Yankees make out well locking up Sabathia before opt-out deadline
CC Sabathia signed a new five-year, $122-million contract with the Yankees
The Yanks made an excellent move, keeping him at a similar price to Cliff Lee
The move is a boon for C.J. Wilson, who now becomes the No. 1 free-agent pitcher
Almost immediately after this article was published, the author was proved very wrong.
Beating the opt-out deadline by hours, CC Sabathia signed a new five-year, $122-million contract. The deal pays Sabathia the $23 million he was owed for 2015, adds a $25 million salary for 2016 and includes a vesting option for 2017 at $30 million with a $5 million buyout. The option vests, loosely speaking, as long as Sabathia doesn't suffer a significant left shoulder injury in 2016
This is an excellent extension for the Yankees. They re-sign Sabathia for, in total, just slightly more than what Cliff Lee signed with the Phillies for a year ago. Sabathia has a longer track record of success than Lee, of course, with comparable peak performance, and he is two years younger than Lee.
Lee, remember, was widely considered to have taken less guaranteed money to join the Phillies. Sabathia almost certainly took less in this deal than he could have been offered on the market; at the least, he could have gotten a sixth year guaranteed, given his history of durability and the competitive environment for his services.
For total guaranteed money, Sabathia still falls in behind Johan Santana, whose six-year, $137 million deal remains the highest ever for a pitcher. (at $24.2 million per for the five guaranteed seasons, Sabathia does become the highest-paid pitcher by average annual value).
This is a coup for the Yankees, who simply had no good option to front their rotation had Sabathia departed and, despite their resources, no obvious use for the $23 million a year that would have been burning a hole in their pockets in his absence.
There's risk in signing the 6-foot-7, 290-pound Sabathia, the biggest pitcher in baseball history, to this kind of deal, but keeping their exposure under the new deal to a single year and $30 million is as good an outcome as they could have hoped for. The Yankees, with Sabathia, Ivan Nova, A.J. Burnett and Manuel Banuelos, can now shift their focus to the No. 4 rotation spot, as well as whether to trade Nick Swisher for pitching help or perhaps to make an aging team younger.
The big winner in this decision? C.J. Wilson, who despite a shaky postseason for the Rangers is now the clear No. 1 starter on the market. Teams that may have targeted Sabathia to front their rotation may now turn to Wilson, with two seasons of starting pitching under his belt, to fill that hole.
The Rangers, without Sabathia as an option, may be more inclined to re-sign Wilson, and the Red Sox -- who will lose John Lackey for next season as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery -- also have to be considered a threat to sign the lefty.