Well, the market might be expecting inflation, but it doesn’t seem like FanGraphs readers are. The results for Cliff Lee’s contract estimate is in, and it’s quite a bit lower than I expected.
Average length: 5.37 years
Average salary: $20.73 million
Median length: 5 years
Median salary: $21 million
Standard deviation, length: 0.84 years
Standard deviation, salary: $2.84 million
$105 million over five years is a lot of money, no doubt. Only CC Sabathia and Johan Santana would make more per season among starting pitchers, and both signed their deals with New York teams before the economic downturn took hold. But, still, it seems light for the best player on the market, especially when the Yankees are known to be among his most serious suitors.
A year ago, John Lackey got $83 million over five years from the Red Sox, without the Yankees being very involved in the bidding. Is Cliff Lee, who has put up +20.8 WAR over the last three years, really only worth a 20 percent premium over Lackey, who had put up 11.8 WAR in the three years preceding his free agency?
I’m just speculating here, since we didn’t have a box indicating which team you thought he was going to sign with, but I’m guessing that there’s a decent block of voters who are expecting Lee to spurn the Yankees, and they submitted lower figures to account for him signing with Texas or another club without unlimited financial resources. If you took the Yankees out of the picture, then I could see 5/105 as a realistic figure for what he might get from the Rangers.
I’d be shocked if he wasn’t offered more than that by New York, though. In the end, I’m guessing whoever lands him will have to pony up more than this expectation. I’d guess he’ll end up somewhere closer to $140 million over six years. $105 million over five would be a relative bargain.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.