At the end of 2017, CC Sabathia is set to become a free agent and will most likely look to return for an 18th season in the bigs. Some possible landing spots may include teams like the Angels or Twins, teams that are seemingly a couple of arms away from making 2018 postseason runs. If the Yankees want to make another deep postseason run next year, maybe one that ends in a World Series berth, Sabathia needs to be resigned.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Sabathia’s recent success is his ability to hit locations with less velocity than he had early on in his career. When he came up with Cleveland, CC averaged a 95 MPH fastball, the hardest amongst any lefty starter at the time. Even with the ever-increasing fastball velocities of today, Sabathia would still be the hardest throwing southpaw in the majors. During the offseason before the 2013 season, Sabathia had surgery to remove bone chips in his left elbow. In addition to a huge velocity dip in 2013, Sabathia was missing with the location of his fastball. This led to a 4.78 ERA and a career high 28 home runs allowed. Instead of quitting on his fastball, Sabathia added another pitch to his repertoire, a cut fastball. He ended up throwing even more fastballs, but ditching the four-seamer. With 2 inches more horizontal movement and 2 more inches of sink, Sabathia was able to hit locations with the cutter while also increasing his fastball usage by 8% to right handed batters. Early on in his career, Sabathia would rely on hitting corners with a hard changeup and finishing with an upper-90s fastball or inside slider. Now, CC is setting up his money pitches (outside changeups and outside sliders), with hard cutters inside. This slight change in pitch selection and location has allowed Sabathia to solidify himself as a huge part in the Yankees rotation, a part that the Yankees should not want to be done with yet.
In a word, CC Sabathia was stellar in 2017. The playoffs were no different, as Sabathia posted a 1-1 record with a 2.34 ERA and an astounding 8.9 K/9. What the numbers don't tell is the way Sabathia battled against some of the best in the game, out-dueling Corey Kluber twice, including in a deciding Game 5 win on the road. In Game 7 of the ALCS, Sabathia wasn't great, only lasting 3 1/3 innings, allowing 1 run to go along with 5 hits and 3 walks, however Yankees fans can't be upset with this performance, considering the Yankees bats were kept quiet for the entire game.
The regular season wasn't much different for the 37 year old lefty, going 14-5 with a 3.69 ERA in 27 starts, even with a career low 7.3 K/9. In games started following a Yankees loss, CC went an unreal 10-0 with a 1.69 ERA. As it stands, the Yankees will return Jordan Montgomery, Luis Severino and Sonny Gray to the rotation, with Masahiro Tanaka likely to opt-out but possibly return to New York. That leaves 2-3 spots in the rotation, which will most likely be filled by Masahiro Tanaka and possibly a call up such as Chance Adams. The best case scenario lies with resigning Sabathia. His presence in the clubhouse is second to none and his ability to compete every time he takes the bump is unmatched. On a return to New York, Sabathia said, "This is my home. I want to see this thing through, I want to come back here and finish things off. This is where I want to be." That attitude of winning, and eyes towards a 28th championship for the Yankees, is one that should excite both fans and ownership. It would most likely be one last ride for CC, something like a one year, 10-12 million dollar contract to a future Hall of Famer. So, to Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner, if you're reading this, bring back our beloved lefty for one last hoorah and see where he can take us.
(Picture credits: NY Post)