If the Yankees win the World Series this season, C.C. Sabathia will take it as the perfect ending to his 18-year career. “I want one more parade and pretty sure that will be it,” the veteran southpaw tells George A. King III of the New York Post. Sabathia also added that he would’ve retired had the Yankees won last year’s World Series, rather than suffer a tough Game Seven loss to the Astros in the ALCS.
Sabathia turns 38 in July, so retirement was coming sooner rather than later for the former AL Cy Young Award winner. Should the Yankees again fall short in the playoffs, of course, the obvious question would be if Sabathia would be willing to stick around for one more year, since New York’s contention window doesn’t seem to be closing anytime in the foreseeable future. Health concerns will be paramount for a pitcher who has dealt with significant knee problems during his career (plus smaller but still-notable issues with his elbow, hamstring, groin, and hip), though in terms of performance, Sabathia is still a quality asset on the mound.
This late-career revival seemed unlikely at the height of Sabathia’s injury woes, when his knee injuries limited him to just 46 innings in 2014. At the time, it seemed as if Sabathia’s career would end after his five-year, $122MM extension with the Yankees was up, though a lack of shoulder-related injuries caused his $25MM option for 2017 to vest, and he managed to return as a solid, innings-eater at the back of New York’s rotation. He posted a 4.12 ERA, 7.4 K/9, and 2.48 K/BB rate over 495 2/3 innings from 2015-17, topping it off with a 2.37 ERA over 19 postseason frames last October.
There seemed little doubt of a reunion between Sabathia and the Yankees last winter, and sure enough, the left-hander rejoined the team on a one-year, $10MM contract. Thus far, Sabathia actually has the lowest ERA (1.39) of any New York hurler with more than two innings pitched, though he has received quite a bit of BABIP (.211) and strand rate (81.4%) luck thus far. Even ERA predictors, however, still paint a respectable picture (3.60 FIP, 4.42 xFIP, 4.20 SIERA) of the veteran’s performance this season. Sabathia’s strong start has been particularly helpful for a Yankees rotation that has seen Sonny Gray struggle badly, and Jordan Montgomery head to the DL with a flexor strain.