Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sabathia Says He Won’t Opt Out After 2011

Did you know that C.C. Sabathia can opt out of his 7 year $161M contract after the 2011 season?  Neither did I.  As of right now, he doesn’t have any intention of exercising his “opt out” clause.

"C.C. Sabathia said whatever Cliff Lee pulls down won't lead to the Yankees' ace exercising an opt out clause in his contract after next year.

"It has no effect on me at all," Sabathia told The Post yesterday when asked if Lee's projected windfall could lead the Yankees' ace to opt out of the seven-year deal that has four years and $97 million remaining.

Sabathia said late last season he wasn't going to opt out. He has built a big house in Bergen County, which he lives in all year, and enjoys pitching for the Yankees."

While that's a nice sentiment, I have one question.  What’s the point of having an “opt out” clause if you’re not going to use it?  The last few players that exercised their “opt out” clause (J.D. Drew and A.J. Burnett come to mind) made huge scores on the free agent market.  Considering the free-for-all this offseason’s free agent market has become, Sabathia has to at least entertain the idea.  Right? 

Let's look at this rationally.  If Sabathia opts out after the 2011 season, he'll be 31 years old.  If decides to honor his contract and remain with the Yankees through 2015, he'll be 35.  At which age do you figure he'll be able to the negotiate most lucrative deal?  At 31, of course!  If Cliff Lee can get offers around 6 years $150M at age 32, what kind of offers will Sabathia get next year at age 31? 

Sabathia is an absolute workhorse.  He misses bats, possess great control, keeps the ball on the ground, and eats up innings.  Over the past five seasons, he's been one of the top five most valuable pitchers in baseball posting 31.6 WAR (6.32 per season on average).  Sabathia projects to be a 5.0-5.5 WAR pitcher in 2011, which puts him in an optimal position to clean up on the free agent market should he choose to opt out.   If he decides to wait until the end of his contract (2015), he projects to be a 3.0-3.5 WAR pitcher.  While he'd still be valuable commodity, the value of his next contract would likely be significantly smaller than the theoretical contract he could sign as a free agent next year. 

When it comes down to it, the smartest move for Sabathia is to opt out of his contract.  Yes, he'd be leaving 4 years and $97M on the table.  Yes, there's a possibility he could risk returning to the Yankees in doing so.  Still, it's too lucrative for him not to test the market.  The free agent pitching market looks to be pretty thin next season with mid-30s pitchers Mark Buehrle, Chris Carpenter, and Roy Oswalt being the cream of the crop.  In all likelihood, he'd not only re-sign with the Yankees, but also get a deal on par with the 6/$150M (or more) Lee has been offered.

I have no doubt Sabathia is being sincere right now.  I'm guessing his stance will probably change once he's told what he has to gain from opting out.

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