Archive for Cliff Lee

As the mystery over the mystery team involved in the mysterious Cliff Lee sweepstakes boiled all day, we heard low-level rumors that the Phillies might be involved in the negotiations. This evening, Ken Rosenthal’s sources confirm that the Phillies are indeed involved in the bidding for Lee. Rosenthal’s source did say it would take “nothing short of a miracle” for the team to fit Lee into their budget, but the club is “not out” of it yet.

It’s tough to say what’s going on here. The Phillies could be showing legitimate interest as they have contracts coming off the books, but the club isn’t going to match the seven years the Yankees have reportedly put on the table. This might be a move by Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker to push up the Yanks’ offer by $5-$10 million or it could be the Phillies’ salivating over a rotation of Halladay-Lee-Hamels-Oswalt in 2011. Either way, it appears as though this saga will last at least another night.

Update (9:26 p.m.): Jerry Crasnick has more on the Phillies, who, he says, jumped into the hunt “with fervor” after the Winter Meetings. The ESPN scribe’s sources say that Lee is close to a decision. It will all be over soon.

Update (9:51 p.m.): The YES Network’s own Jack Curry has jumped into the fray. He tweets that “there is a belief” that Lee will wind up with the Phillies. But here’s the rub: Lee will have to accept far fewer dollars and perhaps a shorter contract to sign with the Phillies. It’s all happening now.

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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.

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Brian Cashman told George King that the Yankees will not increase their offer to free agent lefty Cliff Lee. Although Cashman indicated that he has spoken to agent Darek Braunecker since the winter meetings, he simply said “no” when asked if he’d increase his offer in terms of dollars and/or years. First of all, Cashman’s not going to state publicly that he’s willing to up the offer, keep that in mind. Secondly, you can’t blame the Yanks GM here, they already offered Lee a menu of huge dollar deals that are more than fair. The ball is in Lee’s court now, everyone’s made their best offer. Time to decide, Cliff.

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It appears that the Yankees have gotten creative in their pursuit of Cliff Lee. Jon Heyman reported this morning that the Yankees offered Lee a seventh year, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Joel Sherman has the full breakdown of what the Yankees are offering their No. 1 off-season target:

The Yankee offers work on a scale in which the shorter the term offered the higher the annual average value. It is believed the bids work something like this: five years for $125 million, six years for $144 million and seven years for $161 million or $25 million a year, $24 million a year and $23 million a year.

Sherman goes on to say that these aren’t final offers, but rather starting points for negotiations. He brings up the possibility of Lee choosing the 5/125 deal, but working out one or two player options. Whatever the case, it appears that the Yankees are being as flexible as possible in order to accommodate Lee.

The Rangers are currently heading to Arkansas to make their final stand for Lee. I’m not sure they’ll match any of these offers, though. There’s a chance Lee could choose the comfortability of Texas over New York, but it’s tough to count on that. The Yankees have made it clear that they will do what it takes. It’s hard to not feel optimistic about landing Lee at this point.

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Yanks offer Lee seventh year

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Sports Illustrated’s Jon Heyman reports that the Yankees have added a seventh year to Cliff Lee’s offer. There aren’t more details, but I presume this happened last night after the Crawford news broke. Last night Ken Rosenthal reported that Lee would make his decision before the end of this weekend.

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Via Ken Rosenthal, Cliff Lee is expected to decide on his new team by the end of the weekend. The Yankees made the lefty a huge offer today, and I have to think that they’re in the lead for his services. All I know is that this weekend has the potential to be very very good or very very bad.

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Brian Cashman confirmed to reporters not too long ago that the team did in fact made an offer to free agent lefty Cliff Lee today. Earlier it appeared that the Yankees didn’t get a chance to make an offer before agent Darek Braunecker took off. Details of the offer are unknown, but it’s widely believed to be six years and somewhere around $140M.

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This morning we heard some writers float an interesting idea: could the Yankees add both Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford if Andy Pettitte retired and they flipped one of their outfielders? It sounded interesting, if a bit unrealistic. I decided to put together a spreadsheet, based on the one found at Cot’s Baseball Contracts. I took out Pettitte and Swisher while adding $24 million for Lee and $18.75 million for Crawford. Here’s how it would play out:

Add in another $10 or so million for arbitration raises (per B-Ref), and the payroll gets to around $220 million. That’s a bit above last year, but it still seems within the realm of possibility. I did take the liberty of naming the fifth starter as Ricky Nolasco, but that could be any starter making around $6 million. It could be even lower if they went with Ivan Nova instead of an outside pitcher in that fifth start spot.

Of course, signing Lee and Crawford would add plenty of money to future payrolls. He’s how the Yankees would look from 2012 through 2016 were they to sign those two.

And that’s before they play a single zero to six player. Maybe winning in the earlier years will make the later years sustainable. But those numbers just don’t seem within the realm of possibility.

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Via Jerry Crasnick, Cliff Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker has left the winter meetings, meaning there will be no deal made here. It’s unclear if the Yankees were even able to make their reported six-year offer today. I have to say, this Braunecker character is really starting to get on my nerves, and I’m not even doing business with him. What’s so hard about soliciting offers worth hundreds of millions of dollars on your client’s behalf and not playing hard to get? He’s going to end up costing Lee money with his crap.

Update (3:35 p.m.): Braunecker’s hold-up is also going to leave the Yanks in flux for now. Ken Davidoff says that the Yanks are “unlikely to commit more payroll” to other roster areas until the Lee situation is resolved, and he notes that Andy Pettitte will “probably stay undecided” about pitching in 2011 until Lee signs. The waiting is the hardest part.

Update (4:45 p.m.): Joel Sherman confirms that the Yankees did not make an official offer while Braunecker was here. Jack Curry says that Lee’s agent is aware of what the Yanks are willing to spend.

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Via Jon Heyman, the Yankees will make a “very strong” six-year offer to Cliff Lee today. He guesses that it’ll be worth $23M for year, though anywhere from $20M-25M would not be surprising. It’s about time we got some movement on this front, the offseason doesn’t last forever.

Update (11:36 a.m.): Joel Sherman is hearing six years for $140-$150 million. That’s one enticing amount for an initial offer.

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