C.C. Sabathia said this morning that he does not intend to opt out of his contract, but stopped short of guaranteeing a return to the Bronx next year. The left-hander can exercise an opt-out clause in his contract and hit free agency after the season if he and his agent see the opportunity for a better deal on the open market.
Sabathia appears to like New York – he has certainly pitched well since donning pinstripes – so there's no guarantee that he opts out. But we can be reasonably sure of one thing: he won't have much competition from free agent starters if he does choose to explore free agency again. Here's a look at some of the other starters who will be available after the coming season:
- Mark Buehrle – Buehrle, who could retire after the season, has logged 200 innings for ten consecutive seasons and has a career ERA of 3.85. He'll draw lots of interest if he has another strong season.
- Yu Darvish - The Japanese right-hander has ace stuff and plans to play in the Majors in 2012.
- C.J. Wilson - Wilson was fantastic last year, but he has started more than six games in a season once. Sabathia has averaged 32 starts for the last decade.
- Edwin Jackson - Jackson hasn't been nearly as consistent as his rotation-mate, Buehrle. He posted a 4.47 ERA last year and is not a top-of-the-rotation starter despite his no-hit stuff.
- Hiroki Kuroda - Kuroda has been effective in three seasons with the Dodgers, but he's five years older than Sabathia and hasn't been as dominant.
- Joel Pineiro – A capable starter, Pineiro is no Sabathia.
- Bounce-back candidates Brandon Webb, Chris Young, Javier Vazquez, Brad Penny and Jeff Francis will hit the open market.
- Adam Wainwright (vesting), Roy Oswalt (mutual), Ryan Dempster (player) and Chris Carpenter (team) could hit free agency after the season, but all have options for 2012.
It would be hard to fault Sabathia for staying put. The Yankees win and $92MM is a lot of money. But Sabathia has averaged a 3.27 ERA, 234 innings, 197 strikeouts and 20 wins in two seasons as a Yankee. Another similar campaign would put Sabathia in position to obtain more guaranteed money, especially considering the shortage of aces likely to be available in free agency.