Where Cliff Lee Will Sign if He’s NOT Gonna Be a Yankee

November 10, 2010 by  
Filed under Fan News

Come on Mr. Lee and do your stuff
‘Cause you’re gonna be mine
‘Til the end of time”

By Eric Marmon

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports recently tweeted (and the NY Sports Digest re-tweeted…why haven’t you signed up for our Twitter account yet?) that there are seven to eight teams interested in Cliff Lee.

Unfortunately for NY Sports fans, the Yankees can only be one of them.

Let’s dissolve one myth first: No team in Major League Baseball is going to offer Cliff Lee as much money as the New York Yankees.

Truthfully, there are small countries that couldn’t offer Lee the kind of money the Yankees will be able to. They may not offer him a blank check in the same way they did for CC Sabathia two years ago, but they are expected to offer him a deal that would make him the richest pitcher in baseball.

On top of that, no franchise will be able to offer the same year-after-year consistency the Bronx Bombers can. If Lee signs a six-year contract with any other team, he’ll have no idea whether that franchise will be buyers or sellers five years down the road.

In the Bronx, Lee knows every season is championship-or-bust. The only other franchise that can promise a similar guaranteed-contender status year after year might be Boston, but even they can’t be put on the same tier as the Yankees.

So if the Yanks money can’t be matched, and their year-by-year consistency can’t be matched either, Lee in pinstripes should be a done deal. And yet it’s not, and most pundits predict a deal won’t be made until sometime between Thanksgiving and the Winter Meetings.

Is this just your basic negotiating timetable? Or is Lee looking for something more than what the Yankees can offer?

Or is his wife just calling the shots?

Whatever the case, the smart money is still on Lee opening the 2011 MLB season in Yankee pinstripes. But for all those who like to overanalyze (we sure do), here’s a look at the other potential landing spots for Clifton Phifer Lee.

The Texas Rangers

Well, duh.

Considering the Rangers defeated the Yankees twice this past season (once when they acquired him from Seattle at the trade deadline, and again in the ALCS), a switch from Arlington to The Bronx could be interpreted as a step down.

But let’s be serious; signing with the Yankees has never been, and never will be, seen as a “step down.”

That being said, the franchise is in the best financial state it’s probably ever experienced, with new ownership headed by former New York Met Nolan Ryan. The Hall of Fame pitcher-turned-owner has publically stated his team will be aggressive in trying to re-sign Lee, so don’t be surprised if the contract they offer is enough to purchase a dozen small islands.

Also, any news you hear claiming the Texas state income taxes are negligible is false. Besides, the amount of endorsement-dough Lee could bring in playing in NY completely neutralizes that, anyway.

On paper, the Rangers are the favorite to re-sign the Ace…the favorite behind the Yankees, that is.


The Washington Nationals

Think back to the winter of 2008.

Brian Cashman and the Yankees were parading AJ Burnett and CC Sabathia around like Carl Paladino with a baseball bat, while the lowly Washington Nationals were in a bidding war with the Baltimore Orioles for the services of former Maryland resident Mark Teixiera.

Although Cashman ended up swooping in and stealing Tex for himself, it was the first time the franchise formerly known as the Expos had flexed any sort of financial muscle.

Two years later, Nats GM Mike Rizzo has publically announced on several occasions his team will be targeting Lee. They have shown a willingness to offer the big paycheck, even if they’ve yet to put signatures on any.

And with slugger Adam Dunn looking to sign elsewhere, they’ll have even more of that unspent money to spend.

That being said, it still comes back to winning, something the Nats have yet to ever really do. Yes, a 1-2 punch of Lee and Stephen Strasburg will look nice…in 2015, if/when Strasburg returns from Tommy John surgery.

Look for Lee and his agent to look long and hard at a big-money contract from DC…then use it as leverage with Texas or New York.


The Boston Red Sox

They haven’t said whether they have or haven’t contacted the free-agent hurler.

And as we previously mentioned, they’re the only team that can promise a year-in and year-out championship-or-bust mentality similar to the Yankees. Not to mention, some pundits have concluded Lee actually loves sticking it to the Yankees.

And obviously, no team offers a better opportunity to do that than the Sawks.

But their rotation is already pretty crowded with Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Josh Beckett, Dice-K and John Lackey already under contract for 2011. Throw in Tim Wakefield (also under contract for next year) and they’ve already got one-too-many.

Plus prospects Felix Doubront and Michael Bowden seem ready for their shots at starting in the bigsopportunities not likely to come unless two or three of the “Big Six” suffers an injury.

Yes, it’s a league based on pitching, pitching, pitching. But if Boston signed Cliff Lee, they’d be the first team in MLB history to have too much of it.

Barring a major trade, Cliff Lee won’t be in Boston.

The Philadelphia Phillies

This might be the biggest Wild Card in the Cliff Lee sweepstakes.

Lee has publically declared, on several occasions, how much he enjoyed playing in Philly as well as the atmosphere in the team’s locker-room…endorsements he didn’t offer about Seattle or Texas.

Additionally, Phils GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has shown he’ll do whatever it takes to get his man. And nobody knows this better than Lee himself, who was jettisoned to Seattle as part of the fall-out when the team acquired Roy Halladay from Toronto.

Allegedly, they’ve reached the limit on their budget. But don’t sleep on Amaro pulling off something crazy.

The Houston Astros

SI’s Jon Heyman said Houston has thrown their hat into the mix.

They’ve shown a willingness to overpay pitchers in the past (see Roy Oswalt). With their former ace now throwing up north, they should be in the market for a replacement.

That being said, there have been rumors that Cliff Lee hates pitching in the South during the summer months (rumors he vehemently denied). Regardless of whether they’re true or not, one can only wonder; if he’s going to re-sign in Texas, why not do it with the Rangers?

The Los Angeles Dodgers

Any discussion about who is after Lee has included LA, although they still have ownership issues, and according to Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post they’ve already targeted right-hander Brandon Webb.

It would appear the only way Don Mattingly gets to manage Lee is if/when he gets his well-deserved shot managing the Yankees.

The New York Mets

What? Yeah, sure, why not?

New general manager Sandy Alderson has said the Mets will be conservative spenders under his watch. But for Cliff Lee, they should make an exception.

And considering the Wilpons were the only people in the world that made money off Bernie Madoff, they have no built-in financial excuse not to.

Signing Lee would be a huge victory for the Mets on a series of different fronts. One, it would give them arguably the best 1-2 punch in the Majors if/when Johan Sanatana is able to return.

And not only would it help them stack up against the Big Three in Philly, it would also crush the Philadelphia fanbase, having to go up against the former Cy Young winner who is still beloved on Broad Street.

And if you think it would sting Phils fans, imagine the burn it would give Yankee supporters. Fans of the Bronx Bombers have had their eyes on Lee almost as long as Knicks fans were eyeing LeBron (Almost).

At least King James ran off to Miami, far, far, away. Can you imagine the backlash if Cliff Lee took his talents to Queens?

This article originally appeared on The NY Sports Digest. If it’s off-beat and it’s about the Mets, Yankees, Knicks, Giants, Jets, Islanders, or Rangers, then The Digest is the spot to get it.

Stop with the mega-sites and get a feel for the true pulse of New York at www.NYSportsDigest.com



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