“In the race for free agent left-hander Cliff Lee, people familiar with the talks indicate that the New York Yankees have a big advantage over the Texas Rangers in terms of total guaranteed dollars offered and also have one more guaranteed year currently on the table.“
Heyman also reiterates Lee’s apparent love of the Rangers and the proximity to his home in Arkansas. However, the most important nugget in the article is the fact that the Rangers’ initial offer was apparently for five years and $100 million — the first time I’ve seen an actual dollar figure attached to a Texas offer.
While we don’t know the exact dollars being bandied about by the two teams, we do know this: the Yankees have offered seven years and a total package that is believed to be worth in the neighborhood of CC Sabathia‘s $161 million. The Rangers are at six years and an undisclosed dollar figure. However, if their initial offer to Lee was at $20 million a year, how much further are the Rangers actually willing to go? Six years at the same dollar figure would only get them to $120 million, and there’s just no way Lee leaves $40 million on the table, no matter how much he may have enjoyed his time in Texas. Oh, and the idea that Texas’ lack of state income tax enables the Rangers to comfortably offer less money? Doesn’t matter. Per Heyman:
As discussed yesterday, the Yankees don’t have a viable Plan B if they miss out on Lee. However, the Rangers actually do. As Verducci notes:
If I’m a Rangers fan I think I’d be pretty satisfied going forward with a rotation of Greinke — who, despite repeatedly being brought up as a Yankee trade target has zero chance of landing in New York — Feliz, Wilson, Lewis and Holland. That’s actually downright terrifying on paper, especially since Colby Lewis is apparently the greatest pitcher of our generation. Additionally, not having $23 million a year tied up in a pitcher through his age 38 season will prove immensely helpful as the team looks to improve itself in the years to come.
The only way I’d feel good about missing out on Lee is if the Yankees were willing to give Joba Chamberlain another go in the rotation, but they have adamantly maintained that they will not be doing so. A Yankee rotation of CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett and two mystery pitchers just does not inspire a ton of confidence, and the Yankees would have to trade for a frontline starter and hope that one of the promising trio of Dellin Betances, Manuel Banuelos or Andrew Brackman works out at the Big League level — while we’d all love to see pitchers from the farm system contribute to the team, there’s just too much uncertainty in that plan. Especially since the AL East isn’t exactly getting any easier. At the current moment, almost every team in the division has a better rotation than the Yankees do — I’d take Boston’s, Tampa Bay’s and Toronto’s rotations over the Yankees’ incomplete fivesome, and I might even give Baltimore the edge too given their exciting trio of Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman.
Even if Texas does the unexpected and offers Lee a seventh year, at this point I think Brian Cashman has resolved himself to doing whatever it takes to get Lee — especially since it’s sounding more and more like getting Lee also means getting Andy Pettitte back — and would tack on an eighth year. Quite simply, the Yankees have no choice but to do whatever it takes to get Lee.
And ultimately, it seems highly unlikely that Lee doesn’t take the Yankees offer unless he’s willing to leave at least $20 million on the table. Would you leave $20 million on the table, even if you were absolutely in love with the most recent place you worked and it was close to your home? Of course not — you’d take the extra $20 million and buy a private plane so you could go home whenever you wanted and use the remaining $19 million to do whatever you damn pleased. Unless Cliff Lee is the first athlete in the history of the world in which it’s not all about the money for him, I can’t envision a scenario in which he doesn’t sign with the Yankees.
ETA, 1:14pm: Here’s a thought-provoking piece from Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein on the dangers of locking up the 32-year-old Lee long-term.