I've been mulling over this for a few weeks now, but wanted to wait until after the World Series to post it.
The biggest complaint about Cliff Lee is that he will be demanding 5-6 years of being paid like an ace, but may only actually give 3 years of ace-like production. So, what if at the end of his contract we only paid him like an ace when he pitched like an ace?
Here's my proposal:
Year 1-3: $25 million
Year 4: $20 million, $5 million in incentives
Year 5: $18 million, $7 million in incentives
Year 6: $15 million, $10 million in incentives (player option)
My premise in this is that he will pitch like an ace for the first 3 years of this deal, but may not produce the same way during the second half of the deal. As such, we offer him incentives for reaching certain milestones during those years:
- 20-win season
- 150 strikeouts
- 2 complete games
- sub-1.30 WHIP
- sub-1.30 BB/9 ratio (as examples)
Each of these milestones would be worth $1 million in year 4. Year 5, 2 of the incentives would have mediate milestones (15-win season, 1 complete game), and each of these would be $1 million. Year 6, every one of the incentives would have some form of mediate goal, so that each category would be worth $2 million if he reaches the goals mentioned above, or $1 million if he just reaches the mediate goals. As a concession to him, he can opt-out before the sixth year if he feels like he would get more money somewhere else (unlikely). In this way, the Yankees only pay for what they receive. If you check, the only of the incentives which he did not get this year is the 20-win season (for obvious reasons); he more than surpassed the others. If he doesn't pitch like an ace the last years of his contract, the Yankees will get some extra money if they need to bolster the rotation through mid-season trades.
Before you start in, I highly doubt that they will do this, but wouldn't it be nice?