Yankees willing to offer Cliff Lee five years, $120M


Via Nick Cafardo, “word is” that the Yankees are prepared to offer Cliff Lee a five-year contract worth $115-120M, which would be $23-24M annually. Cafardo adds that the Rangers are prepared to “determined to match whatever it gets up to,” but Nolan Ryan has said otherwise. The Nationals are said to be pursuing the lefty as well, but I’m not sure anyone considers them a real threat.

The Yanks have already done the meet-and-greet thing with Lee and his family, as has Texas, so we’re getting to the point where everyone will have to walk the walk after talking the talk. Five years and $120M is basically market value for Lee and I think we’d all be happy if he signs for that price. In the end, I suspect we’ll see a sixth year added, possibly in the form of an option with a hefty buyout.

Categories : Asides, Hot Stove League


  1. bonestock94 says:

    Finally the show begins

  2. Ultimate Yankee Warrior (James) says:

    This has disaster written all over it.

    • Mike HC says:

      I love Lee, and the Yanks kind of have to do it, but there are definitely a bunch of red flags saying this might not be the best idea.

      • Ted Nelson says:

        Can you elaborate?

        How many times in recent history has a guy who has been a top, top pitcher in baseball through his early 30s suddenly fallen off a cliff in his mid-30s?

        • Mike HC says:

          I am all for the signing really. I guess I was just being a bit doomsday thinking about his injury problems down the stretch and his 3.98 era for Texas. Also, the fact that he broke out at such an old age makes me believe his prime may be a bit shorter lived then a guy who has dominated since his early or mid 20′s. Nothing definitive, just some things that popped into my mind after reading the original comment.

        • JGS says:

          Pedro Martinez comes to mind (94 ERA+ from age 34 to the present from a guy who was the greatest pitcher in history at his peak), but he isn’t a comp for Lee at all.

          Everyone else I can think of (Mark Mulder? Jason Schmidt?) had massive injuries.

          • Ted Nelson says:

            Yeah, Pedro is one. I think he had already slightly torn his rotator cuff in Boston in his early 30s, though.

            Injuries are definitely a concern, but from a little research it seems they are a lot more likely to occur to premium pitchers in their late 20s actually. Mulder and Webb, for example, were in their 20s. Schmidt was in his 30s. While I can understand why people would assume a 36 year old dominant pitcher is a much bigger injury risk than a 28 year old dominant pitcher… I just don’t know if that is or is not the case. Below I provide a bunch of dominant pitchers who mostly did very well in their mid-30s. That doesn’t mean Lee WILL, just that there’s plenty of reason to believe he can. And that signing a younger pitcher might not mean too much injury wise.

            • dalelama says:

              Does anyone know if the Yankees would get some type of insurance in case of injury?

              • Ted Nelson says:

                I don’t know exactly how it works… but the real worry would be that he sustains a lingering injury where he can pitch, just not well… Now you have a bad pitcher making $23 mill per.

                I know NBA teams collect insurance on most contracts if guys are out for the year (i.e. serious risks like Eddy Curry and Amare Stoudamire’s contracts are uninsured, but most are). I don’t know how even that works on a guy missing a few games, weeks, or months.

        • Poopy Pants says:

          What’s a top, top pitcher?

    • mike c says:

      it also has multiple world series championships written all over it too

    • ultimate913 says:

      Not as much as the new Jeter contract.

      • Nostra-artist says:

        Bingo. I think Lee will age well, he’s more about control than he is about stuff. Andy is similar yet never had Lee’s ridiculous control. He should be effective as long as he stays healthy, and his health track record is good.

    • The Big City of Dreams says:

      When you have a shortage of answers from within the only move is to spend money on free agents. Which means more than likely you’re going to overpay. Do the Yankees want to have that much money tied up in 3 pitchers no they don’t but they really don’t have a choice.

      • Ted Nelson says:

        I don’t think it’s really the only move. If the Yankees didn’t have their resources the move would probably be to use Nova and/or Joba in the rotation and push the Killer Bs and co. as hard as they can handle… or to sign some lower lever FAs… or to trade for a starter… The Yankees do have tons of resources, though, and the MLB system encourages them to spend their money to buy talent.

        • The Big City of Dreams says:

          No you’re right it’s not the only move but it’s something they will do first because all it cost is money and a draft pick.

  3. Bryan L says:

    I’d be overjoyed if Lee took this.

  4. Breaking News: After hearing Lee offer, Jeter wants the same one.

    • Update: Jeter’s agent is perplexed that the Yankees have not written up the contract after his client’s request.

      • Nostra-artist says:

        Casey Close is “baffled” by the Yanks latest offer. He is also said to “perplexed” by sabermetrics, “confused” by algebra and “dazzled” by bright shiny objects.

        • Betty Lizard says:


            • Bulldozer says:

              Just curious, but would you guys be upset at a Mo contract for 2/32 for the same reasons?

              • Sayid J. says:

                Mo is still producing at an elite level. Jeter is not.

                • Bulldozer says:

                  Um, that proves nothing about his value. Would it shock you to hear that Jeter was way more valuable than Mo last year even though Mo was producing at an Elite level?

                  • Bulldozer says:

                    According to Fangraphs, Jeter last “outplayed” his contract in 2009 when he was worth $32mm. Mo last “outplayed” his contract in 2005, when he was worth $10.8mm. Shocking, I know.

                    • Sayid J. says:

                      No, really not so shocking. I completely understand that Jeter is more valuable that Mariano.

                      No need for “Um, that proves nothing about his value.” No need to be a jackass. I would not be upset with Mariano making 16 million per year because closers of his quality generally earn similar (obviously a little bit less) on the open market. So just because Fangraphs may deem his value to be one thing, it really means nothing in the open market. In the real world there is something called market value, where Mariano making 16 million would only be making slightly above his market value. If Jeter made $20 million a year, let alone 16, he’d be getting paid above his market value by quite a bit.

                      Thanks for talking down to me like I were a child.

                    • Marcos says:

                      Problem is, fangraphs (and everyone else) bases their whole system on WAR. and WAR is notoriously stingy on relievers, even closers like Mo. So it’s a flawed system.

                    • Dirty Pena says:

                      WAR is stingy on relievers because they pitch like 3% of a team’s innings and scrubs like Kevin Gregg can be effective, negating much of the “above replacement” part.

                    • Bulldozer says:

                      Ok, Sayid, I really wasn’t trying to be a jackass. But, other teams decisions to overpay relievers should not give the Yanks’ FO reason to do the same.

                      Ok, Marcos, all I am hearing is that fWAR doesn’t support my idea, so it’s flawed. Sorry to get all KLaw on you ,but what value system would you use?

                    • Bulldozer says:

                      Dirty Pena, two things. fWAR calculates for leverage of innings pitched, so Mo’s innings are weighted more valuably than Gregg’s, and maybe the value of a player is inherently low because he is only in on 3% of the innings.

    • Bulldozer says:

      Mo now wants 5 years too.

  5. Yo Quiero Montero (formerly LarryF) says:

    Older players/huge money/decreased incentive$/health issues

    At least we have Gardy and Montero (still).

  6. jack lv nv says:

    That seems a bit high for an opener.. That being said it leads you to believe that they will not be denied. Risky but who other than the Yankees could do this for that length.

  7. Tom Swift says:

    Whether you go six years out or not depends on whether you think the addition of Lee makes it likely that we win the WS at least 2 of those six years. If you think so, I think you have to do this. But first we have to see if anyone can top 5 yrs. $120 MM.

  8. Gonzo says:

    I really don’t think the Yanks will need to go to 6 years. I hope to hell they don’t have to go to that commitment.

  9. Doug says:

    honestly, don’t see them going north of CC’s $23M per. because if they do, it only increases the likelihood of sabathia opting out after next season.

    • mbonzo says:

      Compared to the contract he has now, I don’t think he’ll be opting out for a couple million extra. I could see him doing it if he has a CY Young year, and wouldn’t blame him for it, but if its a matter of $6-$9 million compared to what he gets now, I don’t think he’ll go to the trouble. The 2012 starting pitchers are slightly better than this years too.

      • Doug says:

        “but if its a matter of $6-$9 million compared to what he gets now, I don’t think he’ll go to the trouble.”

        what trouble is it to him? i don’t get this.

        also when i took a quick glance the other day at next year’s FA pitching class, no names jumped out at me. did i miss something?

        • Gonzo says:

          You are right. Next year’s SP FA class sucks. CC would be a very valuable commodity if he opted out.

          • Doug says:

            and it’s probably more the years than the $. if lee signs a 5-yr deal taking him from age 33-37, cc’s probably gonna want to opt out of a contract taking him “only” from 32-35.

          • mbonzo says:

            It might suck in comparison to the 2009 FA, but compared to this year’s, its better.

        • mbonzo says:

          Sabathia has said before that he doesn’t want to opt out because his family has now settled down in NJ. I wouldn’t blame him if he did, but the opt-out was there because he was unsure about how his family would react to NY.

          The 2012 class isn’t much better than 2011, but at least Buerhle can be viewed as another ace. Although not in the same class, Wilson, Carpenter, Jackson, and possibly (a low possibility) Kazmir will be more competition for CC than anyone is to Lee this year.

          • Doug says:

            “but at least Buerhle can be viewed as another ace.”

            not for the yanks he’s not. and not for most other teams, imo

            • mbonzo says:

              Well look at the teams wanting Lee now, they’re all desperate for someone to lead the staff except the Yankees. These will probably be the same teams looking for an ace next year. The Nats, Rangers, Cubs, Dodgers, and Astros would all consider Buerle their veteran ace.

              • Doug says:

                the cubs, dodgers, and astros haven’t been linked to lee in any way. and like gonzo said, buerhle has hinted that he may retire

                • mbonzo says:

                  Yup not linked at all.

                  Buerhle said its possible he retires but he also said that he’d be interesting discussing an extension, so I am sure he’ll be a free agent in 2012 whether he retires that year or not, he’ll want to hear what teams have to offer.

                  • Doug says:

                    okay, but how about something more recent than 2 weeks ago

                    • Gonzo says:

                      Either way, it shows that demand for CC would be pretty nice. Also, if the economy keeps slowly improving next year, we could get bigger contracts. That would also improve CC’s leverage.

                    • Doug says:

                      indeed it would, gonzo. you can be sure he’s watching these negotiations very carefully.

                    • mbonzo says:

                      These are the teams interested in an Ace in 2011. If you want the GMs to call you personally and tell you that want an ace I’ll see what I can do.

              • Gonzo says:

                I think you just proved our point that CC would be in the driver’s seat. Also, Buerhle might retire.

              • Zack says:

                Your definition of ‘ace’ seems to be different than everyone else.

                Would Buerhle be a veteran presence on a pitching staff? Yes, but that’s not an ‘ace’

                • Doug says:

                  and you know what kind of contract a veteran presence gets….3/30, not 5/$100M+ like lee and cc

                • mbonzo says:

                  He’s got a career 120 ERA+ while CC has a 123 ERA+.

                  He’s not CC, but he could definitely make a case as an ace. Just because he’s not a strike out pitcher with the glitz and glamor stats that the media loves, doesn’t mean you can ignore him as an ace. He’s posted over 200 innings a year since 2001, his second year in the bigs. CC is considered a horse, and he has less IP than Buehrle.

                  • Gonzo says:

                    Since CC turned 25 he has never posted an ERA+ of less than 134. Since Buerhle has turned 25, he has turned in one season higher than ERA+ 134.

                    • Doug says:

                      and that was 6 years ago

                    • mbonzo says:

                      I never said Buehrle was better, in fact I said 2 or 3 times that CC is a better pitcher, but Buehrle will be competition for teams seeking an Ace. Which free agent in 2011 could be considered close the Buehrle?

                    • Doug says:

                      none, mbonzo, true…but that alone doesn’t make buerhle an ace

                    • Gonzo says:

                      My point is that he is not at all competition for CC. CC is above and beyond better. A team would see Buerhle as Plan B, not as a Plan Ab to CC. Much like anyone this year would be Plan B to Cliff Lee.

                    • mbonzo says:

                      Well if CC prices himself at $25 mil for 5-6 years, teams will drop out when they know they could sign Buehrle for much less and who would probably want less years.

                      Teams like the Yankees won’t consider Buehrle, but imagine if Buehrle was available this year. Half the teams involved would make Buehrle their priority instead of Lee when they see the Yankees offer. Its just silly to argue that good pitching will not compete with CC’s market.

                    • Doug says:

                      yes, if buerhle decides to pitch, as arguably the best FA pitcher available outside of CC, he’d probably garner 3 year deals for $30-$40M.

                      but still has nothing to do with the original premise that CC’s likely to opt out if lee signs for 5+ years at $23-$25M per

                    • Gonzo says:

                      Um, no. It’s silly to argue that Buerhle is competition for CC in an open market. The original point was that CC could better the remaining original contract. Stop throwing out red herrings like 5-6/25mm.

                      You act as if CC’s agent is going to advise him on what he can get based on what Buerhle is doing, which is pretty silly.

                      Teams will drop out because of price, not because, “Oh snap, Buerhle is not retiring! Hang up on CC this instant.”

                    • Bulldozer says:

                      Buerhle wasn’t even the best pitcher on his team and you think he’s an Ace?

                    • mbonzo says:

                      Remember when Holliday took a price hit last year because Bay was also on the market?

                      This year, many teams will look at Werth rather than Crawford only because he’ll be cheaper. Competition happens in free agency. CC will have more competition than Lee does this year. CC would get a raise if he opted out, but he’s not gonna have the same leverage as Lee. If you read my original post, I said he could easily get $6-9 million more for the remaining 4 years. What he’s gonna get is gonna be partially based on what his competition in the market is, even if its Buehrle, Kazmir, Wilson, or whomever.

                    • Gonzo says:

                      A) The gap between CC and Buerhle is much larger than Holliday and Bay.
                      B) Holliday could have gotten more than a $120mm!!! Sure he took less because of Bay. The Cards sure lowballed him.

                  • Total Dominication says:

                    He’s well past his prime though. Pedro Martinez has a career 154 ERA+, but he wouldn’t be considered an ace on the FA market.

                    • mbonzo says:

                      He’ll be the same age as Lee with better career numbers and more IP. His 2010 might have been meh, but his recent years have been his best ever.

                    • Doug says:

                      mbonzo, 2001 and 2005 say hello

                    • mbonzo says:

                      Meant to say some of his best years. His 2005 was his best, but you could argue 2007-2009 was better than 2001.

                    • Doug says:

                      his WHIP in 2001 was 1.066, by far the best of his career

                    • JGS says:

                      Best career WHIP but his walk rates and strikeout rates were identical to the rest of his career. That .248 BABIP sticks out a lot (his second lowest was .281 in 2002. 2001 and 2002 are the only years he has given up less than a hit per inning)

          • Doug says:

            oh, and i know what he’s said, but if he thinks he can get an extra year or two at $25M per, he’s gonna opt out. don’t care how much he loves new jersey.

          • Gonzo says:

            Yeah, I am gonna go out on a limb and say that it wouldn’t be the first time an athlete said something and then changed his mind because of money.

            Buerhle might retire. Kazmir is pretty much toast.

  10. If this is going to be the initial offer to Lee, it means that they’re prepared to go higher. I don’t see how the Rangers can possibly outbid them.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      Maybe, but maybe they just saw what the market for him was a made an offer they thought was likely to win… If no one else will outbid 5/120, they probably don’t have to go much higher.

  11. Kiersten says:

    I want Cliff Lee and I want him NOW.

  12. pete says:

    very aroused

  13. Thomas Tu says:

    I dare the Rangers to match 24M a year. I dare them.

  14. JobaWockeeZ says:

    Please take this. A CC deal would suck.

  15. Reggie C. says:

    I can see the 6th year option being offered if the Lee camp were so inclined to demand it. I’m not sure if the 6th year would be triggered solely by the player (Lee), but a buy-out in the high seven figures wouldn’t shock me.

  16. patricia morgan says:

    i don’t understand the furor, lee lost the 2 world series games he pitched

  17. I am not the droids you're looking for says:

    The Yanks bid is essentially perfect (if leaked accurately). No one else will guarantee either a sixth year, or a higher AAV, let alone both. Book it. The Yanks may tack on a couple mil overall, and possibly a sixth year option with a hefty (>$5mm) buyout. But this is essentially the deal he signs

  18. Teh Compensation Pick says:

    I think 5/120 is with the option and hefty (5mil) buyout on a sixth year. I say that because I cannot imagine them giving an AAV higher than CC’s deal.

  19. Ted Nelson says:

    Is it a risk to sign anyone to a long-term $23+ mill per deal? Yes. A pitcher? Yes. A player already in their 30? Yes. However, so many people are posting that it’s a forgone conclusion this is a stupid move because of age and not just the money…

    35-37 year old season ERA+s:

    Randy Johnson: 186, 181, 188 (career 136)
    Andy Pettitte: 112, 98, 111 (career 117)
    David Wells: 127, 102, 123 (career 108)
    Tom Glavine: 125, 140, 93 (career 118)

    35-27 IP:

    Randy Johnson: 271, 248, 249
    Andy Pettitte: 215, 204, 194
    David Wells: 214, 231, 229
    Tom Glavine: 219, 224, 183

    Fact is that there’s plenty of precedent of lefties who were strong through their mid-30s. Anyone have some counter-examples? Going back over the past 20 years I don’t see too many 30 year old Cy Young winner, or Cy Young winners period, who fell off a cliff. (Johan is still a 130 ERA+ guy and only 31 last season. Zito fell of the cliff right when he got to SF at 29… and he was never as good as Lee to start with. Webb got injured, he is only 30 now though. Pedro is about it. )


    Clemens: ERA+ 174, 103, 131 (career 143)… IP 234, 187, 204
    Maddux: ERA+ 146, 159, 108 (career 132)… IP 233, 199, 218
    Halladay was 33 last season and going strong.

    I would really like to see if kept to 5 years, even if that means more front-loaded $. I think there’s a better chance this deal works out for the Yankees than not, though.

  20. nsalem says:

    Warren Spahn had an ERA+
    year 40 125
    year 41 123
    year 42 124

    He also won over 60 games over that 3 year period (1961-1963).

  21. nathan says:

    I hope they dont start with this offer. Given Lee’s age, injury history this is too much.

  22. Dick says:

    I call bullshit.

    Nick Cafardo is a known yankee hater. He’s just trying to stir the pot. And really, with the vast number of reporters covering the yanks and all the rumor mongers out there (like Heyman and Rosenthal), it’s unlikely that they all got scooped by a 2nd string boston scribe.

  23. Dick says:

    If they give Lee a higher AAV contract then CC, then CC will opt out at the end of the year.

  24. JackC says:

    I’m sure someone has figured this out, but I haven’t seen it much mentioned — how will Texas’ lack of state income tax affect the equation? Wouldn’t allow them to offer less than the Thanks and still allow Lee to net more?

    • JobaWockeeZ says:

      Theres a post on this but the lower income taxes in Texas only count for half of Lee’s games. The other half are in the states he played games in.

      Lee wouldn’t lose a significant amount of money should he rather go to NY.

  25. cofuzz says:

    If not Lee, what’s Plan B?
    I address some options you might not have seen to this point in coming out of the West Coast!

  26. Mr Will says:

    The bigger question to ponder: Name one pitcher who got progressively better pitching in the homer friendly Rangers Ballpark? I can’t think of anyone, Kenny Rogers notwithstanding…Cliff is going to New York for better or worse.


    The sooner we sighn Lee the better then all the chips will fall in to place and 28 will be ours….

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