What happens if the Yanks miss out on Lee?


AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Most of what I’ve seen written in the last week or so claims that the Yankees are doomed if they don’t sign free agent lefty Cliff Lee, double doomed if Andy Pettitte retires. They certainly will be worse off going into the 2011 season, no doubt about that, but they still have a team capable of making the postseason. Hell, they won the division from 2004 through 2007 with far worse rotations than one anchored by CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Phil Hughes.

We’ve explored a number of potential Plan B options should the Yankees fail to sign Lee, including guys like Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, Tom Gorzelanny, Carl Pavano, Ricky Nolasco, Chris Carpenter, and Zack Greinke. Countless other names have been mentioned by the masses, most of them unattainable (i.e. Felix Hernandez, Josh Johnson). Here’s the thing though: if they do lose out on Lee for whatever reason, every other team in baseball will know that the Yankees are desperate for pitching, and the prices are going to sky rocket. It’s simply supply and demand.

Because of this, I would not at all be surprised if the real Plan B is to do nothing to help the pitching staff for the rest of the offseason and instead wait to see how the first few months of the 2011 season play out.  Well, “do nothing” is a relative term, “do little” would be more appropriate. Brian Cashman would still have to add someone to the starting staff just to increase organizational depth, but it won’t be any kind of long-term solution. Perhaps he gambles on the health of Brad Penny or Justin Duchscherer or even Brandon Webb for a few months, or goes with the surefire mediocrity that is Kevin Millwood. A small move just to lighten the load on Ivan Nova and whoever else (Sergio Mitre?) is at the back of the rotation for the time being.

Cashman’s mantra has been patience since the day he took over full control of the baseball operations, and I don’t see why this would be any different. Waiting out the offseason and seeing what happens in April and May gives the front office more information to use when making a decision, which is always a good thing. Maybe Burnett rebounds to his 2009 self, maybe Hughes takes another step forward, maybe Nova pulls off a mean Chien-Ming Wang impression, or maybe they all suck and the rotation is Sabathia and four question marks. In that case, they’re screwed anyway, with or without Lee. Patience will allow the trade market to develop, to see if the Cardinals fall out of it and Carpenter does become available, or if the Dodgers flop and put Hiroki Kuroda on the market, or if Lance Pendleton and Aneury Rodriguez and Ryan Rowland-Smith work out for the Astros, making Wandy Rodriguez expendable. The possibilities are seemingly endless.

There’s no more Cliff Lee’s out there, which is why the Yankees want the real Lee so badly. He only costs money (and a draft pick), their greatest asset, and it’ll be a few years before a pitcher of this caliber is on the open market. The answer to losing him isn’t to run out in desperation and trade for a pitcher you may not want just for the sake of adding a pitcher. We’ve seen what knee-jerk, reactionary moves like that can do, and the result is never good. Remember, the Yankees don’t need to be the best team in baseball from April through July, they just need to be the best team at the end of the season and in a position to do some damage in a short playoff series (ideally three). We’ve seen major bullpen makeovers over the last three seasons, and if they fail to sign Lee, they might just have to bank on a mid-season rotation makeover.

Categories : Rants


  1. Andy In Sunny Daytona says:

    If the Yankees fail to sign Lee, look for the farm to to take a tremendous hit.

    • JobaWockeeZ says:

      Bye Jesus.

    • pete says:

      Actually, I agree with Mike. If the Yanks miss out on Lee, they probably won’t do too much, unless somebody out there is available at a reasonable price.

      • RL says:

        Gotta agree with this. I would expect a relatively minor move this winter and then a wait & see attitude with the team looking for a trade deadline (or perhaps a June) move.

      • Mac says:

        Make that +2

        And that is what they should do. Don’t panic and sit back and watch spring training and the season unfold.

    • Jamal G. says:

      Yeah, that comment still makes no sense. Wtf was he talking about?

    • Johnny says:

      The Yankees should not make a panic move if they don’t sign Lee. The Yankees will be bent over a barrel by other teams. Just stand your ground and see what happens come the trade deadline.

      • Frigidevil says:

        Agreed I’m not worried about not getting Lee, I’m worried about the inevitable stupid decision we make just to ‘keep pace’ with the sox.

        BTW wtf happened to Yu Darvish? Not getting posted?

        • Mac says:

          I thought I read somewhere he was considering making the move to MLB next offseason?

        • Shaun says:

          He’s going through a very ugly divorce and decided that he would stay in Japan and deal take care of things first, rather than deal with a stress loaded clusterfuck of moving to a new country, adjusting to the MLB pitching schedule, having to also focus on the higher level of competition in this league, and a divorce at the same time.

        • Dave says:

          He’s busy shooting porn. The Red Sox are his first choice anyways. He’s gonna replace Daitsuke in 2012.

  2. Hughesus Christo says:

    The ninja is stirring. Confidence levels are high on a Lee acquisition.

    • David says:

      90+% sure he signs with the Yankees. Simple reasoning – it is a stretch even for the Yankees to commit this much to a 32 yr old pitcher, let alone for a team with half of their payroll. Doesn’t make sense, and to quote Judge Judy “If it doesn’t make sense, it isn’t true”.

  3. Sweet Lou says:

    I wish that the Yanks would revisit the issue of Joba as a starting pitcher but I’m not hopeful for that happening again.

  4. Professor Longnose says:

    You’re not liveblogging the wait for Cliff’s decision??

    • Thomas says:

      Cliff Lee: I’ve decided to take may talents to south beach.
      Reporter: I didn’t even know the Marlins were in on you.
      Lee: They weren’t I meant the south beach of the East River.
      Reporter: I wouldn’t go swimming in that in I were you.
      Lee: Why not?
      Reporter: Just don’t.

      • Zack says:

        Jerry: What is that smell?
        Kramer: That’s East River.
        Jerry: You’re swimming in the East River? The most heavily trafficked overly contaminated waterway on the eastern seaboard?
        Kramer: Technically Norfolk has more gross tonnage.
        Jerry: How could you swim in that water?
        Kramer: I saw a couple of other guys out there.
        Jerry: Swimming?
        Kramer: Floating, they weren’t moving much. But they were out there.

      • DCBX says:


        When Cliff Lee swims in the East River, the water gets sick.

  5. Brazilian Fan says:

    I think Mike is preparing us for the worse.

    Ty Mike, you´re a kind man.;-)

  6. Jim_M says:

    Doing nothing is not really an option.
    I think the Yanks need to find at least 1 viable starter that can produce 6 innings per start – Andy P., please come back – to avoid putting un-due pressure on the bullpen, which would become a season-long problem to deal with.

  7. mustang says:

    I’m seeing some good signs:

    1- Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker has been in touch with the Yankees today, tweets ESPN’s Buster Olney, and he said the process is ongoing.

    2-The Rangers “have made [an] aggressive play” for free agent third baseman Adrian Beltre, reports ESPN’s Karl Ravech (Twitter link). Ravech wonders if they’re setting up for the possibility of Cliff Lee signing with the Yankees.

  8. TopChuckie says:

    If Andy comes back, and I put that at at least 75%, what people don’t seem to realize is the only piece missing from last season’s playoff team rotation is Vazquez, which is arguably addition by subtraction.

    Nova, just about any other free agent, or some combination of the youngsters, should at least be able to offset the loss of Vazquez’s performance.

    It’s not ideal, but it’s also not jump off the bridge time.

    • mike says:

      agreed, but a strenght of the Yanks was their pen throughout the season, and a big part of that was javy having a bunch of starts where he got deep into games during the summer months when it seemed he and AJ were flip-flopping stretches of effectiveness.

    • Frank says:

      Even if Andy returns, can you count on him for 200 innings? I wouldn’t.

      • Eric Young says:

        My personal preference would be to have Andy wait until June 1 to join the team. Start the season with 5th spot as an audition spot and see if anyone sticks. How much can it cost us – 2 or 3 games that we could have won with a replacement?

        We’d still be in solid position to make postseason, and come back with an Andy more likely to remain healthy/strong through October.

        Could be pretty attractive to Andy if he’s leaning strongly to hanging up the spikes.

  9. ansky says:

    Ok, trade Idea.

    It sounds crazy, but it isn’t as bad as you think.


    for Pujols
    Carpenter and Rasmus

    we pay some salary, and sign Pujols.

    Tex is more afforable for them than Pujols and signed, Burnett can be cured by ST. Louis.
    They want to make Rasmus a slap hitter, so they can have Gardy.

    • pat says:

      Absolutly will not happen. Why on earth would they ever want Burnett.

    • Zack says:

      but it isn’t as bad as you think.

      You’re right, it’s worse.

    • This trade proposal sucks and blows at the same time

    • RuleroftheBones86 says:


      Get it Done Elf-Ninja, ASAP!!

    • AJ says:

      Your trade proposal sucks?

    • pete says:

      Lets evaluate each of these players on a scale of 1-10, and see if they add up:

      Teixeira: 8 (good offensively, solid defensively, very expensive)
      Burnett: 4 (has been good for innings recently, has been effective before, very expensive, diminishing velocity and consistency)
      Gardner: 6 (great defense, good offense last year, still not quite enough ML evidence to be sure his offensive #s will stand up, but cheap, effective)
      Banuelos: 3 (prospect, if a good one, hasn’t pitched above AA)


      Pujols: 10 (great defensively, great offensively, not yet expensive, ridiculously consistent)
      Carpenter: 7 (injury concerns, otherwise very effective pitcher)
      Rasmus: 8 (great defense, good hitter with patience and power, young, cheap)

      Yankees’ package total: 21, Cardinals package total: 25.

      Sure, that’s pretty arbitrary, but think of it this way: they would basically be trading Pujols for a downgrade at 1B, Rasmus for a downgrade at CF, and Carpenter for Burnett and Banuelos, which is basically an even trade off if the Burnett money is handsomely accommodated for by the yankees.

      • RL says:

        Pujols = about to be VERY expensive
        Teixera only solid defensively yet Pujols is great defensively? While I haven’t looked at the mterics, I wouldn’t expect them to back this (even considering the lack of trust I have iin defensive metrics).

        Still agree the trade doesn’t make sense, though.

      • Reggie C. says:

        Drop Rasmus from the deal. Drop Gardner from the deal. Add one of Betances or Brackman. Swap-in Hughes for Burnett.

        What’s left: Pujols, Carpenter for Teixeira, Hughes, Banuelos, and Brackman/Betances. Trade looks less crazy.

    • The Cardinals don’t need to trade those guys, therefore you’d have to overpay for them (the win-the-deal mentality). For those 3 guys, you’d be looking at a 7- or 8-player package featuring not only MLB stars, but also a ton of minor-league can’t miss guys.

    • Thomas says:

      The way I look at it is this:

      Pujols for Teixeira plus cash (say $5M per year)
      This is about equal assuming STL thinks they will lose Pujols in FA and willing to trade their franchise player (unlikely, they’ll go all in to keep him).

      Rasmus for Gardner and Banuelos
      Rasmus doesn’t want to be in STL and La Russa doesn’t like him. La Russa can get a player he will like in Gardner, though a worse and less proven on with an injury. The prospect makes up this gap.

      Carpenter for Burnett
      No chance. The Cards won’t give up a superior pitcher that also has a cheaper contract unless the Yankees toss in much more money. Additionally, the thought behind why the Cards might trade Carpenter was to save money for signing Pujols, which wouldn’t be necessary since he is being traded in the package.

      With the first two parts it is unlikely to go through, but possible. Adding in the last part, it becomes is impossible. The only way this goes through is if the Yankees give up like $15M per year which is not going to happen, especially with this deal requiring the Yanks to sign Pujols to a monster extension.

      Also, many of the players have a NTC, and might not want to be moved.

    • jsbrendog (returns) says:

      your trade proposal sucks

    • I think this is a great idea what other trades do you have in mind?

    • theyankeewarrior says:

      We couldn’t trade Tex, ManBan, Gardner and AJ for ANY of those players, let alone all of them.

  10. Jorge says:

    I don’t think inaction is an option, but I also don’t think trading our top prospects for a known name BECAUSE WE’RE THE YANKEES should be done either. I think the team kicks the tires on other pitchers but, hopefully, does not fully mortgage the next few years in order to have a slightly better chance than the one they have now of going far in the postseason.

    Thanks for the writeup. Let’s hope this is closer to the no-Lee truth than trading Jesus Montero for the illusion of Mark Buerhle, etc.

  11. randy says:

    incarcerated bob has made the proclamation that lee is staying with texas. the one benefit of all of this nonsense is that i found incarcerated bob. pure comedy.

    • bexarama says:

      He also said Lee to the Yankees was a “done deal” on like December 6.

    • jsbrendog (returns) says:

      incarcerated bob? fill me in yo

      • bexarama says:

        Dude on Twitter (who supposedly calls into WFAN or something) who has “sources” but is wrong like 90% of the time when it comes to baseball. He’s claimed Tex got busted/suspended for PEDs, Girardi was definitely going to the Cubs (he had three sources!), a Greinke/Blue Jays trade was “85% done” like a week and a half ago, and that Lee had both a “done deal” with NYY and Texas. I think he also had sources who claimed Lebron was going to the Knicks.

  12. TJ says:

    Looks like Yanks are setting up a Martin Lee back to back pick up. Nice start to the offseason. Still need bullpen and a right bat and a utility IF. Keep going…….

  13. currambayankees says:

    The Yankees just might end up considering themselves lucky for not signing a guy on the wrong side of 30.

  14. RuleroftheBones86 says:

    By inaction, Mike doesn’t actually mean not trying to sign Andy Pettite, right? I think any full-on play to re-sign Andy would definitely be something of great ACTION!!

  15. pat says:

    If they don’t sign Lee I’m going to drink all 4 Four locos that were on my desk this morning when I go to work. That’s like sixteen loco.

  16. Monteroisdinero says:

    I like the comment that we were right there anyway with crappy Vasquez and AJ. If we don’t get Lee, let’s get Soriano for the pen and go with Nova and see what happens after a few months.

  17. Will says:

    Guys, I think this Mariano-Rivera-in-the-bullpen experiment has lasted long enough. Let’s put him back in the rotation. His career innings are so low, he can probably pitch til 50!

  18. Reggie C. says:

    If the Yanks miss out on Lee, i think it impacts Pettitte’s decision and not in a good way.

    Now can this team go out and win 90 games with a rotation of CC, Hughes, Burnett, Nova, and Phelps/Igawa/Mitre? Uhhh…No. A move will have to be made to bolster the middle of the rotation and keep the damage to a minimum.

    I mean if the goal is to make the playoffs every year , Cashman would have to pull off a trade for a middle of the order arm to keep us from falling to 3rd.

    • JobaWockeeZ says:

      The team won 95 games with Burnett and Vazquez being below replacement level and Hughes being almost a non factor in the second half of the season.

      Let’s not jump the cliff if Cliff is gone. Pun not intended.

    • DCBX says:

      Igawa in the rotation? Bite your tongue.

      I would support bringing Whitey back first.

    • Bo says:

      The team should be spending whatever it takes on coaches and consultants to straighten out AJ. If he can turn it around, the staff is salvaged.

  19. Monteroisdinero says:

    How about those teeth on Cliff Lee. Finally found whiter-the guy on his cap! Quite a sunburn too.

  20. If Yanks miss out on Lee, maybe we can call up San Diego and offer all the killer B’s, Montero, and some cash for Casey Kelly. Unless leaving Boston has stripped him of his supernatural abilities.

    • Sweet Dick Willie says:

      Unless leaving Boston has stripped him of his supernatural abilities.

      Haven’t you heard? He’s gone from a sure-fire 1st ballot HOFer to a potential #2 starter.

  21. DJH says:

    I agree that the Yanks will go this route. The only way they don’t is if Andy also retires and the Yanks feel like having a:CC, Hughes, AJ, Nova, Webb/Millwood/Mitre rotation until the end of July could put them in a position where they could possibly miss the playoffs.

    If NY feels like that staying pat could put them in a tooth or nail fight just for a spot in the playoffs then I bet they get more involved with Greinke then people are projecting. This all depends on internally what they expect out of Burnett, Nova and the mixed bag of 5th starters out there, if they expect Burnett to bounce back and Nove to be decent then they don’t do anything if however they are really concerned about Burnett and aren’t as high on Nova as they’ve let on then they will probaly do something this winter.

    If they do believe they would make the playoffs even with AJ, Nova and Mitre in the rotation then I see no reason not to wait till the deadline.

  22. LunaticFringe says:

    When I’m in Conspiratorial Mode, I suspect the “Joba in the Starting Rotation” issue will undergo an agonizing reappraisal…after his arbitration award is settled.

  23. UncleArgyle says:

    If Lee goes to Texas the Yankees up the dollars and sign Martin, then they turn around and trade Romine for Buerle (gulp). They probably resign Wood and go after more bullpen and bench depth. Wait for the trade deadline to see if any big time starters come availible. Thats my guess.

  24. Chrissy says:

    we’re not signing carl much $ can you waste on one fool? why would you even suggest it?

  25. andypettitteisastartingpitcher says:

    I’m at the point where I can’t figure out why Lee would not know at this time. What would he be gaining by waiting unless it’s some kind of LeBron doofus move (announce in NY that he’s going to Miami). LeBron seemed totally oblivious as to how his little theatrics affected a lot of people (most in Cleveland). I’m wondering what Lee gains from continuing to withhold his decision. Is he tossing coins? What could he need to know that he does not know?

    • Not Tank the Frank says:

      He’s waiting for the Yankees or Rangers to add to their offer. He’s making them sweat it out. He has nothing to lose by waiting an extra day or two. I think it’s a smart tatctic.

      • Eric Young says:

        Agree…Yankees and Rangers are both being played.

        Fortunately, both teams seem to be saying their recent offers are their final offers. If they stick to that, we’ll know soon enough.

      • Not Tank the Frank says:

        A smart tatctctctcic. It’s uncalclculable.

  26. toad says:

    I agree with this.

    There is no need for panic if Lee goes to Texas. The Yankees won 95 regular season games last year, with Burnett and Vasquez starting 59 times. Lots of good things can happen without a big trade, and it’s probably best to back off and see how the season develops. There won’t be any reasonable deals out there, precisely because, as Mike says, the other teams will be trying to take advantage of the situation.

    There’s no way to avoid a big gamble here. The only question is what the best bet is.

  27. Shaun says:

    Look at this

    I guess if we miss out on Lee, the best option might be to just wait and see,if we don’t have what the royals want or need prospect wise.

  28. Pat D says:

    This story is now linked from within ESPN’s Rumor Central.

    Further proving how significant this site truly is.

  29. Jimmy McNulty says:

    Ehh, the 2004, 2005, and 2006 had seemingly worse staffs (though Burnett’s probably going to be awful, so it’s really just Sabathia, Hughes (who might continue to be just average), and shit. However, they also had MUCH better offenses. So of course over a 162 game sample size they were able to do awesomely. At any rate if they fail to sign Cliff Lee, they’re in a much worse position than they would be if they signed him.

    • Shaun says:

      Son of a bitch We can’t compete with coffee and cowboy boots and god forbid if a local chili recipe starts making news.


  30. Chrissy says:

    btw..does anyone know the ramifications of Texas’s deal to Lee? ours was pretty public and I’m wondering why theirs wasn’t as well?..if its because it wasn’t as good a deal as ours was, then whats the hold up? because hes comfy in Texas? he was there for less than a year- not a very good argument.

  31. Rafael says:

    If they don’t get Lee and Andy, they have to go after a LHP to fill the rotation, rigth?

    4 RHP in the rotation Vs Boston line up = not a good match up

    • DJH says:

      I wouldn’t go after LH’s just because of one team but the Yanks certainly prefer LH’s because of the park they play in. LHP’s can take the short porch out of play to an extent.

  32. marty l says:

    lee MIGHT be trying to talk his wife into coming to ny. remember: a happy wife is a happy life.

  33. Howard says:

    It seems most logical, given the market, to sign the 2 best relievers(Balfour,Wood,Soriano) and put Jaba into rotation. He really did quite well there before the innings game started.

  34. Bo says:

    They’re not doomed, but like the trade deadline, Cashman will have gotten used again, and again waited too long for the matter to unfold when he could’ve been making other moves in the market earlier on. He’s rapidly becoming a deal-maker for other teams and agents than for the Yankees.

  35. Effin Dent says:

    “There’s no more Cliff Lee’s out there”

    Why are you so concerned with the out there that Cliff Lee owns?

  36. Craig says:

    Plan B is finishing 10 games behind Boston while fighting it out the the Rays, Angels, Tigers and Twins for the wild card slot. The price for premium starting pitching doesn’t go down, it goes up at the all star break. The yankees prospects for winning a WS in 2011 pretty much comes down to Lee’s decision just like missing out on him this past year cost the a chance to repeat.

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