To be perfectly honest, I find most turns of phrase to be as creatively bankrupt as Mike Myers after Wayne’s World.  But there’s something really visual about the term “leaving it on the table.”

We’ve heard and read it a lot since last night, and almost every time I do, I picture Cliff Lee in the back room of a restaurant walking away from Brian Cashman sitting beside a circular table with tonnes and tonnes of green on it.

There are a couple of theories as to its origins, but the most likely comes from playing poker wherein the rules of the game, if  you don’t call someone’s bluff and decide to instead fold your cards, you’re quite literally leaving the money that you’ve wagered on the table with no hope of recouping it.

After the initial announcement that Cliff Lee would be signing with the Philadelphia Phillies instead of the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees, it was assumed that Lee had taken less money and fewer years to play in Philadelphia.

Both the Rangers and Yankees offered similar amounts of guaranteed money to Lee with their bids.  The Yankees are believed to have offered a guaranteed $148 million including a player option for the seventh year of the deal.  Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Phillies guaranteed $120 million to Lee over five years, including a $12.5 million buyout after 2015.  At first glance, it appears as though Lee is leaving an additional year and $28 million on the table, but slow your roll Pilgrim.

The Phillies offer also included a vesting option attached to the buyout.  If Lee is able to reach 200 innings in 2015 or 400 innings in 2014 and 2015 seasons combined, he will be guaranteed $27.5 million for the 2016 season.  If he doesn’t reach those targets, then his buyout will kick in.  So, the Phillies deal could possibly reach as high as $135 million over six years, or $13 million less than the Yankees offer over seven years.

While not as long, and not as guaranteed, the Phillies contract could work out to be higher per year than what the Yankees, and likely the Rangers, were willing to bid.

Now, if we look at the difference in the cost of living between Philadelphia and New York, and assume that Lee and his family will be living in Philadelphia as opposed to New York for at least six months of the year, we find that, according to a Cost of Living Comparison, New York is 59% more expensive to live in than Philadelphia.

As the comments on Wayne Parillo’s blog post point out: it’s somewhat of an oversimplified way of looking at things, considering the tax structure of MLB salaries and where exactly Lee’s family would live in Manhattan, but it does give the general idea that over the length of the contract, money would likely go further in Philadelphia than it would in New York.

So, before we begin deifying Cliff Lee for his apparent disdain for lucre, let’s perhaps consider that the Phillies could be good for the soul and the pocket book, while leaving less on the table than we may have initially believed.

Comments (11)

  1. I think it still comes down to him really not wanting to play in New York. If he wanted to be there, he’d sign there. I think he was clearly wanting Texas or some other team to step up with comparable cash to make his decision easy. Either way, I’m just happy the Yankees don’t have him; maybe it isn’t doomsday in the AL East just yet.

    • It’s just getting a little bothersome to hear about how great a person Lee is for taking less money to play where he wants to. Oh, how inspiring! His contract is very favourable, and if he hits his innings in the last two years, it’s actually pretty close.

  2. Also when I wrote my wire service story for Lee this morning, I mentioned that he wasn’t actually leaving that much money on the table using the same argument.

    And don’t you just love when Yankees writers get all “screw cliff lee, we never really wanted him anyway” on Twitter and other forums? It’s amazing how bad Yankees people are at losing. Then again, they aren’t used to it. They usually get what they want, when they want it on and off the field.

  3. Yeah…how admirable of him to accept 9 figures over the next half decade. And Philadelphia is not exactly Pittsburgh. I mean, come on, they’re about as favoured as anyone to win the World Series this year.

    Also, I’m not sure how sold I am on Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels. Oswalt seems due for a huge decline any year now and Hamels is volatile and could combust at any time. Still, running out Halladay and Lee on back-to-back days gives any team a solid chance to win.

  4. It’s not like the extra cash Cliff Lee may be forgoing will have any impact on his lifestyle. Unless Lee hires Lenny Dykstra and Jack Clark as his financial advisors, his new contract with the Phillies will provide him with more money that he could ever reasonably spend in a lifetime.

  5. I think pitching in the NL had a huge impact on this signing. I think Lee looks at what Halladay did in his first season in the NL, and the fact that he can look at a guy like Oswalt who at his age is still able to succeed and says, that is a way more favourable environment for me to spend my next 6 years of my career. Just look at the scrutiny AJ is facing in NY. Albeit AJ was grossly overpaid, he still is trapped there under that kind of scrutiny, why bother?

  6. Either way its a ridiculous amount of money. Enough Lee talk, I’m waiting for the “Overbay has joined the Pirate Bay” post.

  7. Not to be crass, but anyone who has over several million, let alone $148, likely doesn’t give a shit about the cost of living.

    • That’s not true at all. It’s not as though he’s given all that money in one lump sum. I’m certain he would have advisers handling all that money and saving it as he goes. The cost of living should make a difference in his decision just as an extra million or two dollars can sweeten a deal.

  8. oops—-rehashing previous comments

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