It seems like just yesterday that teams were lining up with offers north of $150 million for Cliff Lee during the 2010-11 offseason.
Lee would eventually leave a six-year, $154 million offer from the New York Yankees on the table in order to sign a five-year, $120 million deal to return to the Philadelphia Phillies. Fast forward five years, and teams are reluctant to commit even four percent of what the Yankees were prepared to pay Lee in 2010. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe included in his Sunday Notes column that teams are mulling over different ways that they could possibly bring Lee on board, but aren’t thrilled about giving him a guaranteed major league contract for the amount of money he’s seeking.
There were teams kicking around scenarios for the veteran lefty this past week, but they are unsure about devoting $6 million to $8 million, plus incentives to Lee, who hasn’t pitched in the majors for most of two seasons.
So now we have a rough estimate of what Lee’s asking price is, and why he’s still without a team. We can also rule out a few teams as a landing spot, because the 37-year-old has expressed interest in signing with a contender. Lee’s agent, Darek Braunecker, said that it would have to be a “perfect fit” for the former Cy Young Award winner to return. He went on to specify that “perfect fit” meant “from a competitive standpoint, from a financial standpoint, from just an overall opportunistic standpoint.” Translation: I’m not coming back to pitch for a team that sucks, I’m not coming back for cheap money, and I’m not coming back unless I have a spot in the rotation somewhere.
A flexor tendon tear in his left elbow has kept Lee off a major league mound since July 31, 2014. If he does decide that the options in front of him aren’t worth it, then it’ll still have been one hell of a career. He’d have walked away from the game with a .611 winning percentage over 13 major league seasons, five top 10 finishes in the Cy Young voting (including winning the award in 2008), and a 7-3 record with a 2.52 ERA in 82 postseason innings.