Thoughts on the Future of the Rotation

Should C.C. be back next year at any cost?

It is likely that:

[1] C.C. Sabathia will opt out of his contract this off-season.

[2] He will return to the pinstripes next year.

[3] C.C. will receive a massive contract of at the very minimum 5 years and $120MM.

However, at what point in the contract negotiations should the Yankees consider alternate options?

Joel Sherman of the NY Post says that if Sabathia wants a considerable amount past 5 years and over $120MM, the Yanks should at least look elsewhere.

If Sabathia wants more, the Yankees have to seriously consider another direction rather than accept greater long-term risk.

In my opinion, Sherman hits it right on the money here. C.C. is 31 years old, and somewhere around 290 pounds. Look at the facts: another 7 year contract would take him to the 2018 season, and Sabathia would turn 38 that season. No offense in any way to C.C., but the combination of being overweight with a history knee problems, and in his upper thirties does not bode well for the Yanks. However, the luxury of having a true ace should never be downplayed. C.C. is an absolute horse. He’s been one of the Yankees’ best free agent signings in the modern years.

2009 19 8 .704 3.37 34 230.0 197 86 197 137 1.148
2010 21 7 .750 3.18 34 237.2 209 84 197 136 1.191
2011 19 8 .704 3.00 33 237.1 230 79 230 147 1.226
NYY (3 yrs) 59 23 .720 3.18 101 705.0 636 249 624 140 1.189

But- there have been some signs of weariness in the second half of this season and in the playoffs. Are the 1,198 innings he’s thrown in the past five years catching up with him? That is a question the Yankees front office should deeply think about. I’m not saying I don’t want Sabathia back in the Bronx next year; a long-term contract is a risk of gigantic proportions. It’s like the A-Rod contract for a pitcher.

Sherman also discusses possible alternatives to signing Sabathia to a massive contract.

“With that pen and a powerful offense, could they survive if — for example — they lost Sabathia, but signed Wilson and traded for someone such as the A’s Gio Gonzalez or White Sox’ John Danks? “Can you win with five No. 3 starters and strength everywhere else,” the NL personnel man said. “Yes, I think you can. I think the Rangers are doing it right now.”

If you think about it, the Yankees could certainly survive without Sabathia in their rotation next year. That is, if the Yankees take advantage of the rest of the free agent and trade market. A cluster of simply solid-to-very good pitchers could potentially work. Let’s take a look at the options Sherman gives. We’ll profile Gio Gonzalez, John Danks, and other pitchers later, but for now… The Yankees could swing a deal for Gonzalez, as the Athletics are offensively deprived and already have plenty of strong, young pitching. They could rebuild without Gio in their rotation. The White Sox are in some strange sort of rebuilding mode, and Danks may become available. You also have to consider other trade options, such as Matt Cain of the Giants. Say you sign C.J. Wilson, trade for Gonzalez/Danks, and possibly sign an innings-eater like Edwin Jackson or Mark Buehrle. Then you fill in the holes with Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, and one of the young-guns like Adam Warren or Hector Noesi. As for Burnett, who knows. All of a sudden, you have a solid, playoff-caliber rotation, without a massive 7 year / $140+MM contract. Then you have a pretty good amount of flexibility.

However, the Yanks would not have a clear ace. As Sherman and his source say, the Rangers don’t have a clear #1, even in Wilson. They have a team built on a solid rotation, a tremendous offense, and an excellent bullpen. Look where they are: up 2-1 in the ALCS.

Ideally, C.C. Sabathia does not opt out of his contract, but we simply have to expect the worst. Any deal exceeding Cliff Lee’s 5 years/$120MM contract, should alert the Yankees to at least consider an alternate plan.


Stat Insert Provided by View Original Table
Generated 10/12/2011.
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About Mike D.

Mike D. is one of 2 co-founders of the Yankees Fans Unite Blog. He has been a Yankees fan for as long as he can remember, growing up in a family of huge NYY fans. His knowledge of the game comes from watching baseball his whole life, and playing third base in high school and college.

Posted on October 13, 2011, in Notes & Links, Personal Opinion, Signing & Trade Speculation and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.

  1. Nicely written Mike. I’m with you i’m not gonna be happy if he gets a huge long term deal.

  2. I think the Yankees should offer CC a 2 year player option for 34 million dollars. This will give him security if he takes it turning averaging him 21 million a year for 6 years. If he did take the option there would also be a team option added to the end for 16 million plus a 5 million dollar bonus if he wins his 300th game as a Yankee. If CC averages 18 wins over the next 6 seasons he will have 284 entering the team option year and we all know how the Yankees like their moments! So if he wins his 300th game in a potential 7th year of the contract he would make 147 million over the 7 years. If after the first 4 years he thinks he can do better he can decline the option and become a free agent.

    If he fully opts out of his contract I do not believe he’ll be a Yankee next year.

    • So Dan, the 2 year player option would be after the 4 years he has left? I think that’s a really good contract you laid out there.

      I agree with your last statement in that: if he does opt-out, he may not be with the Yanks next year. There’s certainly some uncertainty.

      What do you think of the alternate option I wrote about in the article, if they do decide to let him go? (Meaning trading for a Cain or Gonzalez, signing Wilson, and signing a Buehrle or Jackson)

      • The option would be after the 4 years he has left on his current deal. I got a phone call and did not reread what I wrote so sorry if I was a bit unclear but interruptions will do that.

        • Yeah I would probably do that, but it’s a close, risky call. If only those could become 2 team options, but that’s unrealistic.

          • Now I am not sure about this…normally option years effect the average annual value which in turn effects luxury tax paid. So if those options lesson the contract to 20.07 million a year over the 10 years then the Yankees would get a refund for the past 3 years of 2.76 million so while there is risk there also could be a benefit.

  3. The only pitchers you mentioned that I like are Gio and CJ the rest pass on. Now if you talk about Luebke and Darvish that is a different story. Cain is a better version of Hughes and would get killed in Yankee Stadium. Right handed fly ball pitchers are a big NO NO. I also like Gavin Floyd as a lesser Fister type that could do well for the Yankees an even Fausto Carmona. I can’t believe gave up 52 doubles last year as an option.

    • I agree- Gonzalez and Wilson are 2 very good pitchers that would fit in pinstripes.

      Luebke’s only had 1 full MLB season, so the price would be higher than a Danks for example. With that said, he also has much less experience, and the experience he’s had has been in the much weaker NL West division. I wouldn’t give up anybody of high value for him.

      Darvish is obviously a phenomenal pitcher, but the Kei Igawa, and Irabu signings really would make the Yankees think twice about giving him a big contract. However, I’ve seen that there are those in the organization who favor Darvish a lot. I would be hesitant with him simply because its a huge risk.

      I think you are downplaying just how good a pitcher Cain is. He may be a fly-ball pitcher, but as with any great pitcher, adjustments can be made. As you are, I would be hesitant with him as well, considering all the fly-balls.

      As for Carmona, that’s just a big time pass. No way would I trade anybody of value for one year of him.

      • There is no way I trade anything for Cain. He will imo never pitch as well as he did last year for the Yankees. He is fools gold. 9 homeruns given up will never happen as a Yankee.

        Carmona pitched in front of a terrible defensive team last year. He has 3 reasonable team options going forward so reasonable trade could be okay for him. I think him working with Rothschild and better game planning along with better defense behind him could allow him to pitch more like he did in 2010. Also he only got 3.1 runs support during the innings he pitched which is well below the league average of 4.3. Carmona could be a Swisher type pickup.

      • Stay away from Darvish. for the reasons you stated the fat toad and Igewa who was a waste sitting in AAA with all that money he was owed. I’d rather have someone who pitched in the states. Overseas baseball is a lesser game. Lesser talent over their overall. I like Gio big fan of him. I’m a huge fantasy baseball player and I usually try to draft him or trade for him if i don’t get him. You got to love these stats. would love to see him in a yankee uniform.

        Year ERA GS H ER HR SO ERA+ WHIP
        2008 7.68 7 32 29 9 34 54 1.676
        2009 5.75 17 113 63 14 109 77 1.713
        2010 3.23 33 171 72 15 171 127 1.311
        2011 3.12 32 175 70 17 197 130 1.317
        4 Seasons3.93 89 491 234 55 511 106 1.410
        Provided by View Original Table
        Generated 10/13/2011.

        • I do not think you can compare Darvish to Irabu an Igawa. Irabu had unrealistic expectations thrust upon him. Igawa was under scouted by the Yankees when they relided outsiders to inform then. So for me if the Yankees have thoroughly scouted and vetted Darvish then I have no issue.

        • Don’t sign any white pitchers because of Burnett!!!

          Stop the xenophobia. Obviously the competition isn’t as good, no one is arguing that. Doesn’t mean he can’t transition. That Irabu and Igawa failed does not mean Yu will fail. Sure there’s a risk in signing a guy who hasn’t pitched in MLB, but guys with long track records bust all the time: Burnett, Lackey, Hampton, Neagle… signing any big time free agent pitcher is a big risk.

          Gio Gonzalez isn’t coming cheap, while Yu Darvish costs nothing but money. Gio is going to cost at least one and probably multiple top prospects. I’d trade for him, but I doubt the value would be there. Gio also pitches in the AL West, so his stats likely will inflate a little in the AL East (not a huge deal, but worth considering).

          • Not to say that the Yankees definitely should sign Darvish… simply that they should evaluate him on his merits with the transition from Japan in mind, but in a more rational way. They should make moves that makes sense from a value perspective. Certainly possible that could be Gio over Yu, but I am pointing out that there are factors which might make Gio a much worse value than Yu. Might seem contradictory since Yu will get a bigger contract.

  4. Mike…I am looking for all around pitchers going forward. I want guys who can do a little bit of everything meaning getting ground ball outs….inducing double plays….limiting home runs….decent K rate…limiting hits to under 8.8 per 9…Ops against under .700.

    Gio and CJ fit my criteria over the last 2 years plus giving 200 innings.

    • In addition to what you said, they need somebody who is steady and reliable. They can’t afford to acquire another pitcher who will be inconsistent like Burnett.

  5. I have a few issues with the logic here.

    First, on Joel Sherman, Gio and Danks aren’t #3 starters. In Philly maybe (#4s there), but those are two young LHSP who are already very good and could get better. They finished 35th and 45th in fWAR in 2011, which is in-line with recent seasons. They are good #2 starters, with a chance to get better. Billy Beane is not an idiot. Ken Williams… it’s debatable, but he’s still got no incentive to give away Danks. Chicago is a huge market. Those guys will not come cheap in a trade. I’m looking at Montero if I’m them. I’m not giving him up if I’m the Yankees… so if I’m the Sox/As I look to other suitors. Or I hold my young stud.

    CJ WIlson is a clear ace. He finished 7th in fWAR in 2011. He’s an elite starter. Holland finished #31 in fWAR. Not everyone who is not Justin Verlander but also not AJ Burnett is a “#3 starter.”

    CJ Wilson is not going to come cheap in free agency. Neither is Edwin Jackson (two words: Scott Boras). Assuming they’re coming cheap and CC isn’t… probably faulty.

    How’d you get from 5 years to 7 years? You skipped 6.

    So, no the Yankees goose isn’t cooked if they don’t sign CC. Sure they’ll be in the playoffs in all likelihood, or very close, with or without the big guy. However, you haven’t shown that these guys offer better value than CC. The Yankees don’t have to pinch pennies. They can sign CC, and still go after CJ Wilson and/or Yu Darvish and/or Danks/Gio/Cain/etc.

    • Good stuff Ted. Lot of good information followed with stats. Weclome to our blog. Hope you enjoy it an come back often.

      What is your opinion on Hughes? You see him getting traded or the Yankees trying again with him?

      • Thanks.

        I don’t expect him to get traded, because I don’t expect that he has much trade value. Maybe a match emerges where some team is higher on his future than the Yankees and the Yankees feel the same way about one of their guys (my underachiever for yours, change in scenery sort of deal), but I’m not counting on it. Maybe some team is at least high enough on him to take him as a piece in a package, but he’s only got two more years of team control and those are arb years that won’t be totally dirt cheap.

        • It would have been nice if Hughes was in the trade instead of Kennedy. But Kennedy is pitching in the NL West and how great he is doing wouldn’t really be the same in the AL East but still it would be way better than we are gettting out of Hughes.

          but you can’t have every trade work out.

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