On Tuesday the Mets made headlines at the winter meetings by
Sabathia is coming off a monster season, one in which his final line --17-10 with a career-best 2.70 ERA in a career-high 253 innings -- tells only a fraction of the story. The 28-year-old began the year with the Indians, the team that made him a first-round draft pick way back in 1998 and the one he'd led to within one win of a World Series berth in 2007 while winning the AL Cy Young award. The Indians were expected to contend in 2008, but their quick fade led them to trade the pending free agent to the Brewers for four players, including Milwaukee's 2007 first-round pick,
He caught fire with the Brewers, who were expected to contend after a near-miss 2007 but whose rotation had been decimated by injuries to
Those last numbers are very important. Strikeout rate is the key indicator of a pitcher's future success because it provides the window into his ability to fool hitters with his offerings; a pitcher's strikeout rate generally declines as he ages, but a high strikeout rate gives him more headroom before he does so. Furthermore, the more strikeouts a pitcher can notch, the less reliant he is upon his defense, which can vary in its ability to convert balls in play into outs. On that note, the Yankees were one of the majors' least efficient defensive teams, ranking 25th out of 30 teams in both raw
Sabathia's strikeout-to-walk ratio doesn't just indicate excellent control (a pitcher's ability to throw strikes) but excellent command -- his ability to throw
That said, seven years and $160 million is a ton to bet on Sabathia's continued health through his age-34 season. The list of nine-figure contracts given to pitchers is a short and not-so-pretty one:
Sabathia's initial offer from the Yanks was a six-year, $140 million deal designed to top Santana's pact, but even so, he didn't rush to accept it. He had received a surprisingly competitive, five year, $100 million offer from the Brewers during the exclusive negotiating period just after the World Series ended, but the California native was said to want to pitch closer to home. Depending upon whom you believe on the Hot Stove rumor circuit, he drew some level of interest from the Angels, Dodgers and Giants. Furthermore, it was reported yesterday that the Red Sox made Sabathia an offer as well.
The Red Sox, of course, are one of the teams this deal is aimed at, because the Yankees finished six games behind them in the AL East, missing the playoffs for the first time since 1993. Cashman's 2008 blueprint to bypass a potential trade for Santana and center his rotation on three hurlers who had never pitched full seasons in the majors --
As such, Cashman made fixing the rotation his top priority, despite the fact that the Yankees system still has not only that heralded trio of youngsters but more pitchers on the horizon. On the other hand, their offense in 2008 was mediocre (seventh in the AL in scoring after leading the majors in 2007), and aging, with their only two regulars under 32 (Cano and
Sabathia has managed to avoid arm troubles in his career, and over the last three years he has become extremely efficient; his 15.1 pitches per inning last year was the 75th-highest mark among ERA qualifiers. On the other hand, he's coming off by far his two heaviest workloads of his career, and his only two years above 200 innings. His early 2008 problems were believed to be linked to his combined 256-inning workload from 2007, brought on by the Indians' deep October run,, where he exhibited the rare struggle with his command. His combined 256.2 innings with an early exit in his only postseason start this year was more of the same, though at least he'll have a couple of extra weeks rest this time around.
The Sabathia signing won't put the Yankees over the top by itself, particularly given that it now makes Boston the favorite to sign Teixeira to upgrade a more potent offense than the Yankees can muster and that the young and already stocked Rays have frontline starter
In all, the move makes a splash in New York by putting most of the Yankees' eggs into one very big basket and by compensating for the type of deal Cashman apparently wishes he'd made last winter. While it may pay off in the short term, it may prevent them from addressing other big needs, and could very well net them bigger headaches down the road.