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.