The news of CC Sabathia's early offseason progress came out last week and reaction among Yankee fans was understandably "meh". That's what happens when you've had the kind of poor last few seasons that Sabathia has had, and it all seemed to come to a head in 2015. The performance was still bad, the health was still not good, and Sabathia finally had to confront an alcohol problem that he's been dealing with for the last few years. There was already little reason to expect much from Sabathia in 2016, and it wouldn't be completely unfair to say his latest problems make it even less likely that he'll be a positive contributor. And yet he will remain in the rotation. Joe and Cash have each already said as much in previous interviews and meetings with the media, and the current state of the rest of the Yankee rotation pretty much necessitates it. The depth isn't there, the collective health and injury risk factor is sky high, and the Yankees are severely limited in what they can add to help those issues thanks to their trusty 2-way, self-enforced limitation on spending money and trading away top prospects. At the absolute least, Sabathia is going to be the team's #5 starter on Opening Day. Based on what he's shown the past few seasons, that's not a good sign for the Yankees' chances in 2016.
But should we be taking his offseason workout progress more seriously? Should this news of CC being "light years ahead" of where he's been the last few offseasons not be completely brushed off as the introduction to another stereotypical "best shape of his career" ST story? The reason Sabathia is so far ahead of where he's been the last few offseasons is because he's healthy. That sounds stupidly simple and it is, but that hasn't been the case the last few offseasons. Those have been spent recovering from surgeries and working on delayed/modified workout schedules. Not this year. CC's pitching arm is healthy and his knees are healthy, well as healthy are they're going to be. He's been throwing all offseason and it sounds like he's been working out hard. He hasn't been able to do those things the last couple of years and we've seen the results. I'd like to think those results can improve a little when the guy is able to complete a full, normal offseason workout routine.
Don't forget that CC did lead the Yankee staff with 167.1 innings pitched in 2015, and he looked better in his final few starts after a late August DL stint and return with his knee new brace. He's going to be wearing that brace for every start in 2016 and that should help the wear and tear that we know is going to build up on the right knee. Between the brace, the extra rest, and the 2-week DL stint, maybe the Yankees learned some things about how to keep Sabathia fresher over the course of a full season. Factor in the positive start to his offseason workouts and perhaps the light isn't entirely snuffed out on Sabathia's career. Chances are he's going to be more bad than good next year and it seems like everybody is already prepared for that outcome. But if there's even a small chance he's got a little something left, simply being healthier than he's been the last few offseasons should be taken as a positive sign. We already know he can't be effective anymore when he's hurt. It'd be nice to see what he can do when he's healthy.