I want Cliff Lee, but if he wants Texas, so be it

Good e-migo Maury Brown tweeted this not that long ago, and he’s right:

After lat night, if the Yankees add an eighth year to their offer, this will be more about losing to the Rangers than getting Cliff Lee.

The Yankees are in bed with over $618 million of committments through 2018, just ahead of Evil Empire II who are now on the hook for almost the same amount over the same period of time:

The Red Sox have $594.75 million in salary commitments through 2018, not quite $19 million less than the Yankees’ $613.28 million. The Yankees’ committed dollars are just a little more than 3% greater than those of the Red Sox.

This should not be “CLIFF LEE AT ANY COST”. It just shouldn’t, but it feels like it’s turning into just that. Sure, if Lee stays in Texas, it’s possible Pettitte decides to hang ’em up, too. That would leave two gaping holes in the rotation. Cashman could very easily* try to trade the entire farm system for Zack Greinke or lefties Johan Santana or Francisco Liriano. We’ll address that if it comes to that, to be sure.

* It would be easy to try, not easy to execute; just wanted to make that clear.

My colleague Larry, in discussing the success of the RedSox over the last week, puts it quite well and we can adapt the rational thought for Cliff Lee:

As a Yankees fan, all I can say is congratulations. There’s no way I can feel bitter about the Sox’s success in this week’s winter meetings. The Sox did what the Yankees usually do (and may still do, before this post-season is over): they parlayed their money advantage into the signing of a couple of terrific ballplayers. IIATMS, that’s the way the game is played.

If the Yanks are outbid, they’re outbid. It would be among the rarest events in the baseball world, but it can happen. We’ll have to lick our wounds and just go out and play like mad this Spring and Summer.  World Series titles are not awarded in December. There are games to play.   That’s what every other team has said after a Yankees spending spree. Now it’s our turn, IF Cliff Lee lands in Texas.

If he chooses the Yanks, we’ll hear all about “the Yanks are buying a title” yet again. It is about the money.

And if Lee takes Texas’ tax-advantaged money:

IIATMS overlord and founder. ESPN contributor. Purveyor of luscious reality.

About @Jason_IIATMS

IIATMS overlord and founder. ESPN contributor. Purveyor of luscious reality.

12 thoughts on “I want Cliff Lee, but if he wants Texas, so be it

  1. THANK-YOU, Jason. ANYONE who outbids the Yankees is more than likely making a very ill-advised decision. Basing that statement on all of the ill-advised free agent grabs we've made in the past.

    My fear all along has been that we would sell the farm to buy Lee, only to have him turn into Pavano/Burnett. (he has had back issues, and Burnett was, before we signed him, unhittable when he faced the Yankees or Red Sox.) Just me exercising my paranoia. But the bidding here is starting to look like an Ebay auction between two bored, rich neighbors – the kind of auction where they end up paying a 20% premium over the new price, just so their "friend" doesn't win the auction.

  2. I think that, regardless of the merits or lack thereof of a particular contract, one thing that's probably true after this offseason is that the Yankees payroll won't be holding at $210 million. With more teams increasing their spending across the board, my guess is the Yankees will follow the market and increase their payroll too.

  3. If Lee turns down or get a better offer than the alleged 7 years/23.5 million per the Yankees should let him walk. He’s barely worth that offer, anything more is stupid. I’m OK even if this means missing the playoffs for a year (which it doesn’t).

  4. I'll be contrarian and say that Lee is well worth 7 years/$23 million. Anything more might make me nervous, depending on how much more. Of course, it depends on how you do your valuation. Over at FanGraphs, Dave Cameron has been valuing free agents at $5 million per WAR. With those numbers, a 7 WAR guy like Cliff Lee is worth a heck of a lot of money. I'll try to post on this later.

  5. I agree with Larry here… Sure looks like teams are flush with cash, and you can't look at 2015 salaries with 2010 dollars.

    The marginal value of Lee to the Yanks at this point is greater than to anyone else, period. The 5-7 WAR he's likely to deliver over the next 3 years is the difference between a wild card exit and a championship every one of those years.

    Given Yankee resources, and all the money coming off the books for the Yanks over the next few years, they can easily swallow the $23 in years 5-7 for a #3 or 4 starter. The yanks success in those years are going to be dependent on the farm system and that die has already been cast.

  6. I actually am hoping he signs with Texas so the Yanks can refocus on developing their young players to augment the creaky overpaid veterans they are already committed to.

  7. Kurt, signing Lee would not distract the Yankees from developing players in their minor league system. But the consensus is that none of the Yankees' minor league starting pitching talent is major league ready. Moreover, if the Yanks cannot sign Lee, they may look to trade some of this young talent for an established starting pitcher.

    I'm with you. The Yankees have to get younger. But signing Lee will actually allow the Yanks to retain their top minor leaguers, and may buy the time needed to let these players develop in the minors.