If Sabathia is done as a Yankee, the Orioles need to make a solid push for him this offseason - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Dan Connolly

If Sabathia is done as a Yankee, the Orioles need to make a solid push for him this offseason

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

The narrative is set for Game 5 of the American League Division Series tonight in Cleveland.

The Indians, the AL’s best team, are trying to advance to the next round of the playoffs, and the man that’s trying to stop them is New York Yankees’ lefty CC Sabathia, who spent his first eight big league seasons with Cleveland and won the AL Cy Young for the Tribe in 2007.

That’s some pretty thick drama there – even thicker when you consider the Indians are countering Sabathia with right-hander Corey Kluber, the expected 2017 AL Cy Young Award winner. So, the Indians’ Cy Present versus its Cy Past, with the winner’s club advancing to the ALCS versus the Houston Astros.

This doesn’t need more storylines, but I’ll offer you another: This could be Sabathia’s last game in a Yankees’ uniform. His contract expires at season’s end. And there is no guarantee that he stays in the Bronx in 2018.

If that is the case, and Sabathia is on the open market, he should be high on the Orioles’ list for next year. So high, in fact, that I could argue that he is the Orioles’ best overall fit available in free agency.

Yes, I realize he turns 38 in July, his halcyon days are far behind him and that he’s had personal issues. Yes, I know his monstrous frame – he’s listed as 6-foot-6, 300 pounds – and persistent knee issues would give majority owner Peter Angelos and club vice president/health guru Brady Anderson night sweats throughout the duration of any contract.

I also know that to get Sabathia to sign in Baltimore, the Orioles likely would have to overpay given Camden Yards, the AL East, a last-place squad, yadda, yadda, yadda.

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And, even if the Orioles offered an overpay, the safe bet is that Sabathia stays with the Yankees. It has been his baseball home for nine seasons, and the Northern California native and his family apparently have settled in quite nicely in New Jersey.

At this point, it’s probably all about comfortability and having a chance to win for Sabathia. Plus, there’s no reason the Yankees shouldn’t want him back. He was 14-7 with a 3.69 ERA in 27 starts this season and has been given the ball in a do-or-die game tonight. He also relishes the mentor role with the younger pitchers on the Yankees’ pitching staff and in their clubhouse.

And that’s one of the primary reasons I say the Orioles should go hard after Sabathia this winter if the Yankees blink.

OK, let’s all step back for one moment.

What the Orioles need most is a legitimate ace atop their rotation. I understand that. We all know it. But the reality is it’s not going to happen through free agency this winter. Let’s just accept that and move on.

There are only two ace-types available; old friend Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish. They’ll both be highly coveted and even more highly expensive. Again, for the Orioles to land any coveted free-agent pitcher, they are gonna have to overpay. And the overpay for a Darvish or Arrieta would be so far out of the Orioles’ comfort zone, it’s not worth spending more time writing about it. I’ll type it again slowly: It’s not gonna happen.

Now there are some lower-tier, rather intriguing pitchers on the market including Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb, among others. They, too, will have plenty of options that don’t include pitching half their games at Camden Yards.

Let’s just say I’m not particularly optimistic that the Orioles’ rotation gets a huge boost from the free-agent pool. So, if they aren’t landing an ace, they must target two to three pitchers who can fit their needs. And Sabathia is a solid start to that list.

He is a lefty, which the Orioles desperately covet.

Sabathia won’t be equaling the $25 million he made in 2017, but he’ll still get a healthy salary next year, though he’ll likely will be limited to a one-year deal (maybe one and an option or two years). And that fits for an Orioles team that may be blowing things up after next season anyway.

Sabathia has a track record in the AL East – he’s 69-48 with a 3.77 ERA in more than 1,000 combined innings against the Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays (he’s actually an awful 1-8 with a 6.16 ERA in nine starts versus the Yankees, but hasn’t pitched against them since April 2008).

He also has solid numbers over the years at Camden Yards, 11-7 with a 3.58 ERA in 25 starts (though he allowed seven earned runs in two games there this year).

And he is a veteran who has been through highs and lows, whether it was battling alcoholism or the pressure of 20 postseason starts.

Those experiences might be even more valuable for this Orioles team than just taking the ball every fifth day. Despite how bad they were in 2017, Ubaldo Jimenez, Chris Tillman and Wade Miley were good influences on the younger starters, Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, when it came to work ethic, attitude and accountability.

There will be a leadership void there in 2018, and it’s an important role that needs to be filled. Mike Mussina and Ben McDonald will tell you that perhaps the most significant impact on their careers occurred in 1992, when the Orioles signed veteran Rick Sutcliffe, who continually tutored the talented youngsters on the nuances of pitching.

It certainly wouldn’t hurt Gausman and Bundy to have a Sutcliffe type by their sides. Sabathia has that kind of rep.

And the addition of Sabathia for the Orioles would be a subtraction of Sabathia from the Yankees, for what that’s worth.

Ultimately, I don’t see Sabathia leaving New York. My guess is he retires from there. But if he were to leave, the Orioles should be motivated to make a play.

He won’t solve all their pitching woes. He won’t fill the ace slot. But he could help in several different ways.

To paraphrase manager Buck Showalter, the club shouldn’t overlook a 300-pound orchid while searching for a rose – or for an ace.

56 Comments

56 Comments

  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    October 11, 2017 at 8:17 am

    I agree Dan … he’d be a perfect fit. But at what cost. You say one or two years … but what kind of salary are we talking about here? I know you say “healthy” .. but what does that mean?

    If I’m playing Dan Duquette for a day … I’m offering a guaranteed 3 years at 15 million per. That’s 45 big ones .. small change considering today’s market, and let’s face it, it’s all about next year. The heck with the 2nd and 3rd years.

    What kind of numbers would the rest of you Danny-D-Wanna-Bes suggest?

    • Dan Connolly

      October 11, 2017 at 8:37 am

      I would never go 3 years. That defeats the whole purpose. I’m not sure Id go two. But 1 or 1 and an option? Sure. I’m not all that concerned with the money figure. It’s come off the books quickly.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        October 11, 2017 at 9:24 am

        I don’t think there’s any way the O’s could get him for a year unless it was somewhere above his current $25 million. It’s gong to take a whole lot of guaranteed money … that’s why I’d suggest 3, realizing that anything past year one would be gravy.

        • Jbiglen48

          October 13, 2017 at 8:25 am

          CC has made a boatload over his career. I think that could be a key factor here. He may be more inclined to find a place he wants to be rather than the biggest dollar offer. 2/28-30 I think is reasonable for him.

  2. GSISDANNO

    October 11, 2017 at 8:17 am

    Every time C.C. Sabathia pitches, it could be his last appearance. Throwing a bunch of money at Sabathia makes no sense. He is 38 and he has thrown a lot of pitches. Sabathia’s best days are way behind him. We would be better off getting Bartolo Colon. He would be a lot cheaper too.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      October 11, 2017 at 8:25 am

      Disagree Danno … 38 is the new 28 … and don’t discount the power of the arthroscope. But Bartolo …. hmmmmm … good call … sign him up as well! Hah!

    • Dan Connolly

      October 11, 2017 at 8:41 am

      For comparison’s sake: Sabathia was 14-5 with a 3.69 ERA in 148 2/3 IP. And he is 37. And is left-handed. And knows the AL East. Colon is 44 and was 7-14 with a 6.48 in 143 innings. In NL East & AL Central in 2017. But yes. He’d be cheaper.

  3. Orial

    October 11, 2017 at 8:21 am

    Totally agree with everything you said. One ray of hope for it to happen is that Yankees might just let him go. They have Pineida coming back,youth in the organization. Baltimore is really not that far from NJ. This team does desperately need a veteran. That being said I can see Angelos focusing on that knee of his. Crash–no deal. We can only hope. Hey Dan how well do you know Peter? what’s his favorite restaurant? See what power of persuasion you have.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 11, 2017 at 8:42 am

      My opinion means nothing on the grand scale. But I do know where he likes to dine.

    • Ben1

      October 11, 2017 at 9:28 pm

      little Italy for lunch

    • Jbiglen48

      October 13, 2017 at 8:28 am

      Pineda is a FA at seasons end and will miss at least half of next year coming off TJ. Yankees might have some interesting rotation decisions next season because only Gray, severino, and Jordan Montgomery are signed. That’s if Tanaka opts out, but the way CC has been this postseason they may want to keep him around to fill out that rotation, particularly if Tanaka walks.

  4. bv22

    October 11, 2017 at 9:32 am

    Personally, I think he’s done and not worth the money. Bringing him in is the equivalent of bringing in Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome, or Sammy Sosa after their best years were behind them. The O’s are better off going after Darvish with all of their freed up money- the guy pitched successfully in Texas for years and would work here too (both stadiums are small, temperature is hot in both places during the summer too). One other thing to consider with CC- Baltimore is the city where he had his last major booze binge that sent him to rehab. That alone might make him not wanna come here due to the bad memories/experiences….

    • Dan Connolly

      October 11, 2017 at 9:53 am

      OK. Darvish isn’t coming here. He’s. Not. Coming. Here. I’d rather have Darvish too. By a long shot. But why would he choose Baltimore when he’ll have 10 other options??? Not to mention the Orioles won’t be going 5 years or more on a FA starter. Certainly not one with elbow history. Please let us move on from Darvish and Arrieta before free agency begins. Please.

  5. ZantiGM

    October 11, 2017 at 9:40 am

    Dan, i love your site and respect your views and opinions BUT could not disagree more

    • Dan Connolly

      October 11, 2017 at 9:53 am

      That’s the beauty of this site Z. So long as we are all cordial, disagree passionately.

  6. Creatively_19

    October 11, 2017 at 10:04 am

    Danno,

    I thought liquor laws say that bartenders can’t drink while on the job? Oh this isn’t the tap-room? Okay, carry on then.

    No seriously? How much money do you want the O’s to throw into Sabathia? I’m not saying he wouldn’t pitch okay for the Orioles, but why do the O’s need to spend $20 million on a 1 year deal for a #3 pitcher? Heck, even if we offered him that I can’t imagine he wouldn’t sign for less just to stay in New York. We’d essentially be bidding against ourselves for his services, and you know how that worked out with Crush Davis. I’m with ZantiGM on this… I respect you and your opinions but I couldn’t disagree with you more on this.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 11, 2017 at 10:42 am

      19: obviously what the money is is the most salient point. But why spend a lot on a no. 3 pitcher? Because they don’t have one. Because their legitimate possibilities of getting one involve a much longer deal and more $ overall. And because having the right guy to pair with Gausman and Bundy would be huge in their development. Plus, if he pitches to a sub-4.00 ERA for a third straight season in the AL East that’s ace stuff on this staff. And I’m only half in the bag with that last statement.

  7. Wade Warren

    October 11, 2017 at 10:08 am

    I am more for bringing Alex Cobb here. Always liked him

    • ZantiGM

      October 11, 2017 at 10:12 am

      I have liked Cobb since he came up BUT he will end up out of our price range and may get a 4-5 yr deal…Lynn may be out of our range too because of so many teams interested

    • Dan Connolly

      October 11, 2017 at 10:43 am

      Well, me too, Wade. But you’ll have to majorly overpay. Camden Yards is not a premium destination for a coveted free agent pitcher.

      • Jbiglen48

        October 13, 2017 at 8:34 am

        You think we’d have to overpay for Cobb? I think he’s looking at a 4-5 year deal in the 64-80 million range regardless. But he’s not durable. He’s never came close to tossing 200 innings. And for those saying CC is done or the equivalent to thome, Sosa, etc. have you watched him this postseason? This guy was an elite pitcher who knows how to pitch even though he’s lost some of his velo on the mound. That’s something the orioles don’t have. He’s a major leaguer, and a guy who you could give the ball in a big game.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 13, 2017 at 10:41 am

      I think 5 years, even possibly 4 years, on Cobb is an overpay. Durability issues and transition from the Trop are concerns for me. But no doubt he can pitch.

  8. Bancells Moustache

    October 11, 2017 at 10:42 am

    In the Halloween spirit, I must invoke those two words which so frighten agents and veteran pitchers; Orioles physical. Tough to see a 38 year old recovering alcoholic with knee issues who is built like a dump truck driver making it past the all seeing eye of the Baltimore medical staff. You do that and it falls through, you’ve lost some extremely valuable time in an extremely competitive pitching market. It’s a good idea, they should be able to squeeze some solid innings out of him, I just don’t see it happening.

    Unrelated question Dan: With Farrell getting the axe in Beantown, that organization’s tendency toward the big splash and the (supposed) tension between the two primary decision makers here, how certain are we that Mr. Showalter hasn’t received a phone call from the 617 area code?

    • Schwarzstop

      October 11, 2017 at 11:46 am

      Red Sox GM Dombrowski said during his press conference you don’t go after managers still under contract with another team and I believe him. He seems like a straight shooter. And there are enough out of work managers available making a call to someone not available unnecessary.

      Sabbathia… I don’t see it happening. Don’t think he’d get through the Oriole physical. I think it’s more likely we sign Tillman to a one year deal!

    • Dan Connolly

      October 11, 2017 at 5:33 pm

      It’s really moot in my opinion. Buck has a year on his contract. That’s a hurdle that I doubt anyone potentially involved would attempt to leap.

  9. Raymo

    October 11, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    Regarding CC’s possible role as a mentor, why do the youngsters need a mentor who is on the roster? Isn’t that the pitching coach’s role?

    • Dan Connolly

      October 11, 2017 at 5:35 pm

      A pitching coach is responsible for 12-13 guys. He’s not with everyone 24-7. Best teaching moments is when a veteran is sitting with youngsters during a game watching others. A Pitching coach is pretty busy during that time.

    • Raymo

      October 11, 2017 at 6:41 pm

      Thanks

  10. Birdman

    October 11, 2017 at 12:51 pm

    With or without Sabathia, don’t see the Orioles contending in 2018, might as well see what Castro and Ynoa can do … In terms of the future of the team over the next 4-5 years, wouldn’t it make more sense to direct any surplus cash towards trying to sign Machado and/or Schoop to an extension?

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      October 11, 2017 at 1:08 pm

      I don’t agree that the O’s can’t contend next year, but I do agree … and I do I think that we WILL see what Castro & Ynoa can do. But that still doesn’t eliminate the O’s need to find at least 2 decent arms from outside the organization.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 11, 2017 at 5:37 pm

      The last thing this team wants to do for 2018 is begin the season seeing what Ynoa and Castro can do. They have to be fallback options not already in the rotation.

      • crawjo

        October 11, 2017 at 8:32 pm

        Yes, thank you. Castro’s peripherals are truly abysmal. Ynoa is scarcely any better.

        • Jbiglen49

          October 14, 2017 at 4:34 pm

          Ynoa’s peripherals aren’t half bad. He doesn’t walk guys like Castro. He has a good fastball but I don’t know if he has a 3rd secondary pitch that’s effective enough to get guys out a 3rd time through the order. Castro definitely doesn’t have a 3rd pitch and he walks guys. Castro has better velocity but that’s about it. I’d say Ynoa will be the better of the 2, though I’m not sure either one has what it takes to be a MLB starter. To me, Castro’s skill set would scream stay in the bullpen. It probably would for 29 other MLB teams but it doesn’t for the birds. I understand we need starters but you can’t just make one because you need one.

    • Jbiglen48

      October 13, 2017 at 8:57 am

      What are the odds both ynoa and Castro are decent starters? I’d say very low. What are the chances one of them is a decent starter? I’d say under 50%. God forbid one of our starters go down, then you’ve got both of them in the rotation or of course Alec Asher. The orioles not bringing in 3 pitchers is just kicking the can down the road and costing us potential wins. Even if that guy you bring in to be a 5th starter is a reclamation project/DD dumpster dive . If you don’t bring one in we’re either not good enough to contend around the trade deadline or you’re looking at another hellickson/miley type after you’ve already cost your team 3-4 wins by not suring up the position in the offseason.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 13, 2017 at 10:39 am

      Agreed

  11. karks

    October 11, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    CC would be someone who I think could be a mentor and also be effective enough on the field. I remember thinking that way about Greg Maddux before he ended his career in San Diego & LA. There is a value having a guy who has accomplished so much and can be a help to younger pitchers.

    When it comes to bringing in pitchers, the Orioles seem to have too many “yeah, buts”. So I’m afraid unless they find a diamond in the rough (like Chen was for a few years) or draft really well, they aren’t getting quality pitching from any other source. I understand not throwing money and guys like Jake or Darvish, but you have to open up the wallet sometime or live with the same weaknesses every year.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 11, 2017 at 5:41 pm

      Karks: Its not a matter of opening up the wallet. It’s about spending a HUGE amount of money on a risky proposition: aging starting pitching. To get a highly coveted SP to come to Baltimore – including one who already gets the Camden Yards pitching experience — you have to. Low everyone away. And the amount of money they are already gonna get will be mind-blowing.

  12. garyintheloo

    October 11, 2017 at 2:07 pm

    So following the threads here Dan that would give us a rotation of Bundy, Gausman, CC, and Tillman. That would not work for me as CC would have better choices and Tillman should want new scenery as I wasn’t a big fan anyway. What are your pitching trade options for the reloading Orioles since the readers don’t seem to have any sacred cows?

    • Dan Connolly

      October 11, 2017 at 5:42 pm

      That’s so hard to tell. As we’ve seen recently, if teams are dealing ace-types they expect the farm.

  13. IndyOriole

    October 11, 2017 at 4:14 pm

    I absolutely agree Dan. I’ve been thinking the same myself. Yes we’d have to overpay but he likely would be at least decent. Provides veteran leadership and a lefty arm. Best part is that he only fills a rotation slot for one year.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 11, 2017 at 5:44 pm

      Yep. Overpaying for CC isn’t like overpaying for an Arrieta. You are probably talking a couple million extra for one year versus tens of millions over years.

  14. PA Bird Lover

    October 11, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    CC if we could; Lynn and Cobb if we spend for both.
    Trade Manny now if one of the five pieces we get is an ace.
    Trade Trumbo for a reliever. Move Jones to right. Sign Tillman and Miley cheap cheap.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 11, 2017 at 8:49 pm

      Really doubt one team gets Lynn and Cobb. Most teams need rotation help.

  15. Wade Warren

    October 11, 2017 at 5:54 pm

    for starters let’s see what we could get for Gausman

    • Dan Connolly

      October 11, 2017 at 8:49 pm

      Interesting thought. But that is trading from a weakness. Not from a strength.

    • Jbiglen48

      October 13, 2017 at 8:38 am

      I’ve seen the idea of trading gausman tossed around, but why? It seems to me we’d be trading him at a min. There’s really no starting pitcher out there that you can get back for him that has higher upside. I see no advantage to trading a guy with that much potential in your biggest area of need.

  16. The Wedge

    October 11, 2017 at 6:01 pm

    Big ol’ pass on CC. Rather bring back Tilly and MGon and call it an offseason (rotation-wise, anyway).

    • Dan Connolly

      October 11, 2017 at 8:50 pm

      I could see that.

  17. crawjo

    October 11, 2017 at 8:30 pm

    I’d rather they go the Cashner/Lynn route, if possible. Actually, I’d rather they rebuild, because just talking about these kinds of signings like they would be game-changers is so depressing. Sabathia might be a good pickup, but he’s not turning a losing team into a World Series contender.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 11, 2017 at 8:53 pm

      Cashner concerns me. He had a good season, but struggled the couple years before that. Hasn’t strung 2 good/healthy ones together in a while. And he’s gonna get three or more years.

  18. Ben1

    October 11, 2017 at 9:25 pm

    You have lost me. There must be younger options that can provide multiple years to develop into an Oriole HOF member.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 11, 2017 at 11:47 pm

      Pitchers that demand multiple years will also command lots of competition. Don’t see the Orioles winning those. Just my opinion — based on past precedent.

  19. OsFanStuckInNY

    October 11, 2017 at 10:07 pm

    I think they’d have better odds signing Mussina.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 11, 2017 at 11:48 pm

      He is available.

  20. John in Cincy

    October 16, 2017 at 2:11 am

    “What the Orioles need most is a legitimate ace atop their rotation. I understand that. We all know it. But the reality is it’s not going to happen through free agency this winter. Let’s just accept that and move on.”
    …………………………………………………………
    If by “accept” you mean to acknowledge that the Orioles will again refuse to spend the necessary money to secure the ace the rotation so desperately needs, that that’s the state of affairs at the warehouse, then, sure, it’s a given.

    But that’s a far cry from accepting this as the proper way to be building a championship caliber team, which I don’t. Yes, I’ve heard the tired cliche (maybe from you, too, Dan, as it’s popular) that it’s not a good idea to go after free agent established front end starters because they seldom are a solution.

    However, that flies in the face of established facts: Contracts to such pitchers have been successes more often than not, and are the kind of deals that the really good teams make again and again to stay aloft in the standings. I’m thinking of such free agent signings since around 1990 of pitchers as Roger Clemens, David Cone, Aroldis Chapman, Randy Johnson, Andrew Miller, Jack Morris, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, David Price, Nolan Ryan, C.C. Sabathia, Dave Stewart, and Masahiro Tanaka, to name a few. To try and refute it is a lie the O’s keep telling themselves.

    As for signing the Sabathia of today, it’s a really dicey proposition. It’s true he had a good season for New York and was quite impressive in his start against the Cleveland, but even best case scenario he’s not the innings-eater he once was and the Orioles
    need starters who can keep them from wearing down the bullpen like this season.

    Then there’s the question of how many quality starts he has left in him. The past two years were like his Indian summer, but they followed a brutal three-season stretch of 2013-2015, where his composite ERA was around 5.00.

    With that, his age and his recent injuries (can his knee really be depended on much longer), the red flags are writ large all over the place. Yes, if the O’s sign him it might work, but it could blow up in their faces big time, too. And here’s a pitcher who hadn’t made less than $24M a year for nearly a decade–even that season, his first with the Yankees in 2008, he still got $15+M, and I can’t see him making less in 2018. Should the O’s make a $15M roll of the dice? That’s what it comes down to.

    My concern is we’re looking at another year where they end up with more Ubaldos, Wades & Jeremys in 2018, and that’s not going to get the job done.

    • Jbiglen49

      October 16, 2017 at 11:37 am

      You can pick and choose and make the story fit any narrative. Some of those guys you listed are relievers and Miller’s deal wasn’t a particularly big one. Not sure chapman will be worth the money in the end either, he hasn’t looked quite so dominant this year. I can easily fire back at your examples with James shields, Matt Cain, homer bailey, johnny cueto (so far), David price, tim lincecum, Felix Hernandez,. If you want to go down a tier wei yen chen Ian Kennedy, ubaldo Jimenez, matt Harrison, etc. I don’t think the huge contract is solely a pitching issue though. Though I think the market has corrected itself and we will be One of the last teams left with a chris Davis like deal. It’s at least corrected itself for high K sluggers anyway….

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