On Wednesday, Brian Cashman caused some ripples throughout Yankees’ Universe when he proclaimed CC Sabathia would have to earn his way into the Yankees’ rotation. Many are speculating there’s a chance Sabathia could end up in the bullpen despite his eight digit salary and nine digit contract.
Make no mistake, this is not going to happen.
Cashman’s sentiments are nice and all, and hopefully will serve as a spark Sabathia needs to have himself a productive spring and feel good come April, but there’s not a lot of rationale behind the comments. Sabathia is signed through 2017 with a small chance his contract expires at the end of this season, but only if he suffers from specific shoulder injuries. This is also probably less likely to happen pitching out of the bullpen.
Weird contract loophole aside, Sabathia is here for two more years and Ivan Nova is in a contract year. The Yankees will head into Spring Training with six viable starters. We know Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi are guaranteed spots in the rotation.
Though I would prefer him to spend 4-6 weeks in the minor leagues for contract and innings purposes and to see if Nova can generate enough positive press to be traded, we know Luis Severino is more than likely taking the fourth spot as the Yankees’ starter with front-end upside.
So with all of that said, Nova and Sabathia are technically battling for one spot, if you don’t take my wait and see approach and store Severino in the minors until sometime in May. Under this assumption, the job will be Sabathia’s barring injury.
Say what you want about his salary, but Sabathia did finally check into rehab and he was pitching well to end last season. He is in as good of shape as Sabathia stays in and yes, his contract does make a difference. There is a very small chance Brian Cashman is going to sit there and move the lefty and his contract, more than four times larger than Nova’s, into a bullpen with three other lefties already committed to it and have him take Adam Warren’s long relief role. Not when Nova is in a walk year and not going to get the Yankees a return pick and not going to resign next year.
So if given the option between a post-rehab, decent shape, knee brace utilizing, high paid, Sabathia, pitching like a fifth starter for two more years or turning to a pitcher in a walk year who will not yield any value regardless of his performance, pitching after a disastrous season who never had Sabathia’s upside in the first place….Well, the decision is a pretty logical one.
The only way Nova is in the rotation come April is in the case of an injury.