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Using Cliff Lee's Contract to Predict CC Sabathia's New Deal

Within the next week, CC Sabathia will have opted out of the four years and $92MM left on his current, record-breaking contract. He will be a free agent at the age of 31 with an unbelievable track record.

Here is his average stat line over the last five seasons: 19-8, 240 IP, 3.09 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 8.1 K/9, 2.2 BB/9. Not only has the man eaten a ton of innings, but he's been dominant in doing so.

For comparison's sake, here is Cliff Lee's three year average stat line prior to reaching free agency: 16-8, 222 IP, 2.98 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 7.2 K/9, 1.3 BB/9. 

It is very rare for a pitcher of Sabathia's quality to reach free agency still in his prime. And because of that, he will receive a massive amount of money this winter. 

But, how far could the Yankees go in contract negotiations for Sabathia? Let's take a look at the potential contracts he could receive.

Option 1: Five years, $125MM, $28MM Vesting Option for Sixth Year

Cliff Lee got a guaranteed five years, $120MM from the Phillies last season. He also has a vesting option for a sixth season worth $27.5MM. In this contract, Sabathia receives a higher annual salary than Lee while also receiving a higher vesting option.

Would the Yankees do it? Yes. Would Sabathia? No, and why would he? Lee was 32 when he signed that deal, while Sabathia will be 31 when he inks his new deal. And, he also has a better track record than Lee over a longer period of time. Here's the math:

Younger + better track record = More money and more years.

Option 2: Five Years, $130MM, $28MM Vesting Option for Sixth Year

This contract gives Sabathia an even higher raise, up from $23MM to $26MM per season, and keeps the years of the contract reasonable. 

Would Sabathia take more money per year over less years? Cliff Lee did. Also, Sabathia's vesting option in this deal still bests Lee's.

Option 3: Six Years, $150MM, $28MM Vesting Option for Seventh Year

The final offer the Yankees gave Cliff Lee was a guaranteed six years and $132MM, with a seventh vesting year worth $16MM for a possible $148MM in total. For those keeping track at home, that would have been $22MM per year in guaranteed money, less per year than what Sabathia had received from the Yankees after the 2008 season.

Again, Sabathia is younger than Lee and has a better track record. With that in mind, he will demand more money. This deal gives Sabathia the extra year over Lee, $3MM more per season, and $.5MM more in a vesting year.

Would the Yankees do it? They don't have much of a choice. Would Sabathia? I think so, because expecting more would be crazy. 

I think the deal he signs will end up closer to Option 3 than any of the other options. Where do you think the contract will land?