In protest of the putrid college bowl season, I’m going to make a second straight post where I make predictions with nothing else but my gut. I almost clicked on one of the “rate the bowls” stories today, but then I remembered there is only one game worth watching. The biggest mystery of the system. No one wants to diminish games that already mean nothing. To me, it feels like the baseball winter meetings are dominating the time between football games, and the biggest question is still, where will Cliff Lee land? This morning the hot rumor was 7 years and 175 million from Washington. Now, that apparently is not on the table from Washington, but another team is in that ballpark. What team? That’s a Twitter mystery. If I was Lee I’d hire Buster Olney as my agent and just have him Tweet fake offers all week. But, eventually Lee will sign somewhere, and if he does, what will it mean?
Lee Goes to NY:
The Mets! No, seriously, I think the Yankees have to remain the front-runners in the discussion. If they desired they could offer the most ridiculous contract, but they have other things going their way. Lee is very close with C.C. Sabathia. Combine that with New York’s constant presence in the post-season and it looks like all the bases are covered. You start to realize why the Yankees usually don’t have much trouble getting free agents. If Lee goes to the Yankees…
It makes the Yankees a much better post-season team, and I think that is New York’s focus at this point. Lee will be just another star in New York, so I don’t think he’s going to spike ticket sales, or change the make up in the club house. And, over the course of the regular season, I don’t know how many more wins the Yankees can add solely because of Lee. He’s had his share of rough patches during the regular season in both ’09 and ’10. The Yankees will be getting Lee to line up behind C.C. in a short series, and if they get him, they probably immediately become AL favorites. If the Yanks give him six years, they’ll expect four solid years of production and hope for the best after that.
Lee Goes Back to Texas:
At the beginning of the process it sounded like Texas and New York were the only real options. Things have changed. And, honestly, the more teams that come into this, the worse off the Rangers are. They’ll probably need to distinguish themselves somehow, and with multiple teams in the bidding that will be difficult. Lee appeared to enjoy his short stay in Texas, but he’s looking for the money. He doesn’t owe the Rangers a thing. If he ends up in Texas…
I think Texas is about the worst place for Lee to end up, and I’d recommend he leave town immediately. Staying in Texas means Lee remains a clear-cut ace. But that also means he has a lot less help. Much of Texas’ run last year had the look of lightning in a bottle. Surely Vlad will come back to earth. Is Josh Hamilton going to hit .360 every year? And, what about the young pitchers? Couldn’t you see a little slump there? This isn’t a good contract for Texas, either. They’d be better off going after another trade deadline ace if they find themselves in contention in 2011. If Lee goes to Texas it’ll probably be for 7 years. About half way through, I think the Rangers would realize they committed the A-Rod mistake all over again.
Lee Goes to the Angels.
The Angels are a little bit of a forgotten team. One bad year and they fell completely off the radar screen. I don’t expect that to continue. Whether it is Carl Crawford, or Lee, I think the Angels will be aggressively seeking a name. Lee spent 2010 bouncing around the AL West, why not try Los Angeles? The immediate answer to that would be that it would be more of the same of what Lee saw in Seattle. The Angels were dreadful on offense last year, especially for an AL team, and they should probably be focusing on scoring more runs.
If they managed to get Lee, I don’t know if that eliminates them from the Crawford race, but if Lee was the only addition they are probably still a piece or two away from really contending. If Cliff wants to go to LA he might have to wait a year or two for some more help to arrive. Lee doesn’t seem picky about where he pitches, but for some reason he doesn’t look like a guy who will end up in LA.
Lee goes to Washington or other Surprise.
Would 7-years and 175 million be enough? How much higher than that can you go? Surely we aren’t going to more than 25 million. I think Lee is much more coveted than Jayson Werth, so differentiation by a second division club is going to be almost impossible. No one is going to jump in and match the Werth deal, but if NY or Texas is willing to do six years, adding the 7th might not be a deal breaker if they consider Lee a pitcher they must have.
I don’t think signing Lee is the right move for a team not in contention. I think you bring in aces when you are on the verge, or else you try to bring up your own number ones through the system. In two years if things come together for Washington and Strasburg is an ace, then the Nationals can go out and get some veteran help for him. Signing Lee now is too much of a risk, and there isn’t enough upside. Look at Felix Hernandez in Seattle. You can only do so much. Lee grinding out 15 wins makes Washington better, but is that worth 25 million a year? And, that’s assuming Lee is a complete shut down ace. I think that fact may be exaggerated. His best work has come in the post-season and a team like Washington might never benefit from that.
Lee goes to the Yankees. I think they have the motivation to go the extra mile, or at least to approach any other offer. The other intangibles are all in their favor. It makes sense for both sides, too, because Lee gets what he wants and the Yankees don’t cripple themselves. For a lot of teams misappropriating 175 million could handcuff them for years, but the Yankees would be able to shove that contract under the rug. They’re used to it.