The CC Sabathia opt-out speculation is now over. Yankees fans can breathe freely once again.
The Associated Press reported early Monday evening that New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia opted not to exercise his unusual opt-out clause, and negotiated an additional two years to be added on to his contract, worth an additional $30 million.
Sabathia, who finished the 2011 season with a 19-8 record and 3.00 ERA, now has five years remaining on his contract, with an additional option year added for the 2017 season, worth another potential $25 million.
Sabathia let fans know that it was his intent all along never to leave the Bronx.
“My goal the whole time was to be able to finish my career as a Yankee,” Sabathia said in a video posted on Twitter. “I look forward to seeing everybody out at the ballpark next year.”
While many experts and pundits widely expected Sabathia to exercise his unusual opt-out clause, which allowed him the opportunity to walk away from his contract after three seasons, Sabathia proved everyone wrong, and in the process proved that he wanted to be a Yankee for the rest of his career.
With one major obstacle now out of the way for the Yankees front office, they must now piece together the rest of their rotation, which was a main source of contention during the second half of the 2011 season and throughout the playoffs.
Just who are the pitchers that the Yankees could go after to support Sabathia at the top of the rotation?
Let’s take a look.
It’s very possible that Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Rick Porcello could find himself the odd man out in the Tigers’ rotation next year. With Justin Verlander, Doug Fister and Max Scherzer firmly planted at the top, and with newcomer Jacob Turner now ready for prime-time, Porcello seems destined for the No. 4 or 5 role in the rotation.
With 38 wins in his first three seasons, and with durability on his side, Porcello could be a very good fit behind Sabathia in the New York Yankees rotation. GM Dave Dombrowski will likely ask for a deal that would include Dellin Betances or possibly Manny Banuelos; however, Porcello is only 22 years old and will likely continue a positive uptick in his career.
St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Edwin Jackson has always been an puzzle wrapped in an enigma, so not so sure if the bright lights of the big city of New York would be a great fit for him.
However, when Jackson is on top of his game, he befuddles hitters. The only problem is, he can be a clone of current starting pitcher A.J. Burnett in terms of wildness and lack of command of the strike zone.
GM Brian Cashman would have to ponder this decision long and hard before making any kind of serious offer.
Now that the Pirates have declined the 2012 option year for starting pitcher Paul Maholm, the New York Yankees could certainly have interest.
Maholm was 6-14 with a very respectable 3.66 ERA before being shelved with a shoulder strain in early August. Maholm’s injury is not expected to be a factor heading forward.
In New York, Maholm would get the run support that he was clearly lacking in Pittsburgh, much like Doug Fister and his time in Seattle before the trade that sent him to Detroit (3-12 record, 3.33 ERA before trade).
Houston Astros starting pitcher Wandy Rodriguez was the subject of many trade rumors before this past season’s trade deadline, at one point in late August almost getting dealt to the Colorado Rockies before the Astros pulled Rodriguez back off waivers.
Rodriguez is owed $23 million over the next two seasons, along with a 2014 option for $13 million, and over the last three seasons, Rodriguez has posted a 3.36 ERA for a team that provided very little run support.
One thing that could be troublesome is Rodriguez’ record in interleague play, where he is 8-10 with a 5.25 ERA in 22 starts against American League teams.
Now a free agent, starting pitcher Roy Oswalt is still a fierce presence on the mount. Dealing with a debilitating back injury that sidelined the right-hander for two months, Oswalt was 9-10 with a 3.69 ERA for the Phillies in 2011.
Provided Oswalt’s back checks out okay for the long term, he would certainly be a nice fit in the Yankees’ rotation, providing a nice lefty-righty combination at the top of the rotation with CC Sabathia.
One thing can certainly be said about Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda—he has no issues pitching in a circus atmosphere.
That would be the best way to describe what Dodgers’ players, including Kuroda, had to deal with in the 2011 season, and if Kuroda can survive that and still put up an ERA of 3.07, then the Big Apple won’t be any problem for him whatsoever.
GM Brian Cashman would have to put together an enticing offer for Kuroda, however. He has indicated through his actions at last year’s trade deadline that he likes playing and living in LA, so Cashman will have to be creative.
Much like Wandy Rodriguez before him on this list, Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher James “Complete Game” Shields was the subject of numerous trade rumors this past July. While the Rays elected to hang on to Shields (as it turns out for good reason), his name has still been bandied about since.
The Rays exercised the 2012 option on Shields’ contract for the 2012 season at $7.5 million, however that doesn’t necessarily mean that they won’t listen to an attractive trade offer.
Japanese pitching sensation Yu Darvish is currently poised to lead his Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters to the Climax Series in Japan, and put a cap on another incredible season (18-6, 1.44 ERA).
At just 25 years of age, the ceiling is unknown for Darvish, who has now posted five straight seasons with an ERA lower than 2.00.
Darvish has not decided whether to pursue his dream of playing baseball in the United States, however if he does declare, expect the New York Yankees to be right there in the mix.
After 12 seasons and 161 victories with the Chicago White Sox, Mark Buehrle could very well be moving on, and it’s likely the New York Yankees will be at least one of the teams who covet the southpaw.
Buehrle would provide a great presence behind CC Sabathia at the top of the rotation, and combined with right-handers Ivan Nova and a healthy Phil Hughes, the Yankees’ rotation could be well-positioned for a few years to come.
Like Mark Buerhle before him, C.J. Wilson is another great left-handed option who would look great in Yankee pinstripes.
After moving from the bullpen to the rotation two seasons ago, Wilson has vaulted to the top of the heap in terms of quality left-handed starters in the American League.
Wilson likely won’t come cheap, and the Texas Rangers are likely to do everything they can to keep Wilson on board.
However, Cashman could really make a splash by going after Wilson and successfully signing him, giving the Yankees a formidable lefty-lefty combination at the top of their starting rotation.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle. Follow Doug on Twitter, @Sports_A_Holic.