A week ago, the New York Yankees offered C.C. Sabathia a record setting contract for a pitcher, six years and $140 million.
Close to two weeks later, there has been no response from the best pitcher in baseball, prompting the Yankees and new boss, Hal Steinbrenner to inform him that the offer isn’t on the table forever. Now, the Los Angeles Angels, led by their giving owner Arte Moreno, have entered the Sabathia sweepstakes and could be the front-runner in this race.
The Yankees, known for buying their way into contention, went on a rare spending freeze last season deciding to go in a different direction—a youth movement anchored by prospects from their minor league system, Phillip Hughes and Ian Kennedy. The Brian Cashman led experiment didn’t lead to the results he expected. They missed the playoffs for the first time in thirteen years.
One of the major gaffes of last season was Cashman rejecting the Johan Santana trade because he didn’t want to exchange Hughes, outfielder Melky Cabrera, and two middle of the road prospects. Cabrera was sent down to the minors and Hughes suffered an injury ridden season.
So after a year of keeping their wallets stuffed, the Yankees are now busting out their wallets to the top free agents on the market.
This upcoming season, the Yankees move into a new stadium right across the street from the old Cathedral. One of the major reasons they re-signed A-Rod was to have a star to attract fans to the park. The suits at 880 River Ave feel the need to make a splash and there’s no bigger splash in the water than the nearly 300 pound Sabathia.
But Hal and Brian, I'm here to warn you: Don’t sign CC, because you will regret it sometime around year three or four.
Let him go back to his home state of California or become a Brett Favre like God in Milwaukee, but don’t bring him to New York. It’s well known amongst baseball circles that Sabathia isn’t too keen on NY, and his success level in the pitcher unfriendly Yankee Stadium is minimal to date (2-4 lifetime).
In addition, history works against Sabathia despite his greatness. Kevin Brown, Mike Hampton, and Barry Zito are all examples of pitcher who signed six-year deals and were overwhelming busts.
Many feel offering Sabathia a three to four year deal worth $30 million per year with a team option for the subsequent year is a better proposition than taking a chance on an overweight pitcher who’s knees can give out at any point. The same way David Wells had trouble staying healthy, who’s to say it wont occur with Sabathia as well.
Granted, Sabathia has had a fairly solid health history in the majors, but his body isn’t the only thing you should worry about. You also have to take into account the psychological toll playing in the world’s toughest media market can have on anyone’s psyche.
The Yankees are looking at CC as an attraction, but also as someone that can bring them back to the promise land—the World Series. But in his career, Sabathia’s playoff ERA nears 8.00 and we all saw the five runs he gave up early in the NLDS against the champion Phillies. His playoff history isn’t a promising one and pitching 494 innings in the last two years probably helped contribute to that.
In the end, Cashman, Hal, and even George are desperate for the success they tasted between 96 and 2001. It’s escaped them for seven straight years. But in many instances, desperation leads to bad decisions.
Is the short-term fix of C.C. Sabathia worth taking on the long-term risk of C.C Sabathia?