Saturday, October 8, 2011
Is Sabathia an ace when he’s had an ERA over six in an American League Divisional Series loss to Detroit? Is he an ace when you put him against Justin Verlander’s 24-5 record? Is he an ace comparable with Cliff Lee, worthy of $120 million?
Is that the Justin Verlander that had an ERA of 5.00 in Detroit’s ALDS win and a career postseason ERA of 5.58? And is that the Cliff Lee that had an ERA of 7.50 in Philadelphia’s NLDS loss to St. Louis? Or is it the Cliff Lee that’s 0-3 in his last three postseason starts with an ERA of 7.13 who’s held opposing batters to a line of .338/.370/.532?
Anyway, getting to the postseason is more important than winning once you get there. So far in his time as a Yankee, Sabathia has probably been worth more than he’s been paid because he’s been one the key factors in them getting to the postseason at all. We also have Sabathia’s dominant performance in the 2009 postseason as evidence that he doesn’t have some sort of deficiency that precludes him from being an effective pitcher in the postseason.
So then the question is how much is he likely to be worth going forward.
WAR: Baseball Reference Wins above Replacement.
Value: Value of WAR assuming $5M per win
Cost: Total Salary paid ($23M per year)
The WAR for 2009-2011 is the actual WAR accrued. The WAR/Value/Cost for 2012-2015 assumes a 0.5 WAR decline per season from 2013 (2012 is a 3-2-1 weighing of his 2009-2011 WAR) and his current contract, which pays him $23M per year for the next four years.
If the average salary is fair, then the question becomes adding years to the contract. So let’s look at in terms of each additional year.
Adding two years at the same salary seems fair. Adding the third year essentially wipes out the surplus from 2009-2011. After that, it gets dicey.
A 0.5 WAR decline may be overly optimistic, as most players in their 30s lose something closer to 0.7 WAR per year. That factors in injury/attrition/actual decline. If we use that instead of 0.5 it looks like this.
At that rate of decline, it’s a bit more risky to add years.
Two other things to consider are that I haven’t accounted for the fact that a marginal win is probably worth more for the Yankees, and that the value of a marginal win in general may increase if we ever get out of this recession.
Yet another thing to consider is that there probably is not any pitcher available in free agency that you’d rather have in 2012 than Sabathia. C.J. Wilson is probably the best 2012 free agent starter, and I doubt he’ll be better than Sabathia next year. Yu Darvish is an interesting pitcher to consider, but you wonder if the Yankees might be gun shy about him after their Kei Igawa experience and seeing the supposed best pitcher in Japan (Daisuke Matsuzaka) fail to live up to his billing.
In 2013 there are some other possible pitchers like John Danks, Cole Hamels, Dan Haren (has a team option), Francisco Liriano, Jake Peavy (team option), Anibal Sanchez, Ervin Santana(team option) and James Shields (team option). I’m not sure I’d rather have any of them than Sabathia in 2013 either. So now you have to look at trade possibilities and/or hoping that some of the young pitching in the organization develops to the point that they can be penciled into the front of the rotation.
I guess one way to think about it is this. If you could have any pitcher in baseball over the next five seasons, who would be your first pick? Who’d be your second pick? Who’d be your third pick, etc., List them out, see which ones are ahead of Sabathia, and then think about their availability. I think we’d find a pretty short list, and that once you consider availability and/or cost of acquisition you’d end up with a list with CC near the top.
Brian Cashman’s already gone on the record that the Yankees don’t expect to make many changes with the position players. The Yankees can probably get a better performance out of DH next season, but other than that they’ll be hoping that Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano don’t fall off much and that they get better performances out of a bunch of 30+ year old players. That’s not really something you want to hang your hat on. So they probably have to strengthen their pitching, and letting CC go makes that much harder.
So I think the Yankees will either extend CC before he opts out, or re-sign him once he does. And logically, they should.
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