Cafardo: "Word Is" Yankees To Offer Lee 5 Years, 115 Million

Via MLB Trade Rumors:

“Word is” that the Yankees are currently willing to offer Cliff Lee about $115MM over five years. Cafardo says the Rangers are aiming to match whatever the bidding gets up to, while the Nationals are also still in the hunt. Earlier in the week, Nolan Ryan said he didn’t expect Texas to be able to outbid the Yanks for Lee.

That’s $23 million per year through 2015, a year when Lee will turn 38 years old.

It’s hard to express how dangerous this offer is. In 2015, the Yankees will be paying Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, C.C. Sabathia, and Cliff Lee a total of 89.5 million dollars. Lee will be 38, Rodriguez will be 40, Teixeira will be 36 and Sabathia will be 35. This is a recipe for disaster. And hell, Derek Jeter will probably still be demanding $25 million.

The Yankees are essentially sacrificing the middle part of this decade for a marginally better shot at making the playoffs in the early part of it. A huge portion of the Yankee payroll will be locked up in a few fond memories of once-great players. I don’t plan on dieing or become a Mets fan (Poll: Which is worse?) in the next five years, so I wholeheartedly oppose this deal.

The Yankees shouldn’t bet all their cards on one or two seasons. They have a strong farm system and massive budget that allows them to set up as perpetual contenders. That status is only endangered by stupid, short term decisions like this one.

About EJ Fagan

E.J. Fagan been blogging about Yankee baseball since 2006. He is a Ph.D. student at University of Texas at Austin.

43 thoughts on “Cafardo: "Word Is" Yankees To Offer Lee 5 Years, 115 Million

  1. I couldn’t disagree more. I dont see the huge downside on a deal like this. I have no issue with paying for elite players. Worst case is what? That he is merely good by the end of the deal?

    • …And we keep our elite prospects, as opposed to what would happen if we traded for a top pitcher.

      Its easy to oppose this in a vacuum, but on balance its still the best option.

      • Standing pat might be a little hard to endure in 2011, but the team will be in a much better position from 2012-2015. The even then, the 2011 team should be just as good, if not better, than the 2010 ALCS team.

        • I have a hard time seeing the 2011 team being better than the 2010 team “staying pat” when at best we’re the same team that lost in the CS with a worse pen while everyone gets better around us, and at worse we don’t have Pettitte, Hughes regresses and the Sox get better.

          If anything I would just see it setting us back at least 2 years until prospects come up, struggle, bust, suceed and regress until we have a good young core in 3 or 4 years, however the Yankees don’t work that way and “sacraficing” 3 years if just competing for a chance to be young and god down the road won’t happen.

          Big free agent contracts and working around a big payroll will always be The Yankees way of doing buisness but they don’t rebuild and they don’t “just compete” for the sake of the future, even if at times as a fan you may want them too.

          • If Aceves comes back healthy he’ll stabilize the bullpen a lot. Montero’s bat could be an upgrade at Catcher as well. If Nova performed better than Vazquez did (not too hard) and a few of the Killer Bs provide a little late season help, they could be a bit better next year. I think Aceves was a big reason why this team just seemed like something was missing. He kept the team in a lot of games they eventually wound up winning in 2009, which is why he ended up with so many wins.

          • I have almost no faith in Aceves coming back until I see it happen, the guy had a herniated disc in his back, I’ve seen my grandfather have to retire from laying tile for the exact same thing it’s hard for me to imagine him trying to throw a baseball at 90 after such a thing.

            IF Alfredo comes back the pen could upgrade but he isn’t a setup man and can’t replace Wood not to mention he won’t have pitched in a year and we have no idea if his velocity, control or mechanics will be effected by his back.

            I remember for a month+ stretch Javy was the best pitcher we had I don’t see Nova doing that and since he can’t seem to get out of the 6th inning and could possibly be the number 4 starter if Andy retires I worry about his production, not to mention it will be his first year starting but people will have seen him and they know even with his velocity he doesn’t miss bats.

            Montero could be a huge upgrade at catcher but he could also struggle defensivley at the begining of the year and have it affect his bat and be sent down to triple A within the first month.

            To just say that 2011 will be a better team than 2010 staying pat is foolish IMO and arrogant, a lot of us thought 2010 team would be better than 2009 and that didn’t hapen with upgrades at several spots.

            I’m actually a little concerned at having either Banuelos or Betances pitch at the major league level next year, I understand Brackman has already had triple A work so if he gets a chance either in the pen or rotation next year I’m fine with that but I really want to see Manny and Dellin get a full year at triple A before seeing any advanced action, Manny because of his age and Betances for health and development reasons since I believe he has the highest upside of the 3.

    • He’s not even the worst case scenario, but a very likely scenario: all of Sabathia, Teixeira, Arod, and Lee age like normal players. That means by 2015, they are all average or worse baseball players for their position. What do the Yankees do then?

      Ok, now the worst case scenario: Lee signs with the Yankees, but starts to suffer from some kind of nagging injury. Arm, knee, shoulder, back, you name it. Since he’s 32/33, he recovers slowly, and never pitches a full season again. At the same time, Arod’s 2010 is the new norm, Teixeira ages faster than we thought we would, and Sabathia’s innings load starts to catch up with him.

      All of these risks only increase every year, when each of the big-contract Yankee players fall further from their prime.

      • Im not sure about that. I’d like to see long-term projections on all of them. I bet Tex, Lee, and CC project better than you think.

        • I think that, on average, I agree with you. Each individually is likely to average pretty good over the term of their contracts. However, by virtue of being old each also has risk of being anywhere from much worse to useless, and that risk increasing each year with age. I think the Yankees can withstand one of them bottoming out, and two would be a stretch, and if three collapsed the Yankees would have trouble being at all competitive.

          Arod is already teetering on the precipice. Teix had a down year, which by itself isn’t a bad thing but could be a sign of things to come, and CC has a lot of wear and tear on his arm. Plus, Derek Jeter could cause all sorts of problems too. Lee continues a trend of concentrating risk in a very small proportion of payroll.

          Call it a too big to fail problem. My argument in graph:

          (Procrastinating from my deadline)

      • By 2015 Tex will be 35… my guess is that he will still be hitting. A-Rod will be making 10mil less per year and maybe be a DH. CC will be 34 so I don’t see why you throw the towel in on him. AJ will be gone and Hughes and hopefully one or two of our prospects will have made it. This all seems like less problematic than dealing away our best young prospects to fill a hole. 2012 FA pitching class looks pretty unappealing… who are you going to sign Buehrle at 33 years old to start the contract?

        • I agree Jeff I see now reason to expect a huge fall off from either Teixeira or Sabathia by 35 both seem to be the type of elite player that will age more effectively than most, in the case of Sabathia we have already seen him start to make adjustments to the aging process by relying more and more on ground balls at an earlier stage of his career.

          Tex had a down year but he was extremely slow even for him to start the year and hurt towards the end of the year but for the most part during the middle chunk of the season when pitchers tend to be at their best he looked like the old Tex, I have a feeling a healthier season will prove Tex to be just fine at the plate.

    • What’s the alternative though? Yankees need another frontline starter, and there are few options. They either give away cash, which is after all, simply cash for the Yankees or they give up the Montero’s, Bentances, etc. and likely have to give whoever they acquire a pricey extension anyways. Not only that, but who’s available that has the track record of Cliff Lee? Zach Greinke doesn’t want to pitch in NY, and any other candidate is iffy at best. Cliff Lee does have some back issues, but he’s purely a control pither, so even if his velocity dips, he should still be an effective pitcher.

      • EJ’s overall message this whole offseason seems to be that we shouldn’t go for an alternative because we would be better off in the future just taking our chances this year and next and hope we have what it takes to win, this way when a younger free agent comes along we will have a smaller budget to include said player and prospects will fill in the mean time and we hope to catch lightning in a bottle.

        It’s a sound strategy if you value financial flexibility and the future over this upcoming year or two but the Yankees simply dont .

  2. I think Lee will age well. Like Andy, he’s less about stuff than he is control, and he has control that Andy could only dream of having. Being a lefty in Yankee Stadium helps, too. I’d prefer 5, but won’t go crazy about 6.

    Seven, however, would be insane. Let’s hope it doesn’t go that far. If it does, let’s hope the Yanks drop out at that point.

    • Andy is a good comparison for Lee but to me the better comparison is Mussina, once Mussina learned to pitch with control and changing speeds over power he was able to extend his career by quite a few yearsm. Lee however has better control now than Moose did at this point IMO and he’s got the added advantage of being left handed.

      • Fellow named Greg Maddux exhibited some pretty fair control through his thirties, he seemed to get by w/o sitting at 95….

      • Yeah, I try to stick with Lefty to lefty comps. David Wells would be a good comp, since he didn’t have blow away stuff and like Lee walked nobody. Wells pitched effectively into his mid 40s.

        • Also you get the added benefit of Lee actually taking care of himself and not drinking and partying away most his nights (I hope) like Wells did, plus overall I think Lee has become a better pitcher than Boomer although Boom harnessed his abilities from a younger age than Cliff.

  3. Lee more than “marginally” helps our chances over the next few years. Plus with Lee on board Pettite may want to chase another ring and come back.

  4. if it was any other team i’d agree with you. but the yankees can afford to overpay these players in decline. and if cliff lee makes the difference in a few championships between now and then it makes some payroll inflexibility in the future worth it. it’s just the premium you have to pay for top free agents, you’re always going to end up paying too much in the later years. their mistake was the arod contract since no other team would have come close, but this cliff lee offer is fine.

  5. One question…. I understand Alex had a down year for himself and overall he was the dominate stick in the lineup he once was but if the “new norm” is 30 HRs and 100 RBI with a .270 BA I would be willing to take that, you would have to move Cano to the 4th spot but how many 3rd baseman are consistently hitting 30 a year?

    I mean yeah I would love to see Alex’s .400 OBP comeback who wouldn’t but I really think people are going overboard on his decline, he missed time on the DL when he was heating up and came off the DL just as hot, he was clearly hurt at the early part of the year and he probably needed some time off earlier in the season but anyone writing off a 34 year old for 30 and 100 needs to remember we aren’t in the steroid era anymore.

    • First, 30 HRs and 100 RBIs overstates his ability. Alex Rodriguez hit .270/.341/.506 with a .363 wOBP this year and just a 3.9 WAR. The trends are bad too – Arod has declined in wOBP for four straight years. He is probably a good bet to hit better in 2011 than 2010, but how much better? With a $31 million dollar salary, the Yankees need Arod to play a whole lot better.

      Remember, the Yankees have a finite payroll. They need a certain combined production from their team in order to make the playoffs. If just under half their payroll plays below that level, the other half has to be particularly good to make it up. The more production you have the expect among a lower-salaried group of players, the more likely it is that the Yankees will fail to make the playoffs.

      If Lee is making 23 million and pitches above average, we’re in trouble.

      • First of all it doesn’t overstate anything he hit 30 HRs and drove in 100 it states just what he did, now if you want to say he wouldn’t have drove in 100 on a worse team I agree but you can say that about a lot of players, if you are saying that 30 and 100 isn’t good enough for Alex then that is a different statement all together and requires a different argument.

        I think you tend to be “heading for the bridge” a little too soon I highly doubt if Cliff Lee pitches above average we will be in “trouble” in fact if Cliff Lee pitches above average next year I would think we win the World Series and with CC and Lee I would think we would be the favorite to do so for the next 2-3 years, hopefully after that some young pitchers from the system will be stepping up and Lee and Sabathia won’t play such a huge role anymore for the final 2 years of Lee’s deal.

        As far as contracts go yes Alex isn’t living up to it but no one can and especially not at his age but anyone who can hit 30 and drive in 100 can hit in the 5 spot of the lineup with a .340 OBP and .500 SLG%, like I said I would love for his OBP to be back at .400 and his SLG be closer to his career average but if it doesn’t happen and he continues producing at this level with the talent on this team and Lee and CC we are far from “in trouble”.

  6. To add to Trev’s point Lee doesn’t “help us make the playoffs” he helps gives us a much better chance of winning the world series, almost every offense the last 2 seasons has been shut down in the late rounds of the playoffs by dominate pitching I think we could make the playoffs next year without Lee but winning the World Series as is or with Pettitte is impossible.

    The New York Yankees don’t do anything to “make the playoffs” Cliff Lee is strictly a World Series move in the mind of the brass which is why it is a good signing, this isn’t a guy who has to make us good he just makes us that much better.

  7. Whether or not we sign Lee, the contracts down the road are still gonna suck and we’re not gonna be that good anyway with a 35+ year olds in CC, Tex, A-Rod, Jeter maybe, etc.

    I will gladly sign Lee to go all in now at the expense of being financially handcuffed in 2014. Especially since we’re going to be handcuffed anyway.

    Plus, Lee is one of the few pitchers in baseball who I’d bet money on still being productive at 38.

    • The key to this whole thing was already stated by EJ in the piece we have a strong farm system as long as we can continue to grow and build upon the foundation of pitching we have now by the time that Arod and Lee at the end of their careers we will have younger less expensive players coming up, contributing and eventually taking their places on the team.

      However by not signing Lee and going after another pitcher via trade depletes this strength and makes signing Lee the logical idea from the POV of winning a World Series nex year, which I thought was the main goal of the New York Yankees every year.

  8. This sounds good to me. Offer 5/120 with a club option for $25 million with a $5 million buyout. If the Rangers or the Nats match that and he wants to go there, he can have fun. i doubt anyone matches that.

    Stand firm, Yankees. You don’t wanna start bidding against yourselves

    • If they are going to up anything it should be the money not the years so I agree Max although I would probably drop that club option down to 20.

  9. Let’s all be fan’s, and not accountants. Remember, as long as the Yanks win, they make money, lot’s and lot’s of it. Their finance people probably are a little more versed in the nuances of the books (player depreciations for example). When the old guard in 3-6 years can’t play they’ll be written off and new faces that can play will come in. None of this is carved in stone of course. The United States or world economy could go into the crapper at which point very few of us will care too much about Yankee money. “So smile for a while and let’s be jolly, life shouldn’t be so melancholy….”

    • So we shouldn’t talk about money because were fans? Isn’t it our money they are getting when we go to games? If it weren’t for us there would be no sport so I don’t understand how you can seperate the two?

      I can probably speak for everyone here when I say that we don’t want players signed at just any dollar amount and the reason being is it affects the overall product put on the field, so if we are going to have a “hot stove” and discuss players and how the team will look money has to be part of the conversation and it’s foolish to think it can be avoided just because we aren’t accountants or because ww don’t have a crystal ball to tell the future economy.

      • You know, I think your in over your head. First of all it’s not your money once you’ve forked it over. I also doubt very much your assertion that your speaking “for everyone here”. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t have the right to hash-out anything on a blog. That’s a given. But my point is that second-guessing management over how they choose to spend their money smacks of reading too many of Keith Law’s blogs. I “get” what Law and James are talking about, I’ve been reading James for over 25 years now. If talking about the economics of baseball is your thing, great. But getting torked over the idea that the Yankees will suddenly dry up if they throw wads of at Lee is, well, foolish. Now get this, having fantasies of understanding the profit/loss concerns of the Yankee ownership is delusional. Enjoy the game, have fun speculating how deals will play out, how rookies develop. Leave the money issues to THE MEN. Oh, BTW, try not to get so hysterical.

        • The team has a budget. It has shown over the last few years, where they’ve drawn a line not on the premium guys, but on the Damon type guy. I think its a valid concern for fans to have these days, when we really do know a lot and the teams are quite open about how much they intend to spend.

        • The men? Are you serious?

          Can you actually have a conversation with someone like a grown up or is this all you can manage? Also, who’s hysterical?

  10. I’ve read $115,& $120 for five years. That in itself is not a big deal, but, Before the Texas series RAB had a
    nugget from Frank Piliere, that Arod wasn’t using his lower body to swing anymore. If that is a mechanical
    problem it’s not a big deal. On the other hand, if it is a structural problem from his hip injury it’s very big problem. The choice would seem to be in a rapidly declining Arod do you spend now for a chance to win now, or
    bite the bullet now in hopes of rebuilding while still contending. I side with EJ on this, but the Yankees just raised ticket prices…They have made a different decision.

      • Wow–that was a valuable GM consultant who could work with ARod. Hope Kevin Long wasn’t hurt by ARod going to someone else.

  11. This totally misses the point. Except for Kevin, no one has even considered what t he financial landscape will look like in 2015. Heck, people used to scoff in 2000 when I predicted the Yankee payroll would keep climbing to over $200M.

    In 2015, we could be looking at a payroll of $300M to $350M–in which case the $90M or so tied up in these players leaves plenty of room to field a great team.

    How could the Yankees support such a budget? I think we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg regarding how much more money can be made by baseball via the Internet marketing opportunities. Things like private social networks where fans get to talk to players directly, rising ticket prices, more advertising, moreprograms on Yes geared to selling more ads, etc–these new potential cash cows and others will emerge and the player payroll budget will surely continue to climb.

    You are predicting the future as if the revenues will be fixed–a serious flaw in your analysis.

    • Your splitting hairs if he is that close to 37 he’s 37 and besides the playoffs are the most important time of year so I always count how old you will be when they roll around and Cliff will be 37 if we make it into the postseason.

  12. He never posted a sub 4 ERA after 37 and when he was 37 he posted a 3.96 but even in that season as I recall he was number 3 in that Cubs rotation, he maintained an “aces” numbers through 36-37 but after that was more of the middle of the rotation guy and that’s where he pitched the last few years of his career.

    I guess we can only hope that Lee can duplicate Maddux’s 2002 season at age 36 when he posted a 2.62 ERA and went 16-6 in 199 IP.