Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Present And Future Of Cliff Lee

  • Short-term rental or long-term purchase:

It's a waste of time to continually speculate where Cliff Lee will be traded once the Mariners decide to pull the trigger. On a daily basis rumors, innuendo, suggestions and ideas pop up from voices credible and idiotic. It fluctuates like weather patterns and the longer it goes, the worse it's going to get.

And just think: it's only June 30th----we have another full month of daily Cliff Lee melodrama to sift through.

In today's NY Times for example, Tyler Kepner discusses potential desire of the Yankees to sign Lee as a free agent after the year; that he's former teammates and close friends with C.C. Sabathia; that he'd love the spotlight of New York----Story.

Friendship isn't going to have anything to do with where Lee signs. We've seen it before where players have been speculated to end up in certain places because of close relationships and ended up going where: A) the money was highest; B) the location was most palatable; and, C) the state of the team was positive.

It's a business and no matter how many recruiting calls Sabathia or anyone else makes to Lee, it's going to come down to what's best for the pitcher personally and professionally. That could be the Yankees; or it could be someone else; and Lee has proven himself to be immune to outside pressures when it comes to business.

We hear that the Mariners are looking for a "big league ready catcher"; that they need bats; that they need arms; that they need this; that they need that----that they at least have to surpass the prospects they surrendered to get Lee from the Phillies in the first place. Who knows?

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik is presumably encouraging the eclecticism of what he's looking for. The fewer people that know what the asking price is; the back-and-forth of whether Lee would discuss an extension in-season; the potential to keep him immediately rather than run the risk of losing him after a rental; and the number of teams pursuing him will only enhance the Mariners chances of getting a bigger package.

All the rumor-mongering is meaningless and we won't know until we know; until a deal is done; and until Cliff Lee is pitching for someone other than the Mariners. As of right now, that could be just about any contending team from either league because Lee could be the difference between missing the playoffs and winning the World Series.

  • Some safe assumptions:

On another note with Lee, you have to assume that the Yankees are caught between their future wishes to snag Lee and winning this year----which they might not do if Lee ends up with the Twins, Red Sox or any other AL contender. They'll be involved with Lee and I don't buy the thought that they won't jump in if the opportunity presents itself to get him; they are a legitimate possibility to trade for him just like the other suitors.

If they're not going to trade for Lee in-season, it's a fine line the Yankees are walking, hoping for the best case scenario.

Much like the trade rumors in recent years involving Johan Santana and Roy Halladay, the Yankees didn't want to mortgage a massive chunk of their future to get the pitcher, then have to pay him as if they were signing a free agent; nor did they didn't want the Red Sox to get him. The Red Sox haven't been mentioned as a pursuer of Lee at all, but Theo Epstein is watching and the Red Sox have the prospects to get him----don't discount the possibility.

If Lee winds up with a team like the Twins, for whom he would absolutely be a rental, the Yankees and Red Sox would have to face the idea of dealing with Lee as a Twin in the playoffs. He'll be available as a free agent at the end of the year...but he might be coming into town just having singlehandedly bounced them from the playoffs.

Much like Santana and Halladay, the Yankees and Red Sox probably want to see Lee out of the league entirely and to a team like the Rockies; Cardinals or Reds----teams that won't have the money to keep him. If Lee winds up with a money team like the Mets, the Wilpons and Omar Minaya are not going to let him leave; and they're certainly not going to let him leave to go across town to the Yankees----even if that means drastically overpaying in dollars.

Lee as a rental for a team with payroll constraints is just as important to the determination of his future address as anything else. Going to a team that can pay him might preclude his free agent availability entirely.

  • If money's not a factor, state of the team will be:

Regardless of the venue to which he ends up being traded, let's say the money is identical for the Mets and Yankees as they chase Cliff Lee after the season, will the Yankees situation still be the more ideal one over the long term?

With the financial power they have, they can buy their way out of most holes, but if the Brian Cashman/Hank and Hal Steinbrenner era has shown, it's not a "money is no object" attitude anymore.

Which team is in better position for the future?

The Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada era is drawing to a close. All are late in their careers and while they still have productivity left, they're eventually going to decline----it's unavoidable. Alex Rodriguez is 35; Phil Hughes will be a rotation linchpin; but no one knows what's going to become of Joba Chamberlain.

Let's say Lee signs for 5 years with the Yankees; by year 2 of the deal, there won't be Rivera; there won't be Pettitte; there won't be Posada. Jeter will still be there.

That group is the foundation upon which the five Yankees championships since 1996 was built. It's not as difficult to replace them statistically as it is cohesively and practically. Those Yankees teams were always more than a high payroll; they were an end-result of the sum of their parts. That's something that was missed as the likes of Jason Giambi and other mercenaries were imported. Cashman has tried to get back to building from within by developing players who are Yankees through-and-through, but getting such selfless stars and having them evolve as a group doesn't happen that often.

Rivera is irreplaceable even if Chamberlain or anyone takes over and accumulates the saves. Will the new closer be able to handle a game in Boston in late September or October? Will he be as unflappable as Rivera in the World Series as the spotlight is shining upon him?

It looks easier on a stat board and in theory than in practice.

The Mets' core is younger. David Wright and Jose Reyes are entering their primes; Mike Pelfrey is blossoming into an ace; Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada have shown that the Mets farm system is far better than previously given credit for.

If the money is the same and/or Lee is heading into free agency having last worn a Mets uniform, it is really so automatic that he goes across town?

I don't think it's a done deal that any and all desirable free agents will head straight to the Yankees.

Not anymore.

  • Viewer Mail 6.30.2010:

Jeff (Acting Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE my shout out during the Diamondbacks game:

Congrats on bein' liked by Sutt & Grace! I missed it too... for the same reason... gotta have Al & Dan calling my Redbirds games.

This is just the beginning, Prince.

Just the beginning....

That's what Count Dooku said. Hopefully my head will remain attached to my shoulders by the end. It's 50/50.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE the shout out:

That shout out is the coolest thing I've ever heard! I would have jumped out of my seat! Wow! See? Your hard work is not in vain.

When I started getting the messages, I was in shock. I dunno what would've happened if I'd seen it live. Knowing myself, it would've gone just like I said: a slow head turn toward the TV, eyes wide in bewilderment and thinking, "did that really just happen?"

The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger writes RE the shout out:

SWEET! Congratulations on the D-Back shout out! What's good is good Dude! And that kind of stuff always finds it's way. Stay ruthless. Don't forget us little people.

Thanks. There are no little people in my organization. Everyone is valuable in their own way and I never, ever forget.2010BaseballGuideCover.gif

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She-Fan said...

Mike's right. Don't forget us little people! As for Lee, it's certainly not a given that the Yankees will end up with him, as the sweepstakes for Halladay and Santana proved. Doesn't mean I don't want him though. Badly.

Jeff said...

In the past, teams haven't given up much for Lee. I have a feeling the same thing might happen this time, especially with other arms available right now. Guess we'll see. It ain't July unless there's a load of crap about possible trades flowing through the interwebs.

(SUGGESTION: Ignore Ken Rosenthal. That guy gives me the creeps)