The internet was aflame Saturday with speculation that the Texas Rangers are prepared to make New York Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia a huge free-agent contract offer this offseason. The story originated from ESPN New York and reads in part:
"I hear they're going to throw a boatload of money at him,'' said the source, who requested anonymity. "But I think he'll stay with the Yankees. He's talked so much about how much he loves New York, and besides, the Yankees can't afford to lose him from that pitching staff.''
The unquestioned ace of the Yankee staff, Sabathia has the Yankee over a very big (6-foot-7, 300+ pound) barrel this offseason. He is signed thru 2015 to a contract that is scheduled to pay him $152 million before it is completed. Sabathia, though, has an opt-out in that contract that he can exercise this winter. If Sabathia were to do that -- and it is almost a foregone conclusion in my mind that he will -- he would be fair game for a team like the Rangers to make a run at.
This situation poses a huge problem for the Yankees. To be a World Series contender the Yankees absolutely need Sabathia, or a pitcher of his ilk, at the top of their rotation. Problem is, how much longer can the 31-year-old Sabathia remain among the game's elite pitchers?
In the last five seasons, including playoffs, Sabathia has pitched 1,278.1 innings. That is 255.2 per season, an emormous workload in today's game. He showed some signs of wearing down late in the season, allowing 89 hits in 68.2 innings over the final two months of the regular season. He had offseason knee surgery a season ago.
If Sabathia opts out of his contract it will take more than the four years and the roughly $86.8 million the Yankees still owe Sabathia to keep him in pinstripes. Would adding a couple of years and $50 million or to Sabathia's contract be smart for the Yankees? That would tie them to the big lefty until he is in his late 30s.
As currently constructed, the Yankeed need Sabathia at the top of their rotation to be a serious World Series contender. Realistically, though, no one can expect Sabathia to stay at his current level of effectiveness for more than another season or two.
Do the Yankees really want to be tied to a guy who, by the end of his deal, will be an overpaid and most likely injured or largely ineffective pitcher? If they want to win during the next season or two, do they really have a choice?
In the end, I find it unfathomable that the Yankees would let Sabathia get away. Which means they will do what they always do. They will sign him for too much money -- and, most importantly, too many years. In Yankee-land, the short term is always more important than the long term.
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