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The Yankees won’t go seven years for Cliff Lee. Would you believe … The Nationals?

Dec 7, 2010, 9:06 AM EDT

cliff lee in delivery

More word this morning that, contrary to some speculation last night, the Yankees will not offer Cliff Lee a seven-year deal, on the basis that they will not exceed the contract length of the CC Sabathia deal, and that was a six-year thing.  So if there is a team out there willing to go nuts, it’s not New York.

Here’s a wild card: Washington.  Jon Heyman hears this morning that they have become “ultra-aggressive” in pursuit of a starting pitcher. And hey, they have a recent track record of being totally unhinged, so why not them? Heyman doesn’t mention Lee’s name, but it would certainly sound strange for the words “ultra-aggressive” and “Carl Pavano” to go together, wouldn’t it?

Unlike Jayson Werth, however, I seriously doubt that Lee would consider going to Washington, but hey, crazier things have happened. And even if that’s too crazy, an offer, even if it has no hope of being accepted, could drive others to sweeten offers of their own.

  1. phillygirl4 - Dec 7, 2010 at 9:11 AM

    This is getting out of hand! When does it end? Now Pujols wants A-Rod money. Baseball needs to be stopped. I wonder if I’ll be able to afford to take my children to a game in the next 10 years.

    • fquaye149 - Dec 7, 2010 at 9:26 AM

      Contracts have a minimal effect on ticket prices. If you want to blame someone, blame corporations who buy up large amounts of tickets as tax-writeoffs and use luxury boxes and premium seats to entertain clients. Pricing tiers are set from the top down, not vice versa, and tickets are insanely expensive and if a team is spending big money in payroll it’s because they know they already have fans who will pay big money for tickets, not the other way around

    • Detroit Michael - Dec 7, 2010 at 9:44 AM

      Take your children to a major college football game. Because the athletes are unpaid, by your logic you shouldn’t be charged a dime to attend that event.

  2. Ari Collins - Dec 7, 2010 at 9:16 AM

    Sabathia’s deal was seven years. They’re still not willing to go seven on Lee, because he’s four years older than Sabathia was when he signed for seven, but yeah, Sabathia was seven, not six.

    • spindervish - Dec 7, 2010 at 9:52 AM

      I thought six looked wrong. What a gig; get paid to watch/read about/write about baseball all day in your underwear, and you don’t even really have to get the facts straight or proofread anything!

      • Ari Collins - Dec 7, 2010 at 10:09 AM

        Hey, be nice!

        Besides, “underwear”? Craig’s in Full Business Mode, down there at the Meetings. I bet he’s in pajamas.

  3. pisano - Dec 7, 2010 at 9:22 AM

    At least the Yankees are smart enough to back away from an insane length of contract. If Lee can find a team that wants him for seven years he should kiss them and sign the contract. Hopefully the Yankees don’t get caught up in this BS and back off him. Let Texas screw themselves, they did it once with Arod, let them do it again.

    • uyf1950 - Dec 7, 2010 at 9:57 AM

      I don’t think you will see the Yankees go 7 years. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see them increase the dollars in a 6 year offer. Say they are stuck on 6 years $23M per. I could see them going to 6 years $25M rather then adding a 7th year. I think the most you will see any other team offer Lee is going to be 6 years @ $21.66 = $130M total. I think all the talk about a 7th year is posturing. If 6 years at $25M per doesn’t get the Job done I have no doubt the Yankees will walk away.

  4. Jonny 5 - Dec 7, 2010 at 9:26 AM

    Damn. I figured it had to be Washington or Baahhhstannn. They both seem kinda unhinged lately handing out 7 year deals and all.. And in all fairness, we were warned. I think Obama slipped the nats some of that bailout money, try to build some national pride with a winning Nationals team. I hope Lee goes to Washington. It will be extremely awesome to get to see Lee and Halladay go at it a few times a season. EXTREMELY AWESOME!

  5. Ari Collins - Dec 7, 2010 at 9:34 AM

    I know it’s early to look ahead to next offseason, but I’d be willing to bet that Sabathia opts out. He’ll be in his early 30s and due at least a 6 year deal himself, with possibly a raise over his $23M per year salary. Of course, it’ll probably be the Yankees who re-sign him. Which will make that opt-out they gave him pretty damn costly.

    Unless he’s hurt or truly terrible this year, in which case he’ll stick with the 4 years he’s got left on the deal, of course.

    • uyf1950 - Dec 7, 2010 at 9:54 AM

      Even if CC does opt out after next season I doubt it would be for more money per year. It would probably be to get a couple more years added on to the end of his contract. Which I would think the Yankees would be glad to do. After all he’ll only be 35 when his current contract expires. Adding 2 years would still only make him 37 at the end of the contract. That’s still younger then Lee will be at the end of any contract from a team that offers him 6 years or more. I don’t see CC opting out as a major problem for the Yankees. They can add years to the back end of his contract without it having any real impact on their future plans.

      • Ari Collins - Dec 7, 2010 at 10:07 AM

        The effect it will have on their future plans is that instead of having a guy locked up until he’s 35, they’re going to have him locked up until he’s 37. The difference between having a 31-year-old for 4 years and 6 years is pretty huge, or we wouldn’t be talking about Lee’s 6 and 7 year offers so much.

        I also wouldn’t be surprised if he gets a raise to $25 million or so. He’ll be a year younger than Lee is now, and has a better track record.

        A lot of this, of course, will be set by what kinda deal Lee gets.

        Either way, that opt-out is going to be costly.

      • uyf1950 - Dec 7, 2010 at 10:30 AM

        Ari – If Lee was 31 instead of 32 there would not be as much discussion even about a 6 year deal. Second CC has no history of injuries or “back problems”. So adding to the back end of what would be a 31 year old (at the end of next year) with no history of injuries and who is also a “work horse” and who will “only” be 37 even with the years added on is completely different then going 6 or especially 7 years for a 32 year old with a history of back problems. Who even with “only” a 6 year deal would still be older at 38 then CC will be by adding 2 years on to his current contract. At 7 years for Lee he would be 2 years older then CC with an extension and more injury prone. I don’t think the Yankees would see it as “costly” as you put it if my scenario where to be the case for CC. But that’s just my opinion.

      • Ari Collins - Dec 7, 2010 at 11:16 AM

        Well, yeah, Sabathia has a better health record and track record than Lee, and will be a year younger than Lee is now. But what makes the opt-out so bad is that there are (basically) two ways this could go:

        1. Sabathia gets hurt or sucks next year and the Yankees are on the hook for nearly $100 million more for four more years of a significantly devalued property.

        2. Sabathia is really good once more and the Yankees are forced to sign him to a 6- or 7-year deal at more money per year to keep him. Or let him go to another team and try to find a replacement in a FA class whose next best option is probably a mid-30s Buehrle.

        Just because Cliff Lee is a year older and has a spottier injury history (despite which he’s reached 210 IP each of the last 3 years) doesn’t mean they’re not pretty comparable. Over the last 3 years, Lee’s got only about 20 IP less per year, and with a lower ERA.

        Point is, the Yankees committed 7 years to a 28-year-old Sabathia, and now they’re going to have to do it again to a 31-year-old Sabathia or let him walk. It’ll be a very interesting offseason to watch.

      • uyf1950 - Dec 7, 2010 at 12:07 PM

        To Ari, an awfully lot of if’s/assumptions in your last post. First the opt out has absolutely no effect on your first point.
        !st – If CC got hurt next year the Yankees would be on the hook for his entire contract whether or not he had an opt out clause in his original contract.
        2nd – Your assuming he would opt out if had a “good” year. On top of that your assuming there would be another team willing to give him more money and more years then his current contract calls for. If you initial assumption is correct that no pitcher is worth the years or dollars why would a team other then the Yankees offer a 31 year old more then 4 years and $23+M per. Then he would be making with the Yankees.
        3rd – Your assuming the Yankees will offer Lee 7 years. Which I tend to think they won’t.
        4th – …and yes age and his even minor injuries make a difference. There is one other difference which no one has mentioned. CC can when necessary take the ball on 3 days rest as we witnessed during the 2009 post season. That’s not the case with Lee. So CC is “the go to guy” in a pinch.

        Again that’s just my opinion of the differences between extending CC (if it was needed and giving a currently 32 year old an initial 7 year contract.

      • Ari Collins - Dec 7, 2010 at 12:23 PM

        The reason an injury or poor year next year is relevant is that an opt-out gives the player the ability to ALWAYS choose the best deal. If he’s hurt/bad, he can take 4 years/$92 million. If he’s worth more than that, he can get it. So the Yankees will either end up paying for a guy who’s not worth it, or having their contract ripped up if he can get a better deal on the market. Without the opt-out, they can make a judgement as to his value over seven years and hope that it was a good valuation. With the opt-out, their contract is going to be bad either way. Either too much money over too many years or not enough (in which case he becomes a FA).

        Basically, there’s NO upside in an opt-out deal, because you’re either left holding the bag or you fail to lock up a player who’s worth more than you’re paying him. You will ALWAYS either be paying too much or losing a player halfway through a below-market deal. You will never ever be paying the player less than he would earn outside of your deal.

        As to comparing Lee and Sabathia, I don’t think there’s as much of a difference as you’re making it out to be, considering Lee’s been better over the last three years, and while he’s missed some time, he’s nearly made it up by pitching extremely deep into games. But even if Sabathia’s a better bet than Lee, that just means that he’s going to exceed whatever Lee gets this year.

        EIther way, health willing, it’ll be really interesting to watch what kind of deal Sabathia gets next year, especially considering the Yankees don’t have many other rotation options (unless some of their high-upside pitching prospects develop very quickly).

      • uyf1950 - Dec 7, 2010 at 12:37 PM

        Ari , you are correct in that respect we will see what happens at the end of the year. I tend to think that the downside to the Yankees if CC does opt out is minimal. If he does opt out which I’m not convinced he will do the Yankees pony up a couple of more years (probably 2) and a couple of million dollars on the back end. In the scheme of things it’s not a great deal to the Yankees. If they can afford to pay a 36 soon to be 37 year old SS on the decline $15M per for 3 years they can certainly afford to add 2 years to what would be a 31 year old ace pitcher that will carry him to 37 years old. As they say it is what it is.

      • Ari Collins - Dec 7, 2010 at 1:00 PM

        I’m guessing, based on the numbers we’ve heard thrown around for Lee, that we’re talking at least a 6/$150M deal for Sabathia if he opts out. That’s nearly $60 million extra. Even for the Yankees, that’s not chump change.

        What do you think he could get next year?

      • uyf1950 - Dec 7, 2010 at 1:35 PM

        Ari, my friend we can go on forever about this or at least until the end of next season. This will be the last comment I intend to make about CC opting out or not opting out, etc…
        The way I see it your assuming that CC outs out next year and also assuming that being the case for the Yankees to keep him they will have to offer a 31 year old CC $25M per for 6 years = $150M. Let’s say you’re right. That’s $60M more they he would be entitled to under his current contract that expires in 4 years. But the bulk of the $60M is primarily due to the 2 additional year.
        Let’s make one additional assumption. Let’s assume CC does not opt out pitches until he’s 35 has a very good career. He negotiates a new 2 year agreement with the Yankees for $25M per = $50M total.
        The difference between your $60M total expense and my $50M total expense is $10M effectively over a 6 year span. Again, it’s my contention that’s a minimal increase for the Yankees. Your $60M caculation operates under the false assumption that the Yankees don’t have to do anything for those 2 years between when CC turns 35 to 37 years old. That’s just not true.
        Like I said I’m done with this. I’m probably not going to be able to convince you of my position and you’re not going to be able to convince me of your position. So let’s just agree to disagree.

  6. rick1922 - Dec 7, 2010 at 9:54 AM

    I would;nt give LEE more then 5 years he is 32 and has back problems these guys think they are worth more then they really are and the money should be 18 million a year even thats too much. The GIANTS had no trouble with him in the WS.

  7. uyf1950 - Dec 7, 2010 at 10:39 AM

    Actually Craig, unless I’m mistaken CC’s deal was for 7 years. Approximately $23M per for 7 years = $161M total. The one benefit was CC was only 28 at the time.

  8. yankees1996 - Dec 7, 2010 at 12:08 PM

    The Yankees are not going to offer Lee a seven year deal probably because of several reasons and one reason is most certainly his age now and at the end of the contract. Lee has missed his window in my opinion for a long term deal by at least four years. According to a sports illustrated article I read on Lee prior to the season ending he discussed his impending free agency and said in that article that he wanted to play somewhere that he would have a chance to win and he wanted to be assured that his travelling days had come to an end. When the Yanks almost got him at the end of the summer it was widely reported that CC had already reached out to him and that he was sold on the idea of playing for the Yankees. I believe that length of contract and money being paid are not the only perks that Cliff Lee is looking at, he seems to want to play somewhere where he is going to get a chance to play in the WS again before he calls it a career. That one wish is likely to thin the potential suitors out rather effectively, I see this ultimately coming down the the Rangers and the Yankees because mainly of Lees’ wish to play where he can win, not just make it into the post season but to the WS and the Rangers and Yankees give him the best possibility of that happening. No matter which team he signs with he knows that the money will be there, but there are other things on his mind.

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