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CC Sabathia reinvented himself before the Pirates could

League Championship Series - Houston Astros v New York Yankees - Game Three Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

If you’ve paid attention to CC Sabathia the last couple years, this might seem obvious, but the 37-year-old left-hander has probably pitched his way out of being a realistic free-agent target for the Pirates this upcoming offseason.

A quick glance at this winter’s free-agent class might show Sabathia as a likely candidate for the Pirates — an older pitcher looking at a shorter, smaller contract. But it seems Sabathia has beaten the Pirates to the punch, reinventing himself before he could even ask for Ray Searage’s help. Now he’s putting up a solid enough postseason for a Yankees team that could probably use his services next year. And even if it’s not the Yankees, Sabathia looks very much the type to get $15 million or so as a Dodgers-style luxury depth piece from a more monied, or at least willing, suitor than the Pirates.

Sabathia’s lowest era from 2013 to 2015 was 4.73. With diminished velocity, he added a cutter and threw it a lot more often starting in 2016, getting some of the weakest contact in the league, turning in a pretty good 3.91 ERA in Yankee Stadium and the American League East.

He kept up with the cutter, but also threw more sliders at the expense of straight fastballs in 2017, having similar success. That’s spilled over into a solid postseason that certainly won’t hurt his free-agent value.

The numbers $10 to $12 million are being thrown about. I’m bad at this sort of thing, but I might put that number a little higher, given Sabathia’s amenable to a one- or two-year contract (and, at 37, what else are you looking for?).

Even putting aside the Pirates’ *relative* strength and depth in starting pitching, it seems that price could likely put them out of the market for Sabathia. The Pirates have lost out on veteran rebounds like Rich Hill and Scott Kazmir because teams (or in those cases, a singular team) had more money to throw after some depth starters than the Pirates did with a more pressing need. Sabathia is the perfect type of pitcher for a role in a newer Dodgers-style eight-ish-man rotation, whether that’s with the Yankees or some other, likely higher-spending competitive team for 2018.

It was questionable whether the Pirates, frustratingly satisfied to take risks with pitching depth in recent years, were going to go after a starter this offseason anyway. Sabathia’s regular- and postseason performance has made him, once a good fit, much more unlikely to end up in Pittsburgh.