Previewing the Yankee Offseason: The CC Sabathia Opt-Out

Sabathia can become a free agent thanks to a clause in his contract

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Sabathia will likely opt out on Yankees, but they can't opt out on him.

    The Yankee season ended sooner than many people hoped, so it is now time to start looking forward to the 2012 season. This week, we'll look at five big decisions the team has to make as they prepare for the offseason.

    CC Sabathia found himself in the crosshairs for the first time last week.

    His poor start in Game Three and ineffective relief work in Game Five left him as one of the Yankee stars blamed for the team's ALDS loss to the Tigers.

    It was an unusual place for Sabathia to find himself after three years as the best starter on the team and a big reason for their success in each of those seasons.

    Sabathia's postseason struggles figure to get a lot of airplay as the offseason gets underway. Sabathia can opt out of the final four years of his contract, worth $92 million, and become a free agent.

    The reasons why the Yankees don't want that to happen should be pretty obvious. Sabathia has been 59-23 over the last three years, with a 3.05 ERA and eight strikeouts per nine innings for a team constantly searching for starting pitching.

    Those numbers are the reasons why Sabathia will opt out of his deal (or strike a new deal with the Yankees before it gets that far), because he knows that his place on the Yankees makes it a good bet that he'll wind up with more years and more money via a new contract. That doesn't mean you won't hear people coming up with reasons why Sabathia shouldn't return.

    They'll start with the fact that he's 31 with a heavy workload throughout his career and they'll continue on to his work in the second half as well as the way his weight shot up during the season. The first and last points are legit, but his second half issues boiled down to a poor August because he was pretty good in the final month of the season.

    You could come up with as many negatives as you want and it wouldn't wind up mattering, though.

    The Yankees are going to wind up giving Sabathia more money and more years because they are in the exact same position now as they were when they were desperate enough to give Sabathia the opt-out clause three years ago. Their rotation is filled with more questions than answers, the market for elite starters isn't robust and Sabathia represents the best option for the Yankees to go where they want to go in the next few years so they will use money to assure that he doesn't head anywhere else.

    That doesn't mean the concerns aren't well-founded or that Sabathia's contract won't wind up looking terrible come 2015. It just means that the Yankees haven't left themselves any options.

    When you refuse to acknowledge anything other than a championship as a productive season, you can't let a player like Sabathia walk away because he is likely to wind up being worth much less than you're paying him.

    It is the same philosophy that led them to re-sign Alex Rodriguez after he exercised his own opt-out clause.

    Fans like to howl about how much money players make when they're judged to be underperforming, but they would howl even louder if the Yankees said they didn't feel Sabathia was a smart investment so they are going to build a rotation around Ivan Nova, Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances.

    That would possibly mean not contending for a year or two and that's not acceptable to the team, the fans or the media in this town.

    So Sabathia will be back with a hefty new contract that's bound to make him a pariah at some point in the future, which is all that anybody really wants when you get right down to it.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.