The Toronto Blue Jays seem to have had some serious discussions with free agent veteran Sabathia. Blue Jays fans obviously know CC Sabathia quite well from his days as a member of the Cleveland Indians and more recently with the New York Yankees. While he is obviously nowhere near where he used to be, Sabathia could be a nice back of the rotation arm for the Blue Jays.
In my mind, the only way Joe Biagini starts the season in the rotation is if the Blue Jays don’t add another starter. I would find that quite hard to believe. That is why they are in the market for a starting pitcher. Much like the outfield candidates they’ve been linked too (Lorenzo Cain), it’s unlikely they’re going to bank for any of the starters they’ve been linked to, like Alex Cobb or Jake Arrieta. Instead, it’s looking more and more like unless they can pry guys away from little prospect value, they’ll be signing bargain free agents who could be good and effective. That is why we’ve seen them linked to guys like Carlos Gonzalez, Carlos Gomez, and now CC Sabathia.
The front office knows the next wave is coming and that will likely start to take affect in 2019. The current wave is nearly done. The era of Josh Donaldson as a Blue Jay is likely coming to an end when the season is over, which is why the guys the Blue Jays seem a little more strongly linked to would come on short 1-2 year deals. On a 1-2 year deal, Sabathia would definitely be worth the flier to be put in the back end of the rotation.
A season ago, Sabathia had a 1.9 fWAR, 3.69 ERA, 4.49 FIP, a 19.3 K%, and 8.0 BB%. Not bad for a guy who is on the downswing of his career. If you got the same season from Sabathia, you’d already be adding value and improving the team from the 2017 version, which couldn’t get any value from the back end of the rotation.
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Adding Sabathia would solidify the end of the rotation much like R.A. Dickey and Francisco Liriano did for the 5th spot in 2016. Dickey was worth 1.0 wins and Liriano was worth 0.7. Sabathia would surpass that combined total. Add that to a rotation that would feature Marcus Stroman, J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada, and a hopefully healthy Aaron Sanchez, and you could have an even better rotation than you did in 2016, should guys be healthy and take their turns through the rotation.
Even if Sabathia takes a small step backwards, you’d be improving on what you had in the back end of the rotation a season ago. There’s a small improvement already. Plus, the intangibles Sabathia would bring would be invaluable. He’d be a mentor to Marcus Stroman and other young arms on the 25 man roster.
The question would obviously be how much and how long the deal is. There’s been a ton of mileage on Sabathia’s left arm, yet he finished the 2017 season strong, so he may have a little something left in the tank for another year or two. Sabathia may be worth keeping around for 2019 as even more of the younger arms come up, so I’d be totally alright with a two year deal as well.
By all accounts, it does seem like the Blue Jays interest in the big left hander is legitimate. It helps that Mark Shapiro knows Sabathia quite well from his tenure in Cleveland. Ross Atkins was in the Indian’s minor league system when Sabathia was drafted as well. If the Blue Jays add a starter and given all we’ve heard, Sabathia seems to fit the bill quite nicely.