CC Sabathia was recently, yesterday to be exact, offered the largest contract in baseball history for a guy that relies mostly on one arm. Six years and $137.5 million dollars by the team with the deepest pockets, the New York Yankees.
There is much risk in this, but do I blame the New York Yankees for wanting one of the best pitchers in the game? No, not really. There seem to be Sabathia detractors littered around certain message boards/comment sections, but one of their arguments isn’t much of an argument in my mind: Sabathia’s playoff track record. Even with his struggles in the playoffs, how many pitchers are better than CC? I guess we can still have Santana at the top after having another great season. But how many other pitchers are better than CC? Zero? One? Who knows. I thought that Josh Beckett was on par, maybe even better, but then CC went and had his second consecutive great season. Beckett however, merely had an above average year.
CC Sabathia does something that a lot of people seem to forget is very important, he has become an integral part in helping his team reach the postseason. And a team cannot win in the postseason, if they do not get there. Some fail to realize this. There may be some issues with Sabathia, maybe he does experience the butterflies during the playoffs. But it could be because of the innings he has thrown as well. Sabathia has been a workhorse each of the past two seasons, but not come through in the postseason. Whether it be butterflies, or his body tiring, he has proven to be a great pitcher regardless. If he does end up in New York, then the Yankees need to do things right. They need to go get a spot starter, someone like Bartolo Colon last season, or they can promote someone internally here and there if needed (Ian Kennedy?). But if Sabathia signs, then he needs to be relieved of a few starts during the year, to keep him rested if the playoffs happen to be a likely destination. The Red Sox do an excellent job of giving their guys breaks throughout the year, due to an enormous amount of quality depth. The Yankees have the resources, and I like to think, the smarts to follow this blueprint.
One thing that the detractors also point to, that actually might make sense is this; Sabathia has thrown a ton of innings the past few years. So maybe the innings eating will catch up to him some. Look, there is a lot of risk giving a single player, pitcher much more so, this type of contract. Pitchers are more susceptible to career threatening injuries, and more likely to require surgery that will sideline them for a period of time, etc. They are a risky proposition. But Sabathia is unlike most pitchers, because of his enormous ability, his performance the past two seasons speaks for itself: 494 innings, 460 K’s, 96 walks, and roughly a 150 ERA+. Truly incredible, but also truly taxing on one’s arm. That being said, there was a time when pitchers used to throw a ton of innings and did not feel many ill effects. So Sabathia could stay healthy too, and it would seem some would make too much a deal about this.
That much money for one pitcher has its negatives, but then again there is a reason that Sabathia is being offered that much money to begin with. If the Yankees do ink a deal, then they would potentially have the best pitcher in baseball, and definitely one of the five best. But no one can foresee any injuries, and “tiring out” is something realistic, but not inside our crystal ball either. Sabathia makes the Yankees an instant contender, again, in the most difficult division in baseball. And as much as it pains me to say it, the Yankees would be obtaining a pitcher that I wouldn’t mind having on my team (would not mind AT ALL), if we needed him as much.