Posted on November 7, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
The New York Yankees have taken the first step toward filling the vacancies in their starting rotation, and they’re doing it with a familiar face. The Yankees have agreed to a one-year, $8 million deal with veteran lefty C.C. Sabathia. The agreement will become official after Sabathia takes a physical on Wednesday. It’s expected that 2019 will be Sabathia’s final season in the big leagues before retiring.
This will be the second straight offseason that Sabathia re-signs with the Yankees on a one-year deal. After his long-term deal ran out last winter, he signed a one-year, $10 million deal. He will do the same thing this year with a slightly lower salary. If he didn’t re-sign with the Yankees, it’s possible the 38-year old would have chosen to retire. Sabathia reportedly was intent on returning to the Bronx.
The Yankees, meanwhile, get a reliable veteran to help fill a spot in their starting rotation. Sabathia made 29 starts in 2018, going 9-7 with a 3.65 ERA. He remains a steady and reliable presence in the starting rotation. The Yankees also know exactly what they’re getting with Sabathia, as was the case when they re-signed Brett Gardner last week.
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“These are known commodities,” Yankees GM Cashman said this week about players like Sabathia and Gardner. “We know exactly who they are in that clubhouse, who they are dealing with, our press and our fans, and obviously, most importantly, competing on the field of play.”
At the moment, Sabathia will be penciled in next to Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka. Those three are the only locks for New York’s rotation next season. Cashman has strongly implied that Sonny Gray will be traded this offseason. Lefty Jordan Montgomery will also miss a significant chunk of the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery this past season. That leaves at least two vacant spots in the team’s rotation.
The Yankees have several internal options for those spots. Prospects Justus Sheffield, Chance Adams, and Jonathan Loaisiga could all get a chance to earn a spot in spring training. However, the Yankees are likely to seriously pursue some of the top starting pitchers on the free agent market. Cashman has intimidated the club will sign multiple starters. That need may be why they were so quick to agree to a deal with Sabathia.
“In CC’s case, we have multiple needs in that area,” explains Cashman. “If we were ready to promote three more Severinos, then I wouldn’t be looking in acquisition mode for starting pitching. I’d be saying goodbye to people probably, more so than not.”
Among the top pitchers available are Patrick Corbin, Dallas Keuchel, Nathan Eovaldi, and JA Happ. The Yankees have reportedly reached out to Happ, who joined the club via trade last July. There could also be a few frontline starting pitchers available via trade this winter.
In any event, re-signing Sabathia sets a good foundation for the offseason ahead. He will fill one of the empty spots in New York’s rotation. That should make it easier for the Yankees to be patient when pursuing starters on the free agent market. More importantly, the Yankees know what they can expect out of Sabathia in 2019. At just $8 million, they also got a great deal.