By Sweeny Murti
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When the Yankees first signed CC Sabathia, one of the final pieces to that puzzle was Brian Cashman throwing in the opt-out clause, the final selling point to Sabathia—if you really don’t like it here, you can leave.
Turns out Sabathia LOVES it here, and he still used the opt-out clause to get some more money out of the Yankees. But hey, which one of us wouldn’t want to—ahem—throw our weight around for tens of millions more given the chance.
Look, we all knew this was going to happen. It was designed this way pretty much after that first great season in 2009—Sabathia won 19 games and led the Yankees to the World Series championship. Two more great years have followed, with no parades, but that’s hardly his fault. Sabathia has been everything the Yankees wanted him to be from the day he signed. He has been a take-charge leader in the clubhouse, and has performed to the level everyone expected. What more could you ask?
After announcing his new extension Monday night, Sabathia said, “It was clear to everybody I wanted to be a Yankee, end my career as a Yankee.” Sabathia was in prime position to make sure his last year or two as a Yankee paid him like a 31-year old rather than a 35-year old. By asking for it now, he got the extra years and money added to his deal that could essentially make this a 9-year deal worth more than $200 million.
It’s a deal the Yankees had to make. They need a horse at the front of their rotation. Now they need him healthy and that will be the issue going forward as Sabathia deals with questions about his weight and his durability.
The whispers started after he lost two straight starts in August. Clearly something was wrong because he was getting lit up like we rarely see, but he was two weeks removed from taking a perfect game into the 7th inning and was Pitcher of the Month in July. Did he get fat in just two weeks?
I have contended for a while now that Sabathia has been 300+ pounds for a long time and has been an effective pitcher at that weight for a long time, even deep into a season. He weighed 300+ in 2008 when he pitched Milwaukee into the playoffs, and he was 300+ when he was MVP of the ALCS for the Yankees in 2009.
Sabathia did admit Monday night that he “got a little lax during the season” after reporting to Spring Training under 300 this year. Nobody has ever said how much weight Sabathia gained this year, but Joe Girardi did say he added “a little” when asked about it at season’s end. Sabathia said its something where he needs to be “proactive” and that if he needs to lose weight in order to stay healthy, “That’s what I’ll do.”
But I have also contended that the six-man rotation seemed to screw up Sabathia’s second half as much as anything else, and it was clear that Sabathia wasn’t a big fan of it either. Almost all the Yankee starters privately grumbled about their routine at one point or another during the final two months. Asked about it Monday night, you could practically hear Sabathia snarl as he spit out the words, “I’m not gonna sit here and say change of my routine had anything to do with the last month. It is what it is.”
Bottom line is this—the Yankees are paying Sabathia a whole lot of money to pitch as many times as possible. He could probably help them out by staying on top of his conditioning as the season goes on, but the Yankees can also help him out by not taking him out of a very successful routine. The man who will be paid at least another $122 million needs to pitch more, not less.
For the last three years, Sabathia has—ahem—pulled his weight. Now the Yankees look forward to him doing the same for the foreseeable future.
Do you think we’ll see a slimmer, trimmer CC in spring training? Yankees fans, be heard in the comments below…