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CC Sabathia came to agreement with the New York Yankees on the terms of a one-year, $10-million contract on Saturday, sources said, for what will be the veteran left-hander’s 18th major league season. The deal is pending a physical.
Sabathia, 37, will slot about where he did last year for the Yankees, somewhere near the back of a rotation headed by Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka and Sonny Gray. He was 14-5 with a 3.69 ERA in 27 starts last season for the Yankees. He also made four postseason starts, where he posted a 2.37 ERA. The Yankees won two of those starts in their surprise run to the brink of the World Series, and could reasonably have won all four.
MLB.com was first to report the agreement.
In a busy offseason, the Yankees acquired outfielder Giancarlo Stanton in a trade with the Miami Marlins, had reportedly discussed a Gerrit Cole trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates, checked in with the Baltimore Orioles on Manny Machado, and with Todd Frazier on returning at third base.
Sabathia’s 2017 season was his best in at least a half-decade, reversing a trend that suggested retirement was near. He’d fought in recent seasons a troublesome knee that required surgery, for which he still wears a brace. In the fall of 2015, as the Yankees prepared for the playoffs, Sabathia entered a rehabilitation facility for treatment of alcoholism. He’d also reworked his career because of a diminishing fastball, often a fruitless endeavor for former power pitchers. Abandoning his four-seam fastball, Sabathia by 2016 was relying almost entirely on a cutter-sinker-slider-changeup arrangement, and by last season many of his numbers were around career norms.
While the knee, a constant battle with his weight and advancing age would seem to conspire against him, Sabathia will give one more season – at least – a shot.
Among active players, Sabathia is first in strikeouts, first in innings pitched, second in wins and second in games started. By nature of his longevity, he also is third in losses and home runs allowed and second in hits allowed.
When he debuted with the Cleveland Indians in the spring of 2001, he was the youngest player in the game. Also in the top 10 youngest players that season: Tim Raines … Jr.
Sabathia, who will turn 38 in July, is now with the oldest. More than 3,400 innings (including postseasons) later, and 237 wins, and three teams, and one Cy Young Award, and one World Series championship (2009 New York Yankees), and one slight reinvention of himself later, he remains a sturdy mid-rotation pitcher and beyond that a sound clubhouse presence. Joe Girardi, then the Yankees’ manager, was nearly moved to tears when asked how far Sabathia had come in two years, since he’d decided to get help for alcohol abuse.
“You know, of all the things that I’ve ever seen CC do, from afar, obviously, watching him pretty closely in Milwaukee and what he was — and how much you admired what he did, having a chance to watch him pitch for us and be the big game pitcher and lead us to a World Series, I admired that moment more than any because he put his family first and his life in front of the game,” Girardi said during the Yankees’ postseason run. “Sometimes, we get really caught up in our jobs and love what we do, and we forget what the most important thing is, and CC did not. He knew his health and his family were more important than the game of baseball. And as much as it probably killed him inside, he knew he had to make a choice. I probably admire him more for that than anything he’s ever done on the field.”
Then, after Sabathia had pitched into the fifth inning in a decisive Game 5 in Cleveland, Girardi added, “That’s been who he’s been his whole life, the guy you can count on. And he did it again tonight.”