CC Sabathia is like a good book you’ve kept on the shelf waiting for the right time to read. For the Yankees, July sounds about right to open the book…
CC Sabathia will be 39 in July. He is playing in his 19th and final season, and his eleventh with the Yankees. Not counting the postseason, Sabathia has logged almost 3,500 innings, which translates to about 52,500 pitches thrown in major league competition (15 pitches per inning est.).
Currently, Sabathia is on the Injured List and working hard to return to action sometime in late April or early May. He’s a bulldog and always has been. Four victories shy of 250 career wins and a handful of strikeouts needed to reach three-thousand, there’s little doubt Sabathia is biting at the bit to return.
But this is to suggest the Yankees might want to take a second look at Sabathia’s return to action, with an eye towards keeping him on the shelf until after the All-Star break in July. This strategy has several benefits, but the most significant one is Sabathia, much like Andy Pettitte and Whitey Ford before him, has been a Yankees stalwart during the postseason.
How much gas is left in Sabathia’s tank is anyone’s guess. But the odds are that adding 10 starts to his season this year by returning ASAP reduces the chances Sabathia will be at full strength in September and October when the Yankees will need his veteran presence.
Aside from Masahiro Tanaka, who seems to be getting better with age, the rest of the staff is either battle-tested but riddled with postseason failure (Luis Severino and J.A. Happ), or not tested at all (James Paxton).
But what about the regular season – how will holding Sabathia back affect the staff between now and then? The key to the question is Gio Gonzalez, who is currently working at the Yankees Triple-A club in Scranton on a minor league contract.
The Yankees have 16 days (April 20) before they must tender a major league contract to Gonzalez, or let him go to pursue an opportunity elsewhere. Within that time, Gonzalez can make as many as three “show me” starts for the Scranton Railriders, allowing the Yankees sufficient time to determine if he can help the big club.
If Gonzalez (also a lefty) shows up, he can take Sabathia’s spot in the rotation, allowing the Yankees to not miss a beat. Jonathan Loaisiga and Domingo German remain as contenders for the fifth spot.
Given CC Sabathia‘s heart condition and chronic knee issues, it shouldn’t be a stretch for the Yankees to hide Sabathia on the IL for extended periods of time.
What will Sabathia think of all this? Above all else, CC is a pro’s pro. He’s seen it all and with his impending retirement, the goal of getting one more ring (like his teammate Brett Gardner, who is also facing a setting sun) trumps everything else.
Also, by delaying his return, Sabathia is all but guaranteed he’ll be around in September and October with 100 or fewer innings pitched, and an opportunity to take matters into his own hands, once again showing his teammates that he’s the man when crunch time arrives.
What better way would there be to end a career – just give me the ball – get on my back – and let’s go.