THERE’S NO DEBATE that Brian Cashman and the New York Yankees made a big mistake not trading for Johan Santana last winter.
Now there’s a danger that Cashman and Co. will make an even bigger mistake by relentlessly pursuing this winter’s top free agent – CC Sabathia – whatever the cost.
With Santana, the Yanks, despite their many injury problems and lack of hitting, would probably have made the playoffs.
But while Santana (29) and Sabathia (28) have several things in common – namely, they’re No. 1 pitchers who overpower hitters with their velocity and movement – they’re built very differently.
Santana, who stands 6ft 0in tall and weighs 208lbs, is a cruiserweight in baseball terms. At 6ft 7in and 290lbs, Sabathia is a super heavyweight.
Santana pitched 234.1 innings this season for an ERA of 2.53. Sabathia has thrown 253 innings (ERA 2.70) and he’s not done yet.
CC may have too many miles on the clock
It was largely thanks to Sabathia and his ability to pitch well on short rest that the Milwaukee Brewers scraped into the play-offs as a wild card. Now they’re asking Sabathia to pitch in game two against the Philadelphia Phillies, again on three days’ rest, so that he’s available to go in game five should the NL divisional series go that far.
The Brewers, who don’t have the financial clout to compete with baseball’s billionaires for Sabathia’s services long term, have certainly got their money’s worth since acquiring him from the Cleveland Indians in a trade at the start of July.
Any potential bidders, even a club as desperate for starting pitching as the Yankees, must be wary that his heavy workload might take its toll next season.
So far, Sabathia, the American League Cy Young Award winner in 2007, has proved remarkably resilient. His 94-98 mph fastball, 10-to-4 slider and excellent command will lead to one club breaking the bank to give him a long-term contract worth more than $20 million a year.
Reports say that Sabathia, who is a building a house in Orange County, California, favors playing on the West Coast and in the National League. That would no doubt be a big disappointment for Cashman and the Yankees. Yet it could prove a blessing in disguise.
They might well be better served signing a younger, less exposed pitcher (someone like 24-year-old Zack Greinke of the Kansas City Royals), who has a better chance of staying healthy for the next five to seven years.
Sabathia may be the Rolls Royce of pitching…but even a ‘Roller' can break down when it’s got that many miles on the clock.