Closing the Book on Cliff Lee, Who Would Have Loved Texas For the Right Price

Categories: Texas Rangers
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Sam Merten
Adios, Cliff. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.
I know. I know. You're tired of hearing about Cliff Lee.

He's a goner, and it's not like the Rangers didn't do their best to keep him here. Actually, I'd say Jon Daniels, Nolan Ryan and Chuck Greenberg did too much in their attempt to convince Lee to stay, making three trips to Arkansas and offering the most total dough to the club's playoff hero this year. (That is, until he melted down in Game 1 of the World Series and surrendered the series-ending three-run homer to Edgar Renteria in Game 5.)

I'm glad he bolted to Philadelphia. The Rangers' offer of six years for $138 million (including deferred payments) with a $23 million option for a seventh year was crazy for a guy whose career most resembles Denny Neagle's. So exorbitant, it turned out, that it topped the six-year, $132 million deal and $16 million option offered by the Yankees -- the richest team in sports with a payroll north of $200 million that included the top four highest-paid players in baseball last year.

Despite a potential to earn $161 million with Texas and $148 million in New York, Lee opted instead to ink a five-year, $107.5 million contract with the Phillies that includes a $27.5 million option for a sixth year, which becomes guaranteed if he pitches 200 innings in 2015 or combines for 400 innings in '14 and '15. Total potential value of the deal: $135 million.

Wow. Somebody actually didn't jump for the biggest pile of cash. Right?

"Cliff Lee chose comfort and familiarity over more money," began the ESPN story about the signing.

But that's simply not true.

Lee had his price. Texas just wasn't willing to meet it, although agent Darek Braunecker claimed there wasn't anything the Rangers or Yanks could have done differently to change Lee's mind. As Daniels and Greenberg explained in a conference call with reporters, Braunecker gave them a contract proposal that Lee would have signed. Some media outlets reported that he was seeking a guaranteed seventh year, but Greenberg and Daniels didn't elaborate on his specific demands. Whatever they were, the Rangers ultimately balked.

So while Lee talked glowingly about how much he enjoyed his time in Philly (of course, before they traded him and made a deal for Roy Halladay to replace him) and his wife said she hated the heat and traffic in North Texas, it wasn't really about that.

Want more proof? Lee has the potential to earn more annually with the Phillies. If the option doesn't kick in, he'll get a $12.5 million payoff. That means his deal is worth $120 million guaranteed over five years -- an average of $24 million per year, which happens to be $1 million more than CC Sabathia earns annually in New York as the highest-paid hurler in the game. If the option does vest, he'll actually make less at an average of $22.5 million per year.

In Texas, Lee would have averaged $23 million per year with or without the option, and he would have banked $22 million per year through six years with New York or $21.14 million annually with the option. (It's unclear if there were option buyouts in either offer similar to the one granted by Philadelphia.)

Those are a lot of numbers to digest, but the bottom line is that Lee will make more annually than what the Yankees offered him, and he could make either more or slightly less than the deal from the Rangers.

It was about the money for Lee. The Rangers just didn't offer enough of it, and I'm thankful. If the Rangers want to keep C.J. Wilson here after his contract expires at the end of next year and have the flexibility to sign Josh Hamilton (a free agent at the end of 2012) long term, the last thing the club needed was a fat contract hanging over their heads as they paid a guy who stayed only because the dough was too much to refuse. And that doesn't bring back memories at all.

(Later today, what the Rangers do next to replace Lee now that Zack Greinke's headed to Milwaukee.)


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