Initially last night the Cliff Lee storyline was that he left as much as $50 million on the table because he loved Philadelphia and simply wanted to pitch for the Phillies instead of the Yankees or Rangers.
However, now that the various contract details are trickling in it turns out he probably left at most $13 million on the table and may actually end up with more money (once deferred payments and other factors are taken into account) from the Phillies than he was offered elsewhere.
And this afternoon Rangers chief executive officer Chuck Greenberg revealed that Lee “was willing to remain a Ranger” and in fact offered to re-sign if Texas would guarantee him a seven-year deal:
In this instance, it was simply a matter of us saying, “yes.” But it would have been a matter of us saying “yes” on terms that we weren’t comfortable with. This was not a matter of Cliff making a decision not to come to Texas. He was willing to remain a Ranger, but it was on terms that we felt went beyond the aggressive parameters within which we were already operation. Had we been willing to go beyond the parameters that we were willing to go, he would be here. But we didn’t think that was in the long-term best interest of the franchise.
Greenberg and company turned down Lee’s seven-year proposal and their final offer was $138 million over six years with a seventh-year vesting option worth $23 million. Lee ended up signing a deal with the Phillies that guarantees him $120 million for five years and includes a sixth-year option for 2016 that vests based on his innings count.
So yes, Lee may have turned down slightly less money in choosing the Phillies, but according to Greenberg that’s only because the Rangers turned down his offer to re-sign for seven guaranteed years.
Moving on quickly after Cliff Lee turned them down, the Yankees “have agreed to terms on a contract with Russell Martin,” according to Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com. It’s believed to be a one-year deal, although the Yankees would also have Martin under team control in 2012 as an arbitration-eligible player.
Because of his fractured hip Martin passing a pre-signing physical exam is probably no sure thing, but assuming he does the Yankees beat out the Red Sox and Blue Jays to nab the two-time All-Star after he was non-tendered by the Dodgers.
If healthy Martin will be given every opportunity to serve as the Yankees’ primary catcher, with Jorge Posada spending the bulk of his time at designated hitter. Francisco Cervelli is in line to be the backup after starting often in place of Posada this year and the Yankees’ top prospect, Jesus Montero, is for now at least a catcher even if many people believe he’ll eventually move out from behind the plate.
Not so long ago Martin was one of the best all-around catchers in baseball, hitting .285 with a .373 on-base percentage and .433 slugging percentage in 427 games through age 25, but he’s batted just .249 with a .350 OBP and .330 SLG in the past two seasons while missing half of 2010 with the fractured hip that remains a question mark. Bouncing back is hardly guaranteed considering how hard the Dodgers rode Martin prior to the hip injury, but he’s still just 28 years old and would bring plenty of value to the table with his defense and on-base skills even if the rest of his game lags behind.
Wow. In one of the most surprising free agent signings in a long time, Cliff Lee has turned down longer, more lucrative offers from both the Yankees and Rangers to return to the Phillies.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that Lee’s deal is worth approximately $100 million for five seasons. Obviously that’s far from chump change, especially if reports about a vesting sixth-year option are accurate, but it’s significantly less than the Yankees’ reported final offer of as much as $154 million over seven years.
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has a policy against speaking about free agent negotiations and somehow managed to remain under the radar until tonight, when rumors began swirling that the Phillies were the “mystery team” Jon Heyman of SI.com had been speculating about without knowing (or at least revealing) their identity.
Sure enough, Amaro swooped in and now Lee re-joins a pitching staff with fellow aces Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels for what has a chance to be one of the best rotations of all time.
Lee spent a half-season with the Phillies in 2009, going 7-4 with a 3.39 ERA in 12 regular season starts and dominating in five playoff outings as the team fell to the Yankees in the World Series. He was under contract for another season, but Amaro traded him to the Mariners for prospects last December 16 and filled his spot atop the rotation with Halladay.
Lee repeatedly spoke about enjoying his time in Philadelphia, but with the Phillies seemingly having little payroll room to get into a bidding war for him after adding Oswalt’s hefty contract at midseason the Yankees and Rangers emerged as the presumed favorites. Turns out, Amaro was doing his work without leaking any information to the media and Lee was shockingly willing to leave as much as $50 million on the table to return to Philadelphia.