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Quote of the Day: Seven-year contract offer edition

Dec 10, 2010, 10:31 AM EDT

Texas Rangers v New York Yankees, Game 3 Getty Images

“Seven years for a pitcher is a lifetime. It’s just scary, and any general manager who tells you it isn’t, well, I’m not sure what calculations they are going by.”

Kevin Malone, former Dodgers general manager who signed Kevin Brown to a seven-year, $105 million contract in 1999.

That quote comes in the course of an article in today’s New York Times looking back at the history of long deals for pitchers. It’s not a good history.  At least Kevin Brown gave L.A. some decent, albeit sporadic production for five of those years.  Add to the list Mike Hampton and Wayne Garland. Haven’t heard of Garland? Exactly.

CC Sabathia is the only pitcher mentioned among those seven-year+ deals who strikes me as someone who will ultimately have been worth it. But then again, he’s a beast of a man with no injury history and an uncomplicated delivery who relies on power more than a fine touch.  Oh, and he was much younger when he signed his deal.  Someone like that, sure, maybe it’s worth it.

Cliff Lee for seven years?  Yikes.

  1. Jason @ IIATMS - Dec 10, 2010 at 10:35 AM

    If Lee is too expensive for the NY Yanks, that’s quite a statement for Texas.

    • Jonny 5 - Dec 10, 2010 at 10:56 AM

      Jason, A few questions for you, if you don’t mind. If the Yanks do not get Lee, what do you think the majority fan reaction will be? What will be yours? What will most likely be the “next move” to fill their needs?(besides begging Andy to pretty please play next season)

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Dec 10, 2010 at 11:06 AM

        Speaking for Jason, first issue is he’s not representative of the “average fan” much like you nor Bill Baer and the guys at Crashburn Alley probably don’t represent the average Phillies fan. You all represent the more knowledgable fanbase.

        However, the average Yanks fan is going to freak out b/c all they’ve heard about this offseason is Lee Lee Lee. Throw in the fact that Pettitte might retire, and with Vazquez gone, the Yanks only have three starting pitchers set for next season. Nova is probably not even a viable 5th starter, let alone 4th. The ship has apparently sailed on Joba as a starter (per Girardi at the winter meetings). So you’d expect the Yanks to do some major dealing of prospects. Do they go after Greinke? All the high end pitchers like Josh Johnson, King Felix, Cain, Lincecum, etc won’t be traded without essentially emptying the farm system, so who does that leave? Take on someone else’s bad contract [Santana?]?

      • Jonny 5 - Dec 10, 2010 at 11:29 AM

        I’m aware he’s definately not the “average” fan, that’s why I asked for his as well, as what he thinks the majority reaction will be. I’m also very close to an “average fan” when comparing to Jason, or Craig or half of the posters here probably. I’m just trying to get an idea of the earth being tossed off it’s axis or something if the Yanks don’t land Lee, out of my mind. I just love the insight, and I always ask too many questions.

        And Copo, in reference to your comment, Do you really think from a financial standpoint, the Yankees are super worried about emptying their farm system? When they seem to not mind building the team with the most gnarley FA’s they can sign anyway?? It looks like to me, the Yankees are to a point financially where they may not even need a farm system for anything but to satisfy the need to trade when they don’t get their man via FA.

      • Charles Gates - Dec 10, 2010 at 12:05 PM

        As a partial Yankee fan, I’ll say they’d be divided. Even non stat oriented people understood that Jeter wasn’t worth what he was asking for. They just said give it to him because he ‘earned’ it. Though their conclusion, I feel, was wrong, at least they were thinking about the problem more objectively –> Value vs. Cost. And of course there’s a risk component in there.

        So how this relates to Cliff Lee? My guess is the general feeling would be: Sucks we didn’t get him, we usually get them, but 7 years is a loooong time.

        That, and ‘Fire Brian Cashman.’

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Dec 10, 2010 at 12:24 PM

        Do you really think from a financial standpoint, the Yankees are super worried about emptying their farm system

        From a financial standpoint, they better be. When you take a look at the Sox and the Yanks, and lets be honest, they are essentially the same team, the Sox have made what amounts to two signings for about $300M (Crawford and future Gonzalez). However, their payroll hasn’t increased because they are making these signings both while bringing up young and cost controlled players (Lester, Buchholz, Bard, and Ellsbury with Lowrie and Kalish waiting in the wings) and losing the overage players (Lowell, Lugo and Beltre off the books this year, Drew, Cameron and Ortiz next year). So they improve the ballclub without hamstringing themselves financially. It’s almost like they play a zero sum game, and play it well.

        Then you take the Yanks, who each time they “improve” the club, just end up adding to the league’s top payroll. They’ve deducted $10M for Vazquez, and about $11M for Pettitte (not counting the three or four million saved from Jeter). However, they are going to replace all that saved money with Lee, and still be missing a starting pitcher. So that’ll cost more money or prospects, or both. The young guys (killer B’s of Banuelos, Brackman and Betances) are at least a year out, and they’ve even had to push Montero up a year.

        On top of that, the future of the Yanks payroll is significantly hampered by just a few players. According to Cots, last year’s payroll was $213M. 2012 has $134M tied up for 7 players(!). The Yanks need these young guys to step in or else the payroll will only keep increasing. Yes it’s not our money, but there has to be a bottom to the Bank of Steinbrenner, doesn’t there?

      • scapistron - Dec 10, 2010 at 1:26 PM

  2. BC - Dec 10, 2010 at 10:40 AM

    I think when the Braves got Greg Maddux they signed him to some sort of ridiculous (at the time) deal, like 6 years, $60 million or something? Can’t think of another deal for a pitcher in recent memory (well, recent for ME anyway) that was longer than 4 years and worked out…
    PS. Darren Dreifort is another deal (was it 5 years?) that worked out well… eh… not so much.

  3. amhendrick - Dec 10, 2010 at 10:47 AM

    Cliff Lee’s most similar pitcher through age 31 is Denny Neagle. His career stats are much less impressive than you might think given the contract offers.

    • CJ - Dec 10, 2010 at 10:50 AM

      Career stats don’t always paint the whole picture for all players though. If Cliff Lee isn’t exhibit A of that, then he isn’t too far down the list.

    • BC - Dec 10, 2010 at 11:26 AM

      Hey, don’t be dissing Denny Neagle. He helped win me a rotisserie league one year.

  4. tadthebad - Dec 10, 2010 at 10:55 AM

    Hello? Pedro signed 6 yr (plus 1 option year that was picked up) contract with Boston. I think he was worth it, and he’s a far, far cry from the ridiculous girth of CC.

    • JBerardi - Dec 10, 2010 at 11:45 AM

      Pedro and CC are both freaks of nature though. That’s the point.

  5. aburns77 - Dec 10, 2010 at 10:58 AM

    I agree that a seven year deal is crazy for Cliff Lee, and I don’t really understand how all of a sudden the Yankees are giving him seven years, they had been stressing that seven years is a dealbreaker and all of a sudden Crawford signs with the Sox and now they have to give him seven years, why? Sure, he’s the most highly coveted free agent, one of the more dominant pitchers in the game, but a seven year deal for him is awfully different than one for Crawford a position player. As a Yankees fan I’d love to see Cliff on the team, however not at the cost of further bogging down our payroll with crazy contracts that have a strong likelihood of being regrettable by their end.

  6. seattlej - Dec 10, 2010 at 12:30 PM

    Texas has a great history of long-term contracts… just ask A-Rod and Chan Ho.

  7. yankees1996 - Dec 10, 2010 at 3:52 PM

    The biggest thing to remember about the entire Cliff Lee situation is that he is about to cash in for what he has done not what he is going to do. There have been plenty of long term deals for pitchers and position players that have not worked out (see above posts), Lees’ star has been on the rise for awhile now and he is cashing in. I would rather have him than not have him but not at the expense of our farm system or some ridiculous contract that nets Pavano type results. If you Yankee fans that are posting about this Buck Showalter was proven right years ago when he said it all starts with the farm system and I still believe it to be true to this day. The Yankees live and die and mostly live in the FA market but with no salary cap in sight and the salaries of the players continuning upward it is only a matter of time until the team salary will be beyond $250 million or better. The risks of a seven year contract can only be determined by the Yankees themselves what are they willing to risk for the reward that they may or may not get? I guess we will find out in a few days time.

  8. ta192 - Dec 10, 2010 at 5:27 PM


    1) Like Johnny5, I too have wondered if the Jankees actually NEED a minor league system. Think they could get by with just a AAA team. But, are they perhaps required to have a minor league system by some obscure bylaw or something?

    2) I made a comment on a earlier post about the possibility of owner/GM’s anticipating that players signed to super long contracts will be “hangar queens” (as the air force calls planes constantly in maintenance} in out years, with insurance covering most of their contract costs as they languish on the DL. I don’t think this is beyond reason…

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