming Wang? Doubtful.

What you’ll have, again, is a team that relies heavily on its bullpen; so heavily that the bullpen might be exhausted as it’s been over the past few years with the reliever-abusive Jim Riggleman running the club; Davey Johnson is more judicious in his handling of pitchers, but if Johnson comes back, I’m curious to see how he handles the Strasburg innings-limit situation.

When he was the Mets manager and Dwight Gooden was a 20-year-old phenom and ace and was in the middle of a historic 1985 season, the club was in a desperate run to make the playoffs; GM Frank Cashen went to Johnson and told him basically, “the kid’s going to pitch nearly 300 innings this year and it’s too much; do something”. Johnson, who never met a GM he couldn’t annoy with his sarcasm and ginormous ego responded by basically saying, “what do you want me to do?” and following up with, “how about you give me a computer printout of how many innings and pitches he’ll be allowed to throw; then by the time he reaches the limit, I can go out to the mound holding the printout, show it to him and pull him?”

Johnson’s mellowed since then and he’s more agreeable to the limits predicated on young pitchers by the front office. Gooden’s situation was 25 years ago. But Johnson still thinks he’s smarter than everyone else and many times, he’s right.

So Strasburg will be limited in what he’s allowed to do next season; but I’m curious if the Nats are in contention in September and Johnson’s managing the team, will he toss those limits out the window to try and win? Or will those parameters be ironclad and adhered to at the expense of a possible playoff spot?

It’s then that we’ll see if Johnson still has his insubordinate managerial fastball and ignores the front office trying to win.

It wouldn’t be the first time. But it might be the last.

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