Will Lee last? History shows he could
Even in his late 30s, lefty might provide fair value at end of deal
ARLINGTON -- Can Cliff Lee, who turned 32 in August, hold up through the life of a six- or seven-year contract?Can any pitcher hold up under those circumstances? That's the question every team must ask when confronted with the possibility of offering a long-term contract to a star pitcher who is at least in the second half of his career. The Rangers and the Yankees have asked that question and appear to be satisfied with the answer. Both are going hard after Lee. The Rangers have offered him at least a six-year contract, while the Yankees have gone to seven years. Can Lee hold up that long? Who knows -- there is no crystal ball that can provide that answer. But it is possible to look at past pitchers. If Lee gets a seven-year contract, he will pitch the sixth season at age 37 and the seventh season at age 38. Here is a look at 20 prominent pitchers over the past 30 years and how they performed at ages 37 and 38 during their careers. But not everybody can be included. Fernando Valenzuela, Dwight Gooden and Frank Viola are three Cy Young Award winners whose careers were finished before they reached that age. Statistics and age determination are from www.baseball-reference.com. LHP Randy Johnson
Credentials: 303 wins, five Cy Young Awards, 10-time All-StarAge 37: 21-6, league-leading 2.49 ERA, career-high 372 strikeouts, National League Cy Young Award for D-backs in 2001. Age 38: 24-5, led league with 2.32 ERA and 334 strikeouts, NL Cy Young Award for D-backs in 2002. Impact: The D-backs won the World Series in 2001 and won 98 games in 2002 but lost in the first round of the playoffs.
|Here are the 27 contracts of more than $100 million that have been signed since Kevin Brown's deal first broke the barrier in 1999 (asterisks identify contract extensions).|
|Ken Griffey Jr.||CIN||$116.5M||2000-08*|
|Sources: Cot's Baseball Contracts, the Associated Press and MLB.com archives|
Credentials: 355 wins, four Cy Young Awards, eight-time All-Star.Age 37: 16-11, 3.96 ERA in 218 innings for Braves in 2003. Age 38: 16-11, 4.02 ERA in 212 innings for Cubs in 2004. Impact: The Braves won division in 2003 but lost in first round. The Cubs won 89 games in '04 but missed the playoffs.
RHP Roger Clemens
Credentials: 354 wins, seven Cy Young Awards, 11-time All-Star.Age 37: 13-8, 3.70 ERA, 204 innings for Yankees in 2000. Age 38: 20-3, 3.51 ERA, American League Cy Young Award for Yankees. Impact: The Yankees won the World Series in 2000, lost to the D-backs in '01. Clemens won another Cy Young Award in 2004.
RHP Nolan Ryan
Credentials: 324 wins. All-time leader in strikeouts and no-hitters.Age 37: 12-11, 3.04 ERA, 197 strikeouts in 183 innings for Astros in 1984. Age 38: 10-12, 3.80 ERA, 209 strikeouts in 232 innings for Astros in 1985. Impact: The Astros won 80 and 83 games those two years. They won the division in 1986, and Ryan pitched until he was 47, leading his league four more times in strikeouts while throwing his final two no-hitters.
LHP Tom Glavine
Credentials: 305 wins, two Cy Young Awards, one World Series MVP.Age 37: 9-14, 4.52 ERA, 183 innings for the Mets in 2003. Age 38: 11-14, 3.60, 212 innings for the Mets in 2004. Impact: Glavine signed with the Mets after being a huge part of the Braves dynasty. The Mets lost 95 games in 2003 and 91 games in '04. Glavine won 15 games in '06, when the Mets won the division title.
RHP Mike Mussina
Credentials: 270 wins, five-time All-Star.Age 37: 15-7, 3.51 ERA in 197 innings for the Yankees in 2006. Age 38: 11-10, 5.15 ERA in 152 innings for the Yankees in 2007. Impact: The Yankees went to the playoffs in both years and lost in the first round. Mussina won a career-high 20 games in 2008 and then retired.
RHP John Smoltz
Credentials: 213 wins, one Cy Young Award, five World Series.Age 37: 44 saves, 2.76 ERA as Braves closer in 2004. Age 38: 14-7, 3.06 ERA, 229 innings in return to Atlanta rotation in 2005. Impact: The Braves went to the playoffs both years but lost in first round. Smoltz won 30 games over the next two years before his career went into decline.
RHP Pedro Martinez
Credentials: 219 wins, three Cy Young Awards, five ERA titles.Age 37: 5-1, 3.63 ERA, nine starts and 44 innings for Phillies in 2009. Age 38: Did not pitch this past season. Impact: Martinez won 15 games for the Mets in 2005 at age 33, but is 22-16 with a 4.58 ERA in 57 starts and 314 innings over four years since then. He appears to be retired.
RHP Curt Schilling
Credentials: Two-time TSN Pitcher of the Year, six-time All-Star.Age 37: 21-6, 3.26 ERA, 203 strikeouts in 226 innings for Red Sox in 2004. Age 38: 8-8, 5.69 ERA, 93 innings for Red Sox in 2005. Impact: The Red Sox won the World Series in 2004. Schilling missed first half of the '05 season with the ankle injury that resulted in the famous bloody sock in the '04 World Series.
LHP David Wells
Credentials: 239 wins, three-time All-Star, 11 seasons in postseason.Age 37: 20-8, 4.11 ERA, league-high nine complete games in 229 innings for Blue Jays in 2000. Age 38: 5-7, 4.47 ERA, 16 starts and 100 innings for White Sox in 2001. Impact: Neither team made the playoffs. Wells missed the second half of 2001 because of back surgery but won 61 games over the following four years with three different teams.
RHP Kevin Brown
Credentials: Was 33 when he signed his record-breaking seven-year, $105 million contract with the Dodgers.Age 37: 3-4, 4.81 ERA in 17 games, including 10 starts, plus an elbow injury for Dodgers in 2002. Age 38: 14-9, 2.39 ERA, 32 starts in 211 innings during All-Star season for Dodgers in 2003. Impact: The Dodgers never made the playoffs in his five seasons in L.A. Brown spent his final two years with Yankees in 2004-05, going a combined 14-13 with a 4.95 ERA.
LHP Mike Hampton
Credentials: Signed eight-year, $121 million contract with Rockies in December 2000 at age 28.Age 37: Pitched 4 1/3 innings in relief for D-backs this past season. Age 38: Signed Minor League deal with Arizona for 2011. Impact: Hampton was 63-62 with a 4.86 ERA in 168 starts over his eight-year contract, missing all of 2006-07 because of Tommy John surgery. He pitched just two seasons with the Rockies.
LHP Andy Pettitte
Credentials: Three-time All-Star, 240 wins, eight World Series.Age 37: 14-8, 4.16 ERA in 192 innings for the Yankees in 2009. Age 38: 11-3, 3.28 ERA in 129 innings for the Yankees this past season. Impact: The Yankees won the World Series in 2009 with Pettitte winning four games in five starts in the playoffs. They lost in the American League Championship Series last season. Pettitte missed time with a strained groin. He may retire.
RHP David Cone
Credentials: One Cy Young, five-time All-Star, five World Series.Age 37: 4-14, 6.91 ERA in 155 innings for the Yankees in 2000. Age 38: 9-7, 4.31 ERA in 135 innings after signing as a free agent with the Red Sox in 2001. Impact: He pitched sparingly in relief in the playoffs when the Yankees won World Series in 2000. The Red Sox did not make the playoffs. Cone was pretty much finished at that point.
RHP Orel Hershiser
Credentials: One Cy Young Award, World Series MVP, 204 wins.Age 37: 15-9, 4.24 ERA in 206 innings for the Indians in 1996. Age 38: 14-6, 4.47 ERA in 195 innings for the Indians in 1997. Impact: The Indians won division both years and went to the World Series in 1997.
LHP Kenny Rogers
Credentials: 219 wins, four-time All-Star.Age 37: 13-8, 3.84 ERA in 210 innings for the Rangers in 2002. Age 38: 13-8, 4.57 ERA in 195 innings for the Twins in 2003. Impact: The Twins won the division but Rogers was not in postseason rotation. He won 49 games over the following three years with the Rangers and Tigers.
LHP Jamie Moyer
Credentials: 267 wins, 25 Major League seasons.Age 37: 13-10, 5.49 ERA in 151 innings for the Mariners in 2000. Age 38: 20-6, 3.43 ERA in 209 innings for the Mariners in 2001. Impact: The Mariners went to playoffs both years, losing to the Yankees in the ALCS, while Moyer won all three of his starts. His extraordinary career is still not officially over and he has won 208 games since turning 33 on Nov. 18, 1995.
LHP Mike Flanagan
Credentials: One Cy Young Award, 167 wins. Very similar to Lee at this point of their careers.Age 37: 13-13, 4.11 ERA in 211 innings for the Blue Jays in 1988. Age 38: 8-10, 3.93 ERA in 171 innings for the Blue Jays in 1989. Impact: The Blue Jays won their division in 1989 but lost in the ALCS to Oakland, and Flanagan lost his only start, giving up a memorable mammoth home run to Jose Canseco. It was the end of the line for him as a starter.
LHP Steve Carlton
Credentials: Hall of Fame, four-time Cy Young winner, 329 wins
Age 37: 23-11 and a 3.10 ERA, led league with 19 complete games, six shutouts, 295 innings pitched and 286 strikeouts for the Phillies in 1982. Won NL Cy Young.Age 38: 15-16 and a 3.11 ERA, led the league with 283 innings pitched and 275 strikeouts for the Phillies in 1983. Impact: The Phillies did not make the playoffs in 1982 but went to the World Series in '83 before losing to Orioles. He beat the Dodgers twice in the NLCS.
LHP Frank Tanana
Credentials: 240 wins, three-time All-Star.Age 37: 13-12, 3.77 ERA in 217 innings pitched for the Tigers in 1991. Age 38: 13-11, 4.39 ERA in 186 innings pitched for the Tigers in 1992. Impact: The Tigers went 84-78 and 75-87, failing to make the playoffs both times. Tanana was done after going 7-17 with a 4.35 ERA the following season.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.