Cliff Lee, Mark Buehrle and the hunt for pitching

Linkage: Yankees won't overpay to add to rotation
Report: Yu Darvish will be posted tomorrow

Every now and then, I think back to July 9 and 10 of 2010. That weekend, the Yankees were on the West Coast, visiting the Mariners, and as Saturday dawned, it appeared as though the Yanks would leave Seattle with Cliff Lee in tow. In exchange, they would have to give up Jesus Montero and a middle infield prospect named Eduardo Nunez, but the spoils would be tremendous.

We know how that story ended for the Yankees. The Mariners wouldn’t accept David Adams who was dealing with an ankle injury and played in just 12 games this season, and the Yanks weren’t, for some reason, too keen on giving up Nunez. In fact, according to some stories, Nunez was more of a deal-breaker than Montero. Lee escaped their grip that July, and he went on to beat the Yanks as a member of the eventual AL Champion Rangers.

A few months later — nearly a year ago — the Yanks were attempting to lure Lee to the Bronx again. They didn’t quite put on the full court press, but all indications were that the Yanks offered Lee six years at $22 million with a seventh year player option for $16 million. For reasons of dollars and comfort, Lee went to the Phillies instead. Maybe the Rangers led to Lee’s decision; maybe he just wanted to go back to Philadelphia. Either way, neither team escaped their respective Division Series match-ups this year, and the Yanks are still struggling to find another starting pitcher.

For the Yankees, losing out on Cliff Lee seemed to indicate a sea change within the organization. Lee was, by all accounts, the best pitcher available either by trade or free agency, since CC Sabathia, and unless Cole Hamels hits the open market next season, it’s tough to find a comparative starter. The Yankees were willing to give up the farm, extend their budget to land Lee or both. But for the first time since Greg Maddux spurned a rebuilding Yankee team in the early 1990s to head to Atlanta, the Bombers were left empty-handed.

This year, the pitcher is kinda sorta out there. In 2011, after Lee left them empty-handed and Andy Pettitte retired, the Yanks somehow made it through the year with CC, A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes, Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon and Ivan Nova. As things stand now, they’re gearing up to do to the same for 2012. I always thought they had another move in them last year, but they never found the right trade partner for a pitching upgrade. This winter, things are shaping up similarly.

The pitching is almost out there. Roy Oswalt, who hasn’t popped up in any rumors, is available. C.J. Wilson, another Texas ace, is looking for job security. Mark Buehrle recently landed with the Yankees South Miami Marlins. Maybe a few young pitchers such as Gio Gonzalez or John Danks could be had on the trade market. But none of these guys are that exciting. They’re supporting cast members, not aces, who carry a price tag that often exceeds their value.

Buehrle, in particular, strikes me as a guy the Yanks would consider. He signed a four-year deal worth $58 million with the Marlins, and the Yanks had only “early conversations” with Buehrle’s representatives. Yet, they passed even though he’s an innings eater with some AL success. Sure, his strike out numbers are down, but he’s thrived by keeping the bill in the park and on the ground. He might fall off a cliff, but he’s just as likely to continue to excel despite saber skepticism over his peripherals.

But the Yankees passed. They want a Cliff Lee type, a difference-maker, not an overpaid cog. They think they can approximate Buehrle’s 2012 production for $10 million less by using Freddy Garcia, and they have their eye on some elusive starter who might become available as they try to usher Manny Banuelos through their organization. Once, the Yanks overpaid for A.J. Burnett because they needed a pitcher. Now, they’re willing to wait and wait and wait for the next must-have Cliff Lee type. It might be a prudent move, but for a fan base used to getting what they want (and need), it makes for a slow wait. I almost miss those Yankees who dove right in. Almost.

Linkage: Yankees won't overpay to add to rotation
Report: Yu Darvish will be posted tomorrow
  • Chip

    I really hope Adams has a breakout 2011 and makes the Mariners look silly by forcing A-Rod off of third base in the coming years (or a trade, whatever)

    • Mister Delaware

      Me too, but I’m afraid the Yankees will still lose in the first round and the Cardinals, who will have just barely made the playoffs, will win the World Series. Call it a hunch.

  • Juke Early

    Yes, that July weekend. A wonderful memory. It was how Jack Zzzzzzk earned his middle name—Off. As in, um the “deal is…” And Pud the 20 million dollar Used Car Salesman began cooking his Kill The NYY Conspiracy. These golden moments keep many of us warm, if not actually heated during the cold, as in “Below zero results” winter ahead. . ..

    Or the Mets could trade Niese to the Yanks.

    • Mister Delaware

      I was, and still am, happy the deal with Seattle fell through. Of course, I’m still convinced Lee is always one outing away from being figured out and going back to being a control, low 90s lefty #2-3.

  • Brian Cashman

    I want a top starter but I don’t want to trade anything worth while. Also, I don’t want to spend any money on viable middle of the rotation guys.

    • Brian S.

      Don’t any of you higher ups in the organization know someone in the mafia? Just hire someone to give AJ a cement pair of shoes and that frees up enough money for that starter you need.

  • mbonzo

    I have an odd feeling the Yankees will trade for a starting pitcher tonight.

    • Mike Axisa

      They better not, I need to go to sleep soon.

    • mustang

      Second that, but I’m thinking by Friday. It looks like Beane and Williams have made there “looking for a sucker” rounds and everyone has run back in their holes. It’s now time to get real I’m hoping for Gio.

      • Freddy Garcia’s 86 mph Heat

        Not Gio. Danks Danks Danks.

        • mustang

          Take a look at John Harper’s story on Gio in the 12/6/11 Daily News. I know the story would be blasphemed here but reading around a lot people feel the same as Harper.

          • Freddy Garcia’s 86 mph Heat

            Montero for Gio is insane. I would only trade him for the King Felixes, Clayton Kershaws and Justin Verlanders of the world.

            Let the kid swing the bat for a whole year and see what he can do.

            • mustang

              Again everyone brings up the bat and not the D.

              • Jesse

                They bring it up because the bat will overshadow the poor D by a mile.

                • Monteroisdinero

                  The poor D is not as poor as folks think. He will be poor if he catches AJ. Everything else will be surprisingly average to good.

            • mustang

              We will see.

  • Rich in NJ

    Sometimes the best trades are the ones not made. I think keeping Montero will prove that.

    Taking the long view was probably a reason why they won multiple championships in the ’90s. I hope they return to that mindset.

  • Hornets686

    Matt Cain please! Matt Cain!

    • Jesse

      Eh, no thanks.

  • Joe

    Three way deal with A’s & Phils

    – Gio to the Phils
    – Hamels to NY (contingent upon a window for getting an extension done)
    – Betances to the Phils
    – Montero/Noesi (or someone not named Banuelos)/filler to the A’s (Or Banuelos centered package with no Montero)

    Seems a bit painful for all sides… which means it might be in the ballpark?

    Betances/Gio for Hamels may not seem like a lot but Hamels has to be looked at as 1 year of control. This is working under the assumption that the Phils may be worried about having a 3rd 20mil pitcher in the rotation (and may want some salary flexibility given they’ll also have some serious money going to Howard, Utley, Pence and potentially Rollins)… I have no idea if this is true other than the whispers that the Phils asked about Gio with the potential for flipping Hammels or as hedge if Hammels walks. The Yanks may have to send another 2nd tier prospect to the Phils.

    • Monteroisdinero

      No. Regular season offense kills it and keeps us on top and then Manny B arrives this summer.


      All 3.

      • Doug

        Just gotta know. Would you trade Montero for anyone at this point? Your praise of him is so extreme, makes me think he’s completely untouchable in your mind.

        • mustang

          He might trade him for Jesus Christ, but you have to throw in Moses and the Holy Ghost.

        • Monteroisdinero

          I would trade him for a legit #1 but, dollar for dollar, that’saboutit.

          If I said we have a cost controlled Miguel Cabrera, I have translated my thoughts for you.

          We have had a few busts in our spending plans over the years-nothing is a sure thing but it sure hurts to write those checks to the Pavanos and Kevin Browns of the world.

          • Doug

            Oh, if we have a cost-controlled Miguel Cabrera, I agree with you.

            So, he carries no risk in your mind? A sure-fire masher for the next 10+ years?

            • Monteroisdinero

              Nothing is certain but with ARod predictably declining, we really have no premier bat/power bat from the right side and only Montero-at dirt cheap prices- can give us that.

              I am anxious to see him after additional workouts/conditioning with ARod and his trainers this winter.

              He will hit righties because he can drive the outside pitch the other way with big time power.

              • Tom from GA

                He’s training with Arod? Oh, that’s too good. Do you suppose Arod’s pharmacist will be consulting, too?

                • mustang

                  LOL…… I was thinking the same thing.

          • Mister Delaware

            Kevin Brown was once a super legit #1.

            • Monteroisdinero

              And? We paid big money and it didn’t work out. Randy Johnson wasn’t great for us either. Just keep Montero and don’t trade him for any arm that might go south or some guy who won’t like NY etc. We have a #1 and I wouldn’t want Montero going for a #2.

  • Jose M. Vazquez..

    Only time will tell if the failed Cliff Lee trade to the Yankees for Montero and others was a blessing in disguise. As we have seen, during the past two years, Lee has not been as successful in the postseason as he previously was. Both the Yankees without Lee and the Phils with Lee failed to make it out of the first round.

  • Monteroisdinero

    Cash-please make no move other than Darvi$h and/or Cespede$. Only money I would spend.

  • LarryM.,Fl.

    The Yankees FO would move on improvements if the price is fair. I believe this comment made by Cashman. Certain teams with talent available are trying to hit grand slams. For they may not be able to compete with the big market clubs in dollars and cents for the perfect FA. So they attempt to rape and pillage the big boys.

    The Yankees have been turning the ship in a direction over the last few years. Developing the farm system and prospects for use as a player or trade chips. We are a year away at most before some of these chips produce on the field. 2012 is the time for patience. Montereo, Noesi, Laird, Betances and Banuellos are in the tunnel. It maybe May or July but to rush would be wrong. This team won 97 games and were a flair hit away from the ALCS. Patience we could get lucky either in our farm system or the trade market.

    • Monteroisdinero


      • Cris Pengiucci

        I’m on board with this, to a large extent, as well. Unless there’s a chance for a “no doubt” #1 starter (not Gio, not Danks), I’d prefer to keep Montero and Banuelos and, to a lesser extent, Betances (would consider him in a Danks deal).

  • Steve (different one)

    Adam Warren-the forgotten piece in the Cliff Lee trade….the Yankees were already offering montero, Adams, and warren for half a season of Lee and the mariners got greedy and tried to get Nunez. The Yankees were already overpaying with their agreed upon offer, but the mariners wanted to make it a grand slam. So, they will wind up with an inferior bat at 1b and John Jaso. Enjoy last place again.

    Remember, montero was only tradable because the Yankees have teixera. But to the mariners? That’s your 1Bman for the next decade…enjoy spending $150m for prince fielder because Smoak kind of sucks.

  • Grover

    The most surprising thing to me is the impatience by the New York media. They are as spoiled and ignorant as the typical fan and think the Yanks should have signed Buerhle. Freddie is 90% of Buerhle and on a one year deal at a third the price. Great move Cash. I prefer Noesi to Burnett but he will wait and is somewhat more versatile than AJ. I’m still wondering about the lefty bat off the bench or is that Dickerson’s job this year?

    • Tom from GA

      The New York media portrays itself as the voice of the fans, and the media are the ones who are always pushing for action that they can write about, whether it’s a big trade, a free-agent signing or anything else. The media have no interest in the conservative approach that Cashman has been employing because they don’t get headlines and stories out of it.
      Even the more restrained and reasoned voices on this site and elsewhere express some impatience for the big, dramatic move. See the last paragraph of this post.
      My opinion? The Yankees are more fun to follow and a better team when they don’t go out and buy every shiny new toy on the market. It worked out well in 2009 but certainly not during the years of Kevin Brown, Gary Sheffield et. al. More often than not, it seems to me, the big spenders wind up on the outside looking in; it recent Yankee history doesn’t satisfy you, consider the Phillies and Red Sox of 2011.
      I’m not suggesting that the Yankees not be a player for free agents and trades, but I am glad that Brian Cashman is so much more careful than George Steinbrenner was. (I continue to maintain that Steinbrenner was an impetuous fool, and the Yankees won 1996-2000 largely because he hadn’t pillaged the farm system while he was suspended.)

  • OldYanksFan

    Last year, Lee has a great year. And the Phils had 3 of the Top 8 ERA’s in MLB… yet they went no further then us in the PS. It’s always a crap shoot. Look at the WS winners since the extended PS began, and see how many were the best team that year.

    I think you guys who are willing to trade Montero are crazy. Superstar or bust, watching him will be the most exciting part of following the Yanks next year (and the years to come).

    For years, the Yanks overpayed for players, with less then optimal results. It’s nice to see these other teams now get less value for their money.

    It’s been discussed by the RABbies, but the Yankees have to rebuild through their Farm. They will always need cheap, talented players to augment their roster.

    • aluis

      Really? And what about the 2009 Yankees?

  • Hornets686

    James Shields anyone?

  • Pounder

    Is Kevin Millar flirting with the execs at Yes??????Stay tuned.