CC Sabathia will make more than the entire Indians rotation in 2017

Corey Kluber is giving the Indians Cy Young production at a bargain price. (Getty Images/Elsa)
Corey Kluber is giving the Indians Cy Young-level production at a bargain price. (Getty Images)

The Cleveland Indians boast one of the best teams in the majors heading into 2017. After pushing the Chicago Cubs to Game 7 of the World Series, the Indians added Edwin Encarnacion to an already impressive lineup.

The move came as a bit of a surprise. How were the Indians, typically a low-spending club, able to find the money to bring in a premier free-agent? Easy. They have the one thing every team desires: Young, cost-controlled pitching.

As a whole, the Indians top-five starters are set to make $23.65 million in 2017. If you’re not impressed by that, consider the following: Seven starting pitchers will make more than that next season.

Here’s a list of the Indians’ top-5 pitchers and their 2017 salaries:

  • Corey Kluber, $7.7 million

  • Carlos Carrasco, $6.5 million

  • Trevor Bauer, $3.55 million

  • Danny Salazar, $3.4 million

  • Josh Tomlin, $2.5 million

And here’s a list of the seven pitchers who will make more than all of them combined:

  • Clayton Kershaw, $35.5 million

  • Zack Greinke, $34 million

  • David Price, $30 million

  • Justin Verlander, $28 million

  • Felix Hernandez, $26.8 million

  • Jon Lester, $25 million

  • CC Sabathia, $25 million

If anything, the two lists show just the major risks in committing big contracts to pitchers. For the Indians, three of their players (Bauer, Salazar and Tomlin) are still arbitration-eligible. That generally keeps costs low.

In the cases of Kluber and Carrasco, the Indians were both smart and lucky. They offered both players extensions shortly after they experienced successful seasons in the majors. Both accepted deals that many would consider below-market right now. The Indians were wise to offer those deals when they did, but they also were fortunate Kluber continued to pitch like a Cy Young-candidate and Carrasco retained most of his 2014 gains.

The other list features four pitchers who made it to free agency. You can see why they all got paid ridiculous amounts. If you’re a great pitcher who can stay healthy throughout your arbitration years, you’re going to get paid on the market. Those types of talents aren’t available often. But, as many of those guys show, it’s risky to expect pitchers to hold up as they age.

Kershaw, Hernandez and Verlander did not reach free agency, but still accepted massive extensions. Typically, extensions come cheaper, as players are limited to negotiating with just one team. In each of these cases, though, you can understand why those clubs went out of their way to pay these guys a ton of money. You don’t let Kershaw walk. Same with peak-Verlander and peak-Hernandez. Given how much each guy means to their respective franchise, those deals were at least understandable at the time.

CC Sabathia will make $25 million in 2017. (Getty Images/Tom Szczerbowski)
CC Sabathia will make $25 million in 2017. (Getty Images/Tom Szczerbowski)

Of the seven pitchers making more than Cleveland’s rotation in 2017, Sabathia is the easiest target for criticism. The 36-year-old has been in steady decline for four seasons now. It’s tough for any pitcher to hold up as long as Sabathia, so we probably should have seen this coming.

While Sabathia seems the least likely to live up to his contract in 2017, we’ll mention both Greinke and Hernandez as honorable mentions. Greinke, 33, saw all his numbers take a dip in the wrong direction in 2016. After an excellent 1.66 ERA in 2015, he posted a 4.37 ERA last year.

Hernandez also went backward. The 30-year-old struggled through injuries to post a 3.82 ERA over 153 1/3 innings. While that wasn’t terrible, he also saw his strikeout rate drop and his walk rate rise. Those aren’t promising signs for a pitcher who has a lot of miles on his arm already.

The difference with both Hernandez and Greinke is that they’ve only turned in one poor season. It’s possible their 2016 stats were an aberration. Sabathia has a much longer history of declining numbers, so he’s a much easier bet to continue down that road in 2017.

For the Indians … enjoy it while you can. It’s pretty rare to put together a dangerous and deep rotation at dirt-cheap prices. There are risks there, of course, and the Indians know them well after losing both Carrasco and Salazar for the stretch run in 2016.

But the advantage is massive. The team’s ability to save at the position enabled them to bring in Encarnacion in a final push for the World Series. If they can keep all their starters on the field come October this time around, the longest championship drought in baseball is going to shift to another club in 2018.

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik