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Sabathia Opts to Stay in New York

CC Sabathia is back with the Yankees, even though he never left in the first place. With the deadline for his opt-out clause looming last night, the big left-hander and the team got together to hammer out a new contract extension that has a pretty good chance to keep him in pinstripes for the rest of his career. In the simplest of terms, here’s the money breakdown…

2012-2015: $23M per season
2016: $25M
2017: $25M vesting option with $5M buyout

The first four years are still covered by the original seven-year, $161M contract Sabathia signed with New York prior to the 2009 season. The 2016 season starts the new extension, and the 2017 vesting option is dependent on the health of his prized left shoulder. If shoulder problems cause him to a) finish the season on the DL, b) spend 45 days on the DL, or c) shift to a relief role during the 2016 season, the option is null and void. All told, the total package is worth five years and $122M, or $2M more than buddy Cliff Lee got from the Phillies last winter.

As with all long-term contracts like this, the Yankees are paying for peak years up front and figure to take the hit on the back-end of the deal. They’re basically paying him to be a five-win pitcher over the life of the contract, a level of performance Sabathia has matched or exceeded in each of the last six seasons. He’s also on a run of five straight 230+ IP seasons (which blows my mind), and still has some youth on his side at age 31. There really shouldn’t be any concerns about him over the next two or three years.

Given his stature (listed at 6-foot-7 and 290 lbs. on the Yankees’ site) and workload, there just aren’t many comparables for Sabathia throughout baseball history. David Wells shared the same girth as CC but was several inches shorter. Randy Johnson was a few inches taller but not nearly as round. Andy Pettitte was both shorter and skinnier. All three of those guys were very productive from ages 31-35 though, the years covered by Sabathia’s deal. Wells is the low man on that three-man totem pole at 18.8 WAR during those seasons, which is probably a bit below what the Yankees are hoping to get out Sabathia.

The 300 wins factor is probably a little overplayed, but it does exist. It’ll be a cash cow for the Yankees if Sabathia ever approaches that milestone, but he’s very unlikely to do so during the life of this contract. An average of 16 wins per season gets him to within 44 wins of 300 by the time the guaranteed portion of this new deal is up, and an average of 18 gets him to within 34. That’s still a long way off,

The Yankees didn’t improve their team at all by retaining Sabathia yesterday, all they did was maintain the status quo. They did manage to knock the biggest item off their to-do list before the free agency doors swung open though, and they did so at a reasonable cost by adding just one guaranteed year and $30M to what they had already planned to pay him. Now they can focus on filling out the rotation around Sabathia rather than having to worry about potentially replacing him.