MLB Trade Rumors, which always does an excellent job of rounding up all the tweets and missives from the real baseball reporters (and Jon Heyman), had this to say about all the various offers Cliff Lee fielded before surprising the world by choosing Philadelphia:
Crasnick hears the Yankees offered a deal that guaranteed Lee $132MM over six years, plus a $16MM player option for a seventh year (Twitter link). At $148MM guaranteed, that was the highest bid. The Rangers offered $138MM over six years, and their proposal included a vesting option that could have brought the value of the deal to $161MM, according to Yahoo's Tim Brown (Twitter links). That offer included huge deferrals, tweets SI's Jon Heyman.
So let's dispel the Altruistic Lee Chooses Loyalty Over Money myth. Technically, Lee actually took the offer that will make him the most money over the next five years. The five-year, $120 million deal he accepted from Philadelphia is worth $24 million per year, more than either the Yankees or Rangers offered. Plus, he has a vesting option for a sixth year that brings the overall value to six years, $147.5 million, or $24.58 million per year.
But that paragraph indicates something else interesting, even though it states the opposite: The Yankees didn't offer the largest contract, not by AAV and not by total value:
Contract value (no options)
- Philly: 5 years, $120M ($24M per year)
- Texas: 6 years, $138M ($23M per year)
- Yanks: 6 years, $132M ($22M per year)
Contract value (with options)
- Philly: 6 years, $147.5M ($24.6M per year)
- Texas: 7 years, $161M ($23M per year)
- Yanks: 7 years, $148M ($21.1M per year)
Firstly, if Lee is even moderately effective as a starting pitcher after six years, he'll only need to make $13.5 million per year on his next contract to match what he would have received from Texas. Safe to say that by 2017, the cost of a win will be considerably more than the current $5 million — a price at which league-average starters are easily worth $10-$12M per year. And, of course, he would only need to make minimum wage in 2017 to equal the Yankees' offer. Which brings me to the actual point of this post:
Sure, the seventh year on the Yanks' offer was a player option, and Lee would almost certainly have taken it (but not necessarily; there are examples of pitchers — Keith Foulke comes to mind — suffering career-ending injuries and declining to show up for the next year's spring training, thus voiding their contract out of a sense of honor and fairness), but I think this serves as an instructive example that just because everyone thinks the Yankees can blow all other bidders out of the water doesn't mean they actually will — and it certainly doesn't mean the player will feel obligated to take it, even if they do.