Discussion: Is Cliff Lee Worth As Much As CC Sabathia?

He might be…

In his latest column for Sports Illustrated, Jon Heyman suggested that free agent to be Cliff Lee might be preparing to ask for something similar to the seven-year $161 million deal that his friend CC Sabathia got two offseasons ago.

Via Sports Illustrated:

Before Halladay took a $60-million, three-year extension with Philly, Lee turned down a similar offer, believed to be for three years and somewhere in the mid-$50-millions from Philadelphia, who eventually traded him to Seattle. Word was, he was thinking about more than double that, maybe something close to Johan Santana‘s $138-million, six-year Mets contract.

Now, word going around the game is that Lee might seek three times what Philly offered. In other words, Lee might try to match his old Indians teammate CC Sabathia’s deal, which is for seven years and $161 million. “Why not?” one club executive said. “He’s as good as Sabathia.”

There are some pretty big differences though when it comes to Lee and Sabathia. The biggest is probably the fact that CC was 28 when he signed his deal with the Yankees and Lee is already 32-years-old.

Those four years are pretty huge in this case. The Yankees had no problem giving a 28-year-old a seven-year deal, at the end of which he will be 35. A 32-year-old will be 39 at the end of a seven year deal though.

Also is the fact that Sabathia is viewed as a guy who can handle a ton of innings with relatively few injuries. Lee, on the other hand, has already dealt with a few injuries during his career and has been dealing with back problems as recently as a few weeks ago.

The thing that Lee does have going for him is that he is in much better shape than Sabathia and as Heyman points out, relies on velocity much less than Sabathia does.

The other thing going for Lee is that the Yankees are desperate. They really want him. They want him so badly that they were willing to deal their top prospect, Jesus Montero, for him despite the fact that he’s a catcher and so is the 39-year-old Jorge Posada.

Realistically I could see the Yankees offering him a six-year deal at anywhere from $120-140 million. The bottom line though is that Lee is a unique player to hit the market and another pitcher of his caliber will not be available soon. The Yankees will offer them whatever they have to offer him to bring him to the Bronx.

My guess is that he ends up with a five-year $120 million deal. Unless the Rangers are willing to spend that much, then all bets are off.

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2 Responses to Discussion: Is Cliff Lee Worth As Much As CC Sabathia?

  1. smurfy says:

    Well, Rob, you echoed my thoughts exactly (as well as fleshed them out). 32 is a bugaboo, although he is now pitching MOST desirably. 120 for five, perfect bid (given competition demands it). Do the Yankees employ insurance against injury-caused loss of service?

    • smurfy says:

      one other thought: if we bid high dollars for shorter service, say $80 for three, could we swing it, in that Lee could get another contract at 35? If still pitching well, he could then demand $50 or $60 for three, so his total could be higher. Nobody would want to be what Pavano was. (Excepting, of course, all us no-talent schlumps.)