Cliff Lee did not leave a ton of money on the table

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UPDATE:  I somehow missed a Jerry Crasnick tweet on this that said that the Phillies offer had either a $27.5 million vesting option for 2016 or a $12.5 million buyout.  If so, that makes the Phillies deal that much better. In fact, it probably makes it better than the Yankees’ deal in absolute terms as well as average value, depending on what triggers the vesting option. The remainder of below the analysis stands as-is for dynamic, even if some of the specifics are screwy.

9: 44 AM: As LeePocalypse was going down last night, the conventional wisdom was that Lee was going to take substantially less money to go back to Philly than he would have received had he gone to New York.  While the details are still emerging this morning — and while some math is involved and we all hate math — it appears that the Phillies offer was superior in terms of average annual value to that which the Yankees were offering, even if it was a shorter guaranteed deal.

The best information we have right now is that the Phillies will pay Lee $120 million over five years. That breaks down to $24 million a year.  The Yankees guaranteed offer was for six years and $132 million, which is $22 million a year.  Of course there was a $16 million player option on there for 2017, which would make it a $148 million deal over seven years, at just over $21 million a year. For what it’s worth, the Rangers are reported to have offered two deals: a six-year, $120 million offer and a seven-year $138 million offer, though that would have been heavily back loaded.

The key here, obviously, is that under the Phillies deal, he could make a lot more money in year six if things go well for him than he would have if he took the Yankees’ deal, for he will be a free agent in year six rather than be “stuck” with a $22 million one-year deal. If he flames out by year six, sure, he’s out the $22 million he would have made that year plus the player option (and minus any salary he can snag elsewhere). But if he remains a front-of-the-rotation starter, he’s on a presumably inflated market come November 2015.

Ultimately, then, this was less an act of selflessness on Cliff Lee’s part — less an act of giving it up to go back to Philly — than it was a gamble on himself.  If Cliff Lee is worth his contract — and he certainly believes he will be, because that’s how human beings work — he’ll come out ahead for having taken the Philly deal.

If not? Well, then at least he’s the highest paid pitcher in baseball for a good long while, and that ain’t anything to sneeze at.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.