One of the funniest oddities to baseball fans is older, prestigious players in different uniforms. Babe Ruth as a Brave is the classic example, but there are a lot of modern examples, too: Wade Bogg as a Devil Ray, John Smoltz as a Cardinal, or even Ichiro as a Marlin. Luckily, we won’t see the same with CC Sabathia, for now. According to Mark Feinsand, the Yankees have agreed to bring back the left-hander to a one-year, $10 million contract with innings incentive bonuses.
The motivation for the signing is simple: Sabathia had decent offers from the Angels, Jays, and possibly others, but he wants to win one more Championship in the Bronx. Here is what his agent, Kyle Thousand, had to say:
Here’s what Sabathia’s agent, Kyle Thousand of Roc Nation Sports, said about the deal with the Yankees: pic.twitter.com/tdAQJ1Nb71— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) December 16, 2017
It’s unclear what the incentive structure is, but it’s pretty clear that this is a win for the Yankees. Just two months ago, the team was sitting on Sabathia for key October innings, and he delivered, pitching to a 2.37 ERA in 19 innings. He was pretty good in the regular season, as well; his 122 ERA+ was tied for the second-highest on the staff.
In terms of the luxury tax, the Yankees are still in the clear. They already had about $30 million to spend, and this still gives them room to go after one more trade, or even two, before Opening Day.
How it affects the roster, though, is unclear. Some have asked the obvious question: if the Yankees were to trade for Gerrit Cole, then they would have a rotation of Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, Luis Severino, Sabathia, Jordan Montgomery, and Cole, with solid minor league depth in Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield. How do you make it work? Well, here’s one way to look at it.
Last year the Yankees got 910.1 innings from starters last year. If we assume that they need something like 900 innings—let’s not focus on the number of starters—then the combination of all of those above pitchers’ projected innings totals for 2018 via ZiPS (excluding Cole) is 871. This projection does some heavy lifting on Montgomery, who hit a career high in innings; assuming 183 innings is probably the maximum we would see him go. Even so, we’re coming up 40 innings short assuming almost no injuries; if one pitcher goes down, then suddenly this looks like a great idea. If no one gets hurt, then Montgomery in Triple-A, or moving to a six-man rotation at certain stretches, isn’t the end of the world.
All in all, this is fantastic news. The Yankees have checked off one of their boxes for the winter, and they add one of the best Yankees lefties in my lifetime. He’s not the same Sabathia as 2009, but if October taught us anything, that talent is still there somewhere.