Are the Yanks at Sabathia levels with Lee?

What Went Right: Nick Swisher
Josh Hamilton takes home AL MVP Award

Sometimes a huge detail slips through the cracks. That happens often during the hot stove season. Yet, even as I’ve kept abreast of most developments, this Tim Brown column at Yahoo escaped my attention yesterday. That’s a shame, because it contained quite the interesting tidbit:

An industry source said Monday the Yankees have offered Cliff Lee(notes) nearly $140 million over six years, but Lee continues to hold out for a seventh year.

On the RAB Radio Show yesterday I predicted that Lee would eventually sign for those six years and that $140 million. But until Brown published that column all we’d heard is that the Yankees “are in the $115 – $120 million range for five years.” We hadn’t even heard they’d made that a formal offer. For them to offer six years at $140 million at this point seems a bit unbelievable.

If true, I don’t think Lee will hold out for that seventh year for much longer. No team, not even the Rangers, is likely to match six years at $140 million. Lee might be trying to coax it out of someone, but once it’s clear that no one will bite I imagine he’d sign that contract with a mile-wide grin on his face. That might not be the largest total contract for a pitcher, it would provide Lee with the highest average annual value for a pitcher in history. Considering his age, I think that’s as big a win as he can expect.

Still, something about this doesn’t make sense. Why would the Yankees make this offer right at the start? How did everyone let this tidbit slip for a full day without regurgitating it? I really don’t think the Yankees would offer a sixth year on their own volition. Rather, they’d do so in reaction to an increased bid by Texas. Again, I think the Yankees eventually get to that 6/140 spot, but I’m not sure they’d try to blow away Lee with it in the same manner they did Sabathia. But it’s possible, I guess.

As Mike and I discussed on yesterday’s show, chances are Lee won’t sign until the Winter Meetings. We’d all love a Thanksgiving present, but with Lee reportedly seeking to induce a bidding war, there’s little to no chance of that happening. His next press conference, I expect, will be at Yankee Stadium. But I wouldn’t bank on that until December.

What Went Right: Nick Swisher
Josh Hamilton takes home AL MVP Award
  • Accent Shallow

    Giving Cliff Lee 6-7 years would be crazy. You can give Sabathia that contract because of his (relative) youth.

    • JGS

      On the other hand, Lee has far fewer miles on his arm, and doesn’t rely on velocity. Those guys tend to age better. It’s still a huge risk, but no more so than giving any pitcher a long term deal.

      • Accent Shallow

        Everything I can recall states that high K pitchers tend to age better. Lee has a good, but not overwhelming K rate.

        • vin

          But at the same time, most high K pitchers throw in the mid (sometimes to upper) 90s. As they age, their FB will inevitably decline. A 91 mph fastball is still enough to get by if you’ve got command, a breaking ball, and knowledge of how to pitch.

          My assumption is that the guys who struggle in their mid-late 30s are those who succeed with a good enough fastball when they’re relatively young. The hard throwers can regress to 2009 Javy Vazquez, while the average velocity guys turn into 2010 Javy Vazquez.

          Although Cliff Lee doesn’t throw in the mid to upper 90s, he does defy convention because his command and movement are both excellent. If 2010 Javy could command his pitches half as well as Cliff Lee, then he would’ve had a repeat to 2009.

          Blasphemy aside, Cliff Lee is the Mariano Rivera of starters. He doesn’t have knock-out stuff, but all he does is dominate. And when guys get the bat on the ball, he induces AWFUL contact. Not to mention the times he gets the backwards K because he can throw any pitch in any count to any part of the plate.

          I can’t imagine many pitchers aging as well as Cliff.

          • SodaPopinski

            I was thinking of pitchers who age well, without “dominating” stuff, and thought of Greg Maddux.

            The good news is that Maddux’s performance decline was very gradual, and was still pretty good all the way until retiring at 42. The bad news is that looking at Maddux’s stats, he was ridiculously good for a really long time, and is truly in a class above Lee. I’m looking at it now, and wow, Maddux really earned himself an amazing pile of stats. This type of decline would be a best case scenario, and would be fantastic.



            The big unknown with Lee is that he has really only been good for a short time. No one really knows how he’ll do going forward.

      • Andy In Sunny Daytona

        While “miles on the arm” are important, you can’t hide from father time. 39 is 39.

        • Steve H

          Andy Pettitte both has miles on his arm and is about to be 39. Sure he’s an outlier, but Lee has similar qualities that lead to him being awesome (and better than Pettitte ever was). I don’t want to give Lee 6 or 7 years, but am I going to be pissed? Probably not. Are years 6 and 7 guaranteed to be disasters? Definitely not.

          • Andy In Sunny Daytona

            Pettitte also missed significant time with a groin injury. Once the legs start going on a pitcher, it’s only a matter of time before everything else breaks down.

            • Clay Bellinger

              What? It’s not like he tore his ACL. His groin will be completely fine by next year.

              • Andrew

                I think the issue is more that, as pitchers get older they are more prone to pulls, strains, etc., and also these injuries can both linger for longer than they might for a guy in their 20s. It’s also possible they might overcompensate for a leg injury they are trying to gut through and end up screwing up their arms in the process. General fragility is as big or bigger of an issue with older pitchers, as well as the mileage on the arm.

                • Clay Bellinger

                  I agree with all of that. I just don’t agree with Pettitte being the comparative. The dude pulled his groin. It happens, it doesn’t mean it’s a sign of things to come. So Phil Hughes pulled his hammy when he was a kid. His arm looks fine.

                  • Ed

                    It could be a freak thing. But look at the last few years of Clemens’s career. He had repeated leg issues. He was able to combat that for a while by starting his seasons late, but eventually that wasn’t enough to avoid it.

            • Steve H

              He did this year, but this was the lowest innings total of his Yankee career. Are his legs shot? Maybe, maybe not. Young guys pull groins too so we can’t necessarily attribute that solely to his age.

              • Andy In Sunny Daytona

                No. You can’t attribute the groin pull to age, but there is an argument that his age had something to do with the athletic movement he made to get to the ball.

                I’m not hoping Andy, or Cliff, break down. All I’m saying is that age is not kind to anyone. Do I still want Andy to come back? Absolutely. Would I be surprised if he has a poor year? No. Do I want Cliff Lee pitching for the Yankees next year? Hells yeah. Would I be surprised if after 35 he totally sucks because of age? Nope.

                My interview with myself is now over.

                • Accent Shallow

                  Would I be surprised if after 35 he totally sucks because of age? Nope.

                  This is what worries me the most. Sure, Cliff Lee could be awesome for the next 7 years or so.

                  But I wouldn’t want to bet >20M per on it.

                • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

                  I’m with you on this one. We all want to look at this thing in the best light possible, which is only natural, but there is a definite and very real risk in giving a pitcher a contract of this length, let alone a pitcher entering his age-32 season.

                • steve (different one)

                  Don’t disagree with your larger point, but I don’t think pettitte’s age had anything to do with how he went after that ball. I think it had more to do with the fact that andy pettitte might be the goofiest, least athletic athlete I’ve ever seen. When the 2009 WS dvd came out, I watched the replay of his game 3 hit about 20 times because it was hilarious watching him swing and run to 1B. Go watch that video, you will wet your pants.

        • JGS

          Agreed, but I was saying I don’t have any concerns about signing Lee to that age that I wouldn’t also have about any other pitcher (namely, you’re taking a huge risk signing any pitcher to a deal that runs through age 39). It’s not like he has past red flags like AJ did.

        • MikeD

          39 is 39, although I’m not aware of any eight-year offer to Cliff Lee, which is what it would take to get him to his age-39 season. Five-year deal takes him to his age-36 season, six-year deal takes him to his age-37 season.

          On the whole, power pitchers do age better because they have further to fall, as someone else pointed out. A mid-90s guy can still be effective after he loses several miles and is in the low 90s. Someone like CC averages just a tick under 94 and can hit 96/97. Cliff Lee averages just about three miles less, averaging a tick under 91, hitting 93 at times. If CC loses three mph off his fastball, he’s still in the 90s. Lee loses three mph and he’s at 87/88. Doesn’t give me the warm fuzzies.

          That all said, Andy Pettitte now averages under 90 and is quite effective. While being a power pitcher is good, lefties are a different animal. I’d expect Lee to still be effective, although not dominant, the last couple years of his contract. I think CC has the chance to maintain his current level through the life of his contract, and if his weight doesn’t wipe out his knees, he can probably pitch until he’s 40. He’s a power pitcher, he’s a lefty, he has four pitches with good command, and has never had an arm issue.

          • Dax J.

            I think you have Lee’s age all wrong. Lee’s 33, so an 8-year deal will take him to his age-41 season, which is longer than I’d like for him to be on the team. I don’t doubt his talent, but I certainly wish to for the Yanks to keep the offer 5 years.

            • Tim

              No Cliff Lee is actually 32.

          • EB

            “Andy Pettitte now averages under 90 and is quite effective”
            Well Andy Pettitte’s velocity has been steady over the last 9 years, he hasn’t even lost a tick.

            Andy Pettitte avg FB Velocity:
            Age 32, 2004: 89.1
            Age 38: 2010: 89.0
            2002-2010: 88.9
            Andy has seen no decrease in FB velocity his age 30-38 years.

            Cliff Lee avg FB Velocity:
            Age 32, 2010: 91.3
            2002-2010: 90.0

            Lee has shown an increase in velocity over his last three (stellar) years
            Pettitte has always been steady at 89

    • Steve H

      The counter to that is that Sabathia has fired a lot more bullets than Lee has, so while he is younger, he has a lot more wear and tear on his arm (and body). I don’t love the idea of giving Lee 7 years, but I didn’t love the idea of giving Sabathia 7 years either. I’m glad they did, but years 6-7 (if they get there) could be a disaster for Sabathia or Lee based on age and usage.

    • Ben C

      Let me understand something. You pay Lee, you don’t pay Jeter.

      You have got to be kidding me, right ?

      Tuesday, November 23rd is just a bad dream, right ?

      Are you serious.?? Are you serious.??

      You know what.?? If you don’t have Jeter, I don’t want Lee…

      The Yankee Management has got to be completely out of their freakin’ minds.

      This is sickening. Go sign Javier to a big contract. Pavano might be available, how about giving AJ an extension. Let’s give A-Rod a raise. Maybe Kenny Rogers will come back.

      Sign him. $22Million per year….5 years. Give him the money…idiots !!! Freakin’ idiots.

      • Bobby G





        • theDiablo

          Maybe YES or Maybe NO….. but Sign Jeter by $25MM/Year/6 Years??? Wow!!!

  • Clay Bellinger

    I agree. I can’t imagine that they’ve offered 6 years already. Is anyone else even going to offer 5?

    • FIPster Doofus

      I assume the Rangers, but they won’t be able to match the Yankees financially.

    • brockdc

      The frustrating thing is that we don’t know for sure who’s offered what and for how much, at least at this point. What concerns me is the Yankees’ front office’s past tendency to bid against themselves in these instances. This might be a good moment to step back and let Texas, Washington, and whomever else blow C.L. away as opposed to the Yanks setting a bloated market, as they did with the Alex, Jorge, Mariano, Jeter 1, and C.C. signings – and as they will inevitably do with the Jeter and Mo signings this winter.

      • Bobby G







    • Bobby G





  • FIPster Doofus

    Seven years for a 32-year-old? This pretty much sums it up: (sfw)

  • Andrew

    This seems like it would have been picked up by others if an offer was even made, and particularly as big as this one Brown is saying was sent to Lee.

    I still hold out hope that it’s 5 years completely guaranteed and a 6th year with some type of option scheme, whether it’s a mutual one with a huge buy-out or something along that line. But if the sixth year is the deal breaker, I can swallow it and just enjoy the peak years.

    • Ross in Jersey

      I agree, I think we all have to take that report with a grain of salt. It’s in the realm of possibility, but something doesn’t add up.

    • king of fruitless hypotheticals

      The reality is in year six he can’t be much worse than AJ was last year…

      • whozat

        …and that’s worth paying 24MM for, when no one else is offering those dollars or years?

      • Andrew

        I mean, it’s impossible to know as things stand right now. If sixth year Lee is chronically hurt or his performance has fallen off a cliff (no pun intended), then it’s possible it could be worse than AJ.

      • Ross in Jersey

        Uh, yes he could. He could get hurt and not be pitching, for one. AJ, for all his shittyness, still gave the Yankees 180 innings. That’s better than not pitching at all.

      • Klemy

        I don’t know, I took this comment as a sarcastic joke. I didn’t think it was meant that literally.

  • pat

    Plz only bid against the Rangers, not the Rangers and the Yankees.

    • jsbrendog (returns)

      yeah who are we, the mets?

      • Steve H

        Or the Rangers (A-Rod), or Red Sox (Drew).

        • vin

          Or the Dodgers (Manny).

          • UWS

            Or the Yankees (A-Rod).

            • vin

              Or the Cardinals (Holliday).

              • A.D.

                Or the Phillies (Howard)

        • pat

          Or the Yankees (Arod)

          • king of fruitless hypotheticals

            this is listed twice, and i’m inclined to believe that we bid against ourselves. twice.


  • SNS

    It can’t be true. This would contradict everything Cashman has been saying.

    • Granderslam

      I agree. Unless, like Joe said, if there were other offers on the table, maybe the Yankees felt prompted to beat them with these types of numbers.

    • ColoYank

      Remember, we’ve known Cashman to flash excellent GM skills in the area of publicly saying one thing, and doing something completely different.

  • bob

    dude is gonna be in pinstripes soon

  • Monteroisdinero

    Cliff Lee at 24,000,000 is less upsetting than a Cliff Lee/Jesus Montero battery at 24,450,000.

    Ea$ier to dige$t.

    • vin

      I think you mean more upsetting.

      • Monteroisdinero


        • vin

          I like where you were going though.

          I was in favor of the Lee trade at the time – but it’ll be sweet having that battery for the next 6 or 7 years. Cliff Lee can make any catcher look good – just hold your glove over the corners and he’ll hit it.

  • Granderslam

    When are the Winter Meetings again?

    • Danny T

      dec 6-9

      • Granderslam


  • YankeesJunkie

    The one thing that Lee has for him is that his control it is just spectacular there is no reason to expect his BB rate to be above 2 soon. Along with a close to 7 K/9 that gives him a real solid 3.5 K/BB ratio. The best comparable for Lee may actually end up being a lefty Mike Mussina. Mike Mussina had similar numbers especially in the K/9, BB/9, and GB% departments and he was an effective pitcher throughout his thirties except for part of 2007. There is a good chance that Lee turns out to a bum in his last two years, but with some of his other comparables there is evidence that he can still be effective throughout his entire contract especially if it is at five or six years. I can´t see the Yankees offering a seventh year unless Lee was willing to take less money by about 1 million per AAV.

  • MikeD

    The only way I see this offer being real is if the Yankees decided to take the CC approach in negotiations. Freeze the market with an offer no one will approach. They did that with CC because they needed CC. Some say the Yankees aren’t in the same situation with Lee as they were with CC, but I’m not quite so sure. They absolutly want Lee, and were willing to trade Montero for just three months of pitching. I’d be surprised if they made this offer out the gate, but not shocked.

  • abc123

    I’d guess 6/$140 includes an option and an opt-out. If it includes the latter, I’d just hope Lee opts-out and the team backfills with cheaper home-grown or traded talent. Maybe front-load the sucker and incentivize him to bolt.

  • Thomas Cassidy

    Per the Yankees offered Lee 6/140.

    • theyankeewarrior

      They linked the same article, my man

    • Slugger27

      dude, that’s what this post IS

  • mbonzo

    Just received this from Yankees Mobile.
    “Yankees have reportedly offered cliff Lee a six-year, $140 million contact.”

    • Yankeefan91 Arod fan

      i did 2

    • JM

      Does Yankees Mobile cost teh moolahz if I have Unltd. texting

  • mbonzo

    This might be true, he just donated $1 million to Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

    • FIPster Doofus

      Lee didn’t give the money to a New York-area hospital. That means he’s staying in Texas.


      • Yankeefan91 Arod fan


  • virginia yankee

    i hope i am summarizing all of the above comments –

    stupid raised to a power — he has a better attitude than johnson or brown but the result is a wasted rotation slot at way too much money and zero upside

    it would be criminally insane except the genius is only spending money and a draft choice

  • chris

    If Texas gets Lee at 20M + a year for 6 years then good luck to them. They don’t have the money to sign Lee and retain Andrus, Hamilton, Feliz or Wilson.


    If this is true the Rangers might as well pack away their chips. No way they can compete with the Yankees on dollars and New York endorsement opportunities.

  • solamon

    cliff lee is one of the best pitcher he does not walk anybody he strikes outs a lot of batters so he deserves a lot of money so the rangers and the nationals should back off