What Do The Yankees Do If They Don’t Get Cliff Lee?

The overwhelming expectation is that Cliff Lee will end up as a Yankee. They have the resources to pay him more than anyone else, the need for him in their rotation, and they expressed heavy interest in acquiring him in July, even going so far as to include Jesus Montero in their offer. It is no secret that they plan to offer him a lot of money to come to New York.

What if he doesn’t take it?


To me, the possibility of Lee declining the Yankees might be the most interesting question of the off-season, because there is no obvious Plan B. After Lee, the next best free agent starters are Jorge de la Rosa, Carl Pavano, and Andy Pettitte. Bringing back Pettitte just keeps the status quo rather than providing an upgrade, so he’s not a real alternative. There’s no way the Yankees go back to Pavano after the debacle that was his first stint in pinstripes. That leaves them with de la Rosa, who is something of a left-handed A.J. Burnett – not a great fit when they’re frustrated with the right-handed version they already own.

If Lee spurns the Yankees, their fallback plan is almost certainly not a free agent. It’s a terrible crop of starting pitching once you take him out of the picture. So, they’d almost certainly have to turn to the trade market to get the kind of impact pitcher they’re after. Are there actually decent alternatives to pursue in trade?

The big pitcher who will likely be available this winter is Zack Greinke. But he has a limited no-trade clause that lets him block deals to half of the clubs in MLB, and reports are that the Yankees are on the list of teams to which he would not accept a trade. He’s not a person who enjoys a lot of attention, and the spectacle of the New York media market may keep him from being an option. Perhaps all of that talk is overblown, but the working assumption has to be that Greinke is not an option for New York.

The next best pitcher who might be available in trade is… Matt Garza, maybe? But then there’s the issue of whether the Rays would want to trade Garza to their division rival. Seems unlikely at best.

You have to imagine the Yankees thought about this in July when they made their offer for Lee. They knew that their options dwindled quickly if he wasn’t wearing pinstripes next year, as the other available pitchers simply don’t match up to their prime target. If they don’t get Lee, this winter is going to be a challenge for Brian Cashman. That’s one of the reasons I expect that their offer will be significantly more than the 5 years, $105 million that the crowd estimated Lee would sign for yesterday.

For the Yankees, this winter is basically Cliff Lee or bust. Expect to see an offer that reflects that mentality.

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Brad Johnson
Guest
Brad Johnson

Of course, the top reason why Lee might turn down a Yankees offer is probably the fan’s treatment of his wife.

Texas_Dawg
Member
Texas_Dawg

He said it’s a non-issue and was just one loser.

This is the real issue for the Yankees:

http://www.pinstripedbible.com/2010/11/03/prince-hals-balancing-act/

Roughly $47M (if Steinbrenner is serious about keeping payroll the same) to keep Jeter/Rivera/Pettitte (who made $49M in 2010), replace Berkman/Kearns as bench bats, AND add Lee. Even with Jeter taking a $10M pay cut, Lee at $22M/yr would be a 5% payroll hike over 2010.

pft
Guest
pft

Not sure if the concern is cash flow or the salary tax. The salary tax threshold is rising 8 million next year so that should help free up a couple of million.

It could also be a ploy to make folks think they won’t be major players in this years FA market for players other than Cliff Lee, or to strengthen their bargaining position with Jeter,Rivera and Pettitte), so not sure I believe it.

If it is cashflow, I would look for the Yankees to be able to convince Jeter and Rivera to back end any multi-year deals with a bunch of deferred money so that they can field a competitive team in their last years. Neither Jeter nor Rivera are living pay check to pay check so this should not be an issue. They should be able to be signed for 25 million payable in 2010 leaving 22 million of the 47 million to spend in in 2010.

Posada is in the last year of his contract and 13.1 million will come off the books in 2012 and Pettitte is unlikely to return in 2012, and perhaps not even in 2011 (saving 11 million). That’s will be another 24 million off the books in 2012. They could also save 9 million in 2012 by not picking up Swishers option (assuming they have an alternative). So the hump is really 2011, especially if Pettitte comes back.

With Cliff Lee they could also back end the contract or include a bunch of deferred money, and appease him and his wife with perks to offset the cost of living and help avoid the unclean. They probably need to offer 2 more guaranteed years than the Rangers and 3 million in AAV to land him.

They also need to trade AJ Burnett at first chance, preferably after he has a decent stretch of games under his belt. This will require eating some salary on their part, but they can get half of it off their books. He is completely unreliable.

t ball
Guest
t ball

Whatever. She won’t be sitting in the visitors’ section if he signs there and they know that there are drunken idiots in every stadium.

Dan Pitrowiski
Guest
Dan Pitrowiski

Thats why his Lee and his wife will demand special seating at the game, they already get that, but EXTRA special seating. Maybe his own box.

At that point and probably with $10M more on the table then any other team, the Yankees will land Lee

B N
Guest
B N

Only 10m more? Don’t be stingy! Make it 20 and we’ve got a deal. 😉

Lester
Guest
Lester

$10 M? Hahaha… that doesn’t even cover the extra money he’ll have to spend on state income tax compared to TX (where it’s 0%), not to mention the higher cost of living. Hal & Hank better plan on offering $20M+ than the next best offer. Of course, maybe they can bank on Lee giving them a discount for the Yankee mystique.

Barkey Walker
Guest
Barkey Walker

@Lester, I would imagine BB players have to play tax in every state they, “work” in, just like consultants. But yes, more games in NYC means more tax.