November 22, 2010

Cliff Lee is not worth close to $24M/yr

The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo reported yesterday the “word is” the Yankees plan to offer Cliff Lee a five-year deal in the $115-120 million range ($23-24M per).

My response: The Yankees are overpaying Lee if they sign him for more than $20 million at any length. Before I elaborate, here’s a quick dose of what my followers on Twitter had to say.
twitter responses 11.21

Because my Twitter responses weren’t overwhelmingly one-sided, I’ve made it this week’s blog poll. Please chip in by voting on the left sidebar.

Economics 101:
He’ll likely be the highest paid free agent this offseason — certainly the highest paid pitcher. The next best starter available, according to MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes is Hiroki Kuroda. Because of the short supply, Lee can demand big money and will likely get it. If the Yankees do proceed with an offer in the $120 million range, no team is going to match that.

Lee is Overrated
The thin market for aces this offseason makes Lee look like a God. Here are the facts:

  • His regular season ERA for the Rangers last year was 3.98 in 15 starts — and that’s not a product of the hitter-friendly Ballpark in Arlington.
  • He’s won exactly one Cy Young Award with a career ERA of 3.85. Two-and-a-half regular great regular seasons makes you a top five paid pitcher in the game?
  • He’s had some excellent starts in the postseason, but doesn’t have any ring to show for them. He didn’t make it through the fifth inning in Game 5 against the weak-hitting Giants this past World Series and took the loss in Game 7. He was also lucky to face A.J. Burnett in Game 5 of the ‘09 World Series, as he won despite allowing five earned.
  • The Cleveland Indians sent him down to the minors in 2007 (just three years ago).
  • He is 32 years old and his back is still an injury concern.

My Prediction:
Unfortunately, I think the Yankees will eventually agree to overpay him, probably close to what Cafardo reported (five years, $115-120 million). If it were up to me, I’d offer Lee four years at $18 million annually at the max. I doubt any other team besides the Yankees offers more than $20 million per year for Lee.

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