New York Yankees ace starting pitcher C.C. Sabathia will opt out of his contract and become a free agent, according to Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman on his Twitter feed:

The post reads: Cc sabathia is planning to opt out of his yankees contract by the monday night deadline, making him a free agent.

Sabathia had signed a seven-year, $161 million deal on Dec. 18, 2008, the largest deal for a pitcher in MLB history. Although the Yankees are believed to be the leaders for Sabathia, other teams such as the American League champion Texas Rangers and division rival Boston Red Sox will definitely be in the running to acquire the southpaw.  According to the Associated Press, the Yankees offered Sabathia a new contract over the weekend, though details were not disclosed.

Sabathia's current contract still has four years and $92 million remaining. This season with the Yankees, he went 19-8 with a 3.00 ERA and 230 strikeouts, earning him Cy Young Award candidacy, but because he faltered down the stretch somewhat, including allowing a damaging run in the Yankees' 3-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers in Game 5 of the ALDS, he was dropped from the running. In his three seasons with the Yankees, Sabathia has 64 wins (59 regular season wins and five postseason wins) with a 3.18 ERA and 624 strikeouts. For his career, he has amassed 183 wins with a 3.51 ERA and 2099 strikeouts.

If Sabathia officially decides to opt out, the 31-year-old would most likely become the top pitcher on the free-agent market. Other pitchers on the market, and ones that the Yankees can go for to replace Sabathia, include C.J. Wilson, Edwin Jackson and Mark Buehrle.

Sabathia is a power-armed lefty that doesn't come around too often. Besides posting at least 19 wins while with the Yankees, he has also thrown for at least 230 innings. Sabathia has also said in the past that he loves New York and the fans. Those signs point to him signing with the Yanks, but another big market team with significant payroll can creep up.

At the same time, while Sabathia has had success with New York, he might want a fresh start, not knowing if the Yankees' rotation will be set in stone for the next couple of years. The team doesn't know what it will get from supposed number two A.J. Burnett, and starters three through five still need to be solved among more than three pitchers.

The Yankees know, however, that they will be getting outfielder Nick Swisher and second baseman Robinson Cano for next season. The team decided to pick up both of their options.

Nevertheless, considering all the questions surrounding the Yankees' rotation, they know CC can be an asset more than a liability. He has provided the rotation's stability in his time in New York. It will be interesting to see what Sabathia's decision will be-if he will stay or leave New York or leave a fat contract on the table.