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Here’s what I think happens with Cliff Lee

Dec 10, 2010, 11:30 AM EDT

cliff lee in delivery

I don’t just sit and pontificate about free agent or trade destinations very often, but it’s a slow day, so here goes:

  • I predict that the Yankees are going to get Cliff Lee, with Lee selecting the seven-year deal off that “menu” of offers the Yankees are reported to have given him;
  • I predict that he will be the highest paid free agent pitcher of all time;
  • I predict that when it’s all said and done, word will leak that the Rangers offers — for all of the pomp and circumstance, visits to Arkansas and billionaires on parade — were decidedly light.
  • I predict that the inevitable conclusion of all of this will be that, in reality, Cliff Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker got Brian Cashman to bid against himself in a panicky fashion.
  • I predict that, for the first couple of years anyway, no one in Yankeeland will really care because Lee will do pretty well.
  • I predict that, in three or four years, Lee will regress or break down and become a good but by-no-means elite lefty starter.
  • I predict that, when that happens, people will look back at this winter and wonder why everyone was so hot for Cliff Lee.

None of that is based on any inside information. Just my suspicion of how it’s all going to play out based on a few minutes away from the computer, thinking big picture thoughts while flying home last night. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. But I think I’m right.

  1. aburns77 - Dec 10, 2010 at 11:35 AM

    Can’t forget that this also means CC is definitely opting out of his contract, if Lee at 32 is getting the biggest contract ever, CC at 31 next year would definitely be able to land another seven year deal.

    • lordd99 - Dec 11, 2010 at 6:00 PM

      He may opt out, although unlike other players with opt-out clauses who would always dance around the question, CC has said several times, including this week, that he has no intention of opting out. It wouldn’t shock me, though, if the two sides cut a deal and increase CC’s salary to whatever Lee ends up getting, if indeed he gets more.

  2. Jason @ IIATMS - Dec 10, 2010 at 11:36 AM

    In other words, Kevin Brown

    • Old Gator - Dec 10, 2010 at 12:02 PM

      He even looks like Kevin Brown, with maybe a dab of Ralph Fiennes thrown in and from certain angles the character in Munch’s “The Scream.” But he could also be a horse till 40. One never knows, do one?

      • BC - Dec 10, 2010 at 12:23 PM

        I actually was thinking Guy Pearce.

  3. mashoaf - Dec 10, 2010 at 11:38 AM

    He reminds me of Kevin Brown. The Great record. Going to other teams. Then finally signing a monster deal somewhere in their 30’s.

  4. phillygirl4 - Dec 10, 2010 at 11:40 AM

    I predict a similar fate for Jayson Werth

    I predict the Nats will realize they went about building their team the wrong way

    I predict future writers will cite this contract as the point when baseball went cablooey

    I predict the Nats will never win a Pennant with him

    I predict Werth will regret having had to sign this deal

    I predict Phillies fans will still be the only people to ever fill Nationals Park/CBP South

    And I predict you all will have to deal with it.

    • 12strikes - Dec 10, 2010 at 11:48 AM

      I agree with you, but the “…Werth will regret having had to sign this deal”. I’m not to sure. JW made it pretty clear that his next contract was about the money. He may bitch a little about the team sucking, but I don’t think it will be at the regret level.

    • woodenulykteneau - Dec 10, 2010 at 12:02 PM

      I predict Phillies fans will continue to use bluster and half-baked wit to mask their inferiority complex, which to be fair, is probably warranted.

    • phillysoulfan - Dec 10, 2010 at 12:41 PM

      I predict the Nats will be looking to get out from under Werth’s contract next off season.

  5. sknut - Dec 10, 2010 at 11:42 AM

    This “menu” is it a Perkins style menu where its laminated and there are daily specials or is it like Subway where you mix and match?

    Craig why don’t more teams front load contracts in order to avoid the disaster of years 5-7, where as the first few years are more likely to pay off and be worth it. I have never understood this.

    • fivetoolmike - Dec 10, 2010 at 12:05 PM

      Inflation. Money’s worth more now than it will be in five years.

      • sknut - Dec 10, 2010 at 1:27 PM

        Ok that makes sense. Thanks

  6. Jonny 5 - Dec 10, 2010 at 11:44 AM

    I love this post. Inquiring minds like to know, What other minds think.

  7. Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Dec 10, 2010 at 11:48 AM

    I predict baseball.

    • mcsnide - Dec 10, 2010 at 11:53 AM

      Just 65 days til pitchers and catchers report.

  8. Professor Longnose - Dec 10, 2010 at 11:51 AM

    Don’t you think the Red Sox should get some of the credit you’re giving to Braunecker?

    • mattraw - Dec 10, 2010 at 12:06 PM

      I’d agree with that. Even leaving out their reported offer to Lee, it seems to me one of the benefits of signing Crawford is that it will goad Cashman into giving 7 years to a 32 year old pitcher in an attempt to counteract Boston’s lefty heavy lineup.

      Doesn’t hurt that Crawford is an amazing player, either.

      • lordd99 - Dec 11, 2010 at 6:28 PM

        The Yankees and the Red Sox have been playing this game with each other for years, and I wonder if they end up hurting themselves (meaning they end up costing each team more money) more than they help themselves. The only reason Cashman had dinner with Crawford, and then let the world know that Yankees were talking to Crawford was to drive Crawford’s price up once they realized the Red Sox were in the game. They’re not going to stop the Sox from signing him, but they can make sure they pay maximum price.

  9. thinman61 - Dec 10, 2010 at 11:54 AM

    I predict Craig is right, and that this will all happen at about the same time Boston sports writers like Mazz and Shaughnessy start bemoaning the Sox paying so much money to a player now in his 30’s whose game is built on speed. By which time they’ll have developed selective amnesia regarding what they wrote in their columns this week.

    • Space Escalator - Dec 10, 2010 at 12:17 PM

      It would be more surprising if CHB didn’t develop selective amnesia this coming season! Crawford is going to slump at some point and we’ll see a bemoaning rant from Shaughnessy.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Dec 10, 2010 at 12:57 PM

        It’s CHB, he’d somehow write a column even if Crawford went 1.000/1.000/4.000 (that’s a HR every AB right?). He’s dangerously close to entering Frank Deford/Rick Reilly status where they essentially paraphase a “damn kids need to get off my lawn” column every week.

  10. sdelmonte - Dec 10, 2010 at 12:00 PM

    I agree with the above.

    I further predict that Lee will bring home one World Series ring, either in ’11 or ’12, and for one winter, the signing will be called the greatest thing of all time. Detractors declare the Yanks bought the championship, supporters point to players like Hughes and Gardner and Cano being homegrown and pretty cheap.

    In ’13, some upstart team like the ’10 Rangers beats the Yankees (and the Red Sox), and we go through the same thing again with King Felix or Greinke.

    Meanwhile, Lee is a solid but not fabulous #2 starter with an average of six weeks a years on the DL. And when the Yanks and Sox collide over and over, the matchups between CC and Carl Crawford are a lot more interesting.

    • Charles Gates - Dec 10, 2010 at 12:13 PM

      Lee is a solid but not fabulous #2 starter
      I very much disagree. Would I want to give him, or anyone else, 7 years? No. But basically saying ‘Of the #2 pitchers out there, he’s slightly above average’ is silly.

      • Joe - Dec 10, 2010 at 12:27 PM

        That came after the statements, “I further predict” and “In ’13.” He’s saying that the first couple of years will look good, but after that Lee will be a #2 guy who misses 10 starts a year.

      • Charles Gates - Dec 10, 2010 at 12:31 PM

        Joe, you’re right. Sorry.
        If you take his quote out of context, like it did there, then I win though. Ha!

    • mtner77 - Dec 10, 2010 at 2:00 PM

      “In ’13, some upstart team like the ’10 Rangers beats the Yankees (and the Red Sox), and we go through the same thing again with King Felix or Greinke.”

      Since Felix is signed through 2014, I “predict” that he will not be a free agent after the ’13 season. Also Felix has limited no-trade protection (he can block trades to ten clubs a year). Here’s hoping the Yankees are on that list!

  11. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Dec 10, 2010 at 12:05 PM

    I predict in 5 or 6 year Cliff Lee will look something like 2010 Andy Pettitte, and that his contract will be in line with other starters of his caliber.

    I predict it won’t matter that much because Cliff Lee will be the #4 starter behind Felix, Hughes and Sabathia

  12. kgsimms - Dec 10, 2010 at 12:10 PM

    I can tell today is a slow day, because the prediction is off your normal target. What will happen and write this down. Cliff Lee resigns with the Rangers. There is no way Cliff Lee is going to the Yankees! Not going to happen! Cliff Lee will look like a hero to the Ranger fans because he will be the “money isn’t everything” pitcher, who left money on the table for “family values”. It was all so contrived! He will have bankrupted Texas, helped intentionally weaken the competition (Yankees) since Lee is the only reason they didn’t aggressively go after Crawford. So he will have done all of that and dumb fans will look at him as a nice family valued guy. The money that the Rangers offered him will even itself out because of their no sales tax. What a little shark Lee is.

    • gt929 - Dec 10, 2010 at 12:54 PM

      Plenty of sales taxes in Texas, but no state income tax.

  13. uyf1950 - Dec 10, 2010 at 12:13 PM

    To Craig – Quite honestly as a Yankee fan I hope your predictions are right on. I hope the Yankees do sign him regardless of the number of years. If the Yankees get 4 “elite” years out of him and 3 “good” but not elite years it will be worth it. If he can help the Yankees get to even 2 World Series during what you call his “elite” years it will be OK. My guess is in 4 or 5 years even “good” not elite pitchers will be making $15M plus per year. After all let’s look at Carl Pavano, certainly not an elite pitcher but at least a good pitcher based on his last years performance. Prior to that even “good” would be a stretch. But he will probably sign a multi year contract with the Twins for somewhere between $12 to $15M per. So I don’t think $23M +/- over 7 years overpaying drastically for a pitcher that you anticipate giving your team even 4 “elite” years and 3 “good” years. Especially not for a lefty and especially not for the Yankees in Yankee Stadium where left handed pitchers are cherished.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Dec 10, 2010 at 1:03 PM

      I’m a Yanks fan as well, but let’s play devil’s advocate. Say he signs for 7/$[insert absurd amount], and he’s elite for 3, average for 2 and below average for another 2. Is it still worth it? What if it’s elite for 4, below average for 3(injury related)? For me, the +/- starts at year 5. If he’s above average for that, I’ll like the deal. a 4/3 split would be really hard to take and anything worse is a severe problem.

      • uyf1950 - Dec 10, 2010 at 1:23 PM

        Under you scenario’s you’re probably right. But I think you are taking the absolute extreme. Of course an early injury in a 7 year contract makes the deal hard to swallow. But if you take even a middle of the ground approach 4 elite years, 2 good years & 1 bad year the overall expense of the contract is that a big deal especially for the Yankees. Listen we Yankee fans and non fans alike can think up all sorts of different combinations of scenario’s both good and bad. In reality fans of every team can make those same comments about every long term player agreement. I’m sure if the Yankees thought the risks outweighed the benefits they wouldn’t do it.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Dec 10, 2010 at 1:45 PM

        I’m sure if the Yankees thought the risks outweighed the benefits they wouldn’t do it.

        Agreed, but what I’ve been thinking lately, especially once the seven year option became an almost forgone conclusion, is what is the breaking point? Ideally we get 7 above average years, and if it happens, great. But let’s not bank on that. So what becomes “justifiable”? How many possible bad years would it take to make the Yanks say no? How many bad years for the Yanks fans? For some reason, I bet the team is far more flexible than the fans are.

      • uyf1950 - Dec 10, 2010 at 1:54 PM

        To church – absolutely the team is far more flexible than the fans. Like I said in an earlier post and one under “CC Sabathia’s” comments about the Yankees. I don’t think missing out on Lee is the end of the world. Would it be disappointing? Sure. But not the end of the world.

    • ak4759 - Dec 10, 2010 at 2:50 PM

      I really doubt the Twins give Pavano $12 to $15M per, that would be exceedingly stupid and though the Twins front-office hasn’t been the brightest crayon in the box lately, they surely aren’t that dumb. I predict that Pavano signs with another team, and as a Twins fan, I’m good with that, time for the Twins to quit while they’re ahead…bring up young Kyle Gibson.

      • uyf1950 - Dec 10, 2010 at 3:00 PM

        Rest assured some team will sign him for at least $12M per.

  14. phillysoulfan - Dec 10, 2010 at 12:43 PM

    Craig, I got to disagree with you. I think if it were really ALL about the money, Lee would have signed that 7 year deal already. I’m thinking he’s just trying to squeeze more money out of the Rangers and will eventually sign with them. But this is pure speculation on my part.

  15. PanchoHerreraFanClub - Dec 10, 2010 at 12:45 PM

    I predict that the world will come to an end before the end of Lee’s contract.

    • gt929 - Dec 10, 2010 at 12:58 PM

      LoL, yeah, that’s what these GMs and owners are thinking. Got two more chances at a ring before 12-21-2012. Unless they really expand the playoffs, then the world may end before the 2012 WS is over. Bummer!

  16. yankees1996 - Dec 10, 2010 at 12:49 PM

    Craig, I hope your predictions are better than mine. Here is the feeling I have, Cliff Lee even after the Rangers upset his agent with the whole “what is it going to take” approach signs with the Rangers. If this whole thing was purely about length of contract and the money Lee would have named the Yankees as his next team when the seven year offer was presented. I hate to say this and I hope I am mistaken but I believe the longer this goes on without Lee making a decision the more it is in the Rangers favor. I hope Cash is keeping the trade lines open because whether Andy comes back or not the Yankees are in the same position now that they were in several years ago…they need pitching!

    • uyf1950 - Dec 10, 2010 at 1:02 PM

      To yankees1996 – you make a really good point. I’m not getting a warm and fuzzy feeling about Lee’s decision either. But I’m of the opinion as long as Andy comes back the Yankees can try and make a trade for a “good” #2 or #3 and still do as good if not better then last season. Just getting rid of Vazquez and getting someone with his head screwed on right should be good for an extra 3 or 4 wins in season (again as long as Andy comes back). Package Joba in a trade package and the Yankees should be able to peak some clubs interest. The Yankees need to solidify their bullpen and that means resigning Wood.

      • yankees1996 - Dec 10, 2010 at 2:00 PM

        The Yankees should have already re-signed Wood to be honest I have not heard of him fielding any serious closer offers. I really do not know who is out there trade wise besides Greinke and there have been rumours around Garza. Garza would be good for the Yanks, like I said before I just hope that Cash is sleeping in his office with his phone next to him and his Blackberry in his shirt pocket. The whole Lee situation is really making me nervous and to add to the bad feelings the Red Sox are really reloading, they have not made a bad move yet. I swear after the Werth contract if someone would have told me that $142 million would be the amount that would get Crawford signed I would have laughed in their face!

      • uyf1950 - Dec 10, 2010 at 2:10 PM

        yankees1996 – If the Lee thing come to a head sometime this weekend as everyone seems to believe the Yankees still have plenty of time to do what they need to do. Also, just because trades options aren’t public knowledge doesn’t mean GM’s aren’t aware of any or that they don’t have something up their sleeves so to speak. Like I said earlier regardless of how the Lee thing comes down I’m confident the Yankees will be fine.
        BTW the only pitcher I have 100% confidence that the Yankees will NOT sign is Carl Pavano. As far as I’m concerned he should be put in jail for Grand Theft.

  17. O.Handwasher - Dec 10, 2010 at 1:25 PM

    I predict that if he signs with the Evil Empire, he’ll pontificate about how this is where he wanted to be anyway, implying that it wasn’t about the money, but not actually saying it.

    • uyf1950 - Dec 10, 2010 at 1:27 PM

      Kind of like what Damon said about the Tigers and Detroit.

  18. roycethebaseballhack - Dec 10, 2010 at 1:45 PM

    Keep in mind that Cliff is a not a boss-hoss hurler, (aka..Sabathia.). He’s lanky and athletic, and has honed his skill, accordingly. Look at guys like Randy Johnson and Any Pettite; good for most of their careers, but truly great in parts of them. The great parts were in their 30’s..mid to late 30’s. I don’t think its unreasonable to subscribe to the notion that Cliff could still be lights-out in six or seven years.
    I think the second half of last season proves The Rangers had a very good and effective line-up with Cliff in the rotation. Notice how they haven’t done things to jack with the core of that team (aside from rumors being launched surrounding Michael Young..).
    My prediction: the Rangers sign Cliff. Six Years. After that, don’t be surprised if an Andrus or Nelson trade bubbles up with KC for Greinke. These guys in Arlington are pretty serious about this winning thing, now.

    • BC - Dec 10, 2010 at 2:04 PM

      Why in God’s name would you trade Andrus? He’d be the last guy I’d trade on that team (well, second to last, after Hamilton).

      • roycethebaseballhack - Dec 10, 2010 at 2:46 PM

        I’m not advocating it, fact, I’d hate to see either of those guys playing outside of Arlington. My point was that The Rangers front office has pulled off some pretty genius things in the past few seasons, and they aren’t handcuffed with a 50-60 million salary range, now. I have no idea if they are cooking up something like that; not endorsing it or anything, either. I’m just saying they’re capable of pulling off a pretty big deal that might surprise everyone.

      • gt929 - Dec 10, 2010 at 3:14 PM

        Noooo, I would think Andrus is as close to untouchable as any Ranger on their roster. They’re talking about combinations of prospects Perez, Scheppers, Profar, Beltre, Sardinas (their top 5), and MLB ready Borbon, Davis, Holland or Ogando (heaven forbid) for either Greinke or Garza. Nothing mentioned locally of trading Andrus, Cruz, or Hamilton.

    • yankees1996 - Dec 10, 2010 at 2:06 PM

      You bring up a very good point about Lee, watching him the location he has and the “smarts” he uses when he pitches, he reminds me of Greg Maddux.

  19. BC - Dec 10, 2010 at 2:09 PM

    I predict wherever and whenever Lee signs, Drew Barrymore will still be the hottest babe to walk the planet.

    • ak4759 - Dec 10, 2010 at 2:47 PM

      please no

      • BC - Dec 10, 2010 at 3:01 PM

        Oh please yes. PLEASE YES. 😎

  20. dondbaseball - Dec 10, 2010 at 2:10 PM

    Craig, Am I missing the point that the goal is to win a World Series or put in you contention to win it as often as possible? When the Yanks missed the playoffs in ’08, they signed AJ, CC and Tex which got them the RING. CC still looks good, Tex is a minor concern based on his poor batting and AJ is a major concern but the Yanks would NOT have won in ’09 without AJ so while that contract is looking very bad at the moment, if he rebounds it will be ok. If the Yanks get Lee, they have to be a prohibitive favorite with the better pitching (starting and relieving) than Boston and as potent a line-up for the next couple of years. With their cash flow predicated on winning, the Yanks can absorb a poor ending to the contract if they gain at the front-end. For the Nat’s the big hope is Werth gets them to be more attractive to the add on parts after Strasberg and Harper become established along with Zimmerman and Storen plus a few other young arms they have. If he doesn’t then he is a bust.

  21. yankees1996 - Dec 10, 2010 at 2:11 PM

    Your thought about Andrus is a little far fetched, are you feeling light-headed?, you may want to sit down and place your head between yours knees and breathe deeply. Andrus is most certainly one of the players the Rangers are building around, I agree with BC it would be shocking to even believe the Rangers would allow his name and the word trade to be used in the same sentence.

  22. uyf1950 - Dec 10, 2010 at 2:35 PM

    I’m having a hard time getting my arms around what’s taking so long Lee to make a decision. If being close to home and the Ranger family is the most important thing to him the decision should be an easy one. I’m sure the Rangers didn’t low ball him. He should sign with the Rangers and everyone can move on.
    If on the other hand the Yankees made the strongest offer both in length and money and he has no objection to pitching for the Yankees or taking up temporary residence in the NY area during the season then he should sign with the Yankees.
    It seems to me it shouldn’t be that hard of a decision. Unless there is some other dynamic at work that people don’t know anything about.

  23. Reflex - Dec 10, 2010 at 2:49 PM

    Why does anyone think they will get 4 years of elite pitching out of Lee? What has he ever done in his career to justify that kind of speculation? In a nine season career, he has had 2.5 truly elite seasons, a couple more very good seasons, and a lot of mediocre seasons. He’s also had serious injury twice, and was demoted to the minors in 2007. He is now 32, and exiting his prime. He has also not pitched all that well outside the NL and AL pitchers parks. I see no reason to believe that as he ages he is going to provide more elite seasons than his entire career till now put together, and find some sort of durability fountain of youth.

    Two more elite years? Possibly. 2-3 “good but not great seasons”? Probably. A season’s worth of starts lost to injury? At least.

    Quite frankly his ceiling once his production is averaged out over seven years will be Andy Pettite today. Thats good, but not great. And certainly not worth $23 million per season, or seven year committments.

  24. jfk69 - Dec 10, 2010 at 4:39 PM

    If the Yankees had an ounce of common sense they would say enough and walk away. No six or seven year deal for a pitcher has ever worked out as they usually break down in the third or fourth year. I am sick and tired of seeing these insane contracts being lavished on ballplayers while the owners demand new stadiums with more and more luxury boxes and ticket prices to match for the general public.
    . As this insanity moves forward it is my fervent hope that more and more teams go bankrupt and they are only two left standing. In a reverse Bad News Bears move,it is the fans that walk out and go choose another American pastime. Keep in mind these are the same bunch that closed down baseball for half a season in their last fit of pique. I am sure many of you got over that fast. The shame is you soon forgot.

  25. ta192 - Dec 10, 2010 at 5:44 PM

    I predict…that there will be a baseball season next year…which is more than many NFL fans would be willing to do…snort…chortle…sneer

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