Veteran Left-Hander Flirted With Other Teams During Free Agency, But Had Heart Set On Returning To 'Evil Empire'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Yankees being hated again is music to CC Sabathia’s ears.

The veteran left-hander, who returned to the Bronx on a one-year, $10 million contract earlier this offseason, told the MLB Network on Thursday if the Bombers aren’t doing their best to be the “Evil Empire,” then they are doing something wrong.

“Last year, we were the team that everybody loved, that feel-good story,” Sabathia said. “But getting Giancarlo just brings us back to being that hated team. That’s what we like. We want to go out there, put the best team on the field and crush everybody every game.”

Game 6

Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia looks on during the ALCS Game 4 win over the Houston Astros at Yankee Stadium on Oct. 17, 2017. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Giancarlo, of course, is 2017 NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton, whom the Yankees acquired from the Miami Marlins in a stunning early-December trade. The move gave the Bombers the most feared lineup in baseball, with Stanton and his 59 home runs from last season joining AL Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge (52) and catcher Gary Sanchez (33).

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The Yankees entered last season as a team in the first full year of an extensive rebuild, yet they surprised everyone by going 91-71 and qualifying for the postseason as a wild card. After taking care of the Minnesota Twins in the one-game playoff, the Bombers stunned the World Series-favorite Cleveland Indians in five games in the Division Series. They then took the eventual World Series champion Houston Astros to seven games in the ALCS.

The belief heading into the offseason was the Yankees would look to tweak their everyday lineup and add more starting pitching, but at least part of that idea was blown up by the shocking trade for Stanton, which cost New York veteran second baseman Starlin Castro and two lesser prospects.

Sabathia flirted with the Toronto Blue Jays and Los Angeles Angels not long after the free agency signing period started, but ultimately returned to the Yankees in part because he said he had “unfinished business,” as in adding another championship ring to the one he won with New York back in 2009.

“And that’s why I wouldn’t have went to the Blue Jays,” Sabathia said on the Players’ Tribune podcast last week. “If I’m going to be in the AL East, I’m going to be on the best team. I’m not coming to Yankee Stadium to get my ass kicked.”

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And the Yankees may not be done adding to their star-studded roster, as multiple reports have suggested they are very interested in signing veteran starter Yu Darvish. General manager Brian Cashman admitted on WFAN he would have to do some maneuvering in order to sign the Japanese right-hander and stay below the $197 million luxury tax threshold in 2018, something the Yankees have vowed to do.

New York’s payroll is reportedly $178 million, but Darvish figures to command around $20 million per season and Cashman has said he wants some wiggle room in case he needs to add reinforcements at the trade deadline.

The Yankees’ rotation is currently made up of right-handers Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka and Sonny Gray, plus Sabathia and young lefty Jordan Montgomery.