Where To Go From Here?

"As much as I love Matt Cain, I'm pretty sure I can promise you he is not available." (Getty Images via Yahoo Sports)

Even before the 2010-2011 offseason began, the general thought seemed to be that Cliff Lee would sign with the New York. Unfortunately for the Yankees, Lee shocked the baseball world and signed with his former team, the Philadelphia Phillies. While he did sacrifice money and years to return to Philadelphia rather than to move to New York or re-up with Texas, it’s not like he took a huge discount. Anyway, I respect Lee for signing where he truly wishes to be and I cannot be more satisfied with the way the Yankees handled the situation. Brian Cashman did everything in his power to acquire Lee, it just didn’t work out.

With Lee off the board, people wondered where the Yankees would turn. Many assumed that the Yankees might go after Zack Greinke, a move I would have supported. However, this morning we learned that the Royals have traded Greinke to the Brewers. Before I put the Greinke discussion to rest, I would like to address those who believe he would not be able to handle New York. We know Greinke has a social anxiety disorder, but that’s pretty much all we know about him. To assume that he would not be able to handle the pressure of New York is ridiculous, for all we know he could strive in New York. Considering that we know nothing about him, the odds that he would perform better under pressure are the same that he would cave under pressure. For more on this issue, I highly encourage you to read Joe Posnanski’s piece of Greinke. It is a must read.

Anyway, with both Lee and Greinke off the board, where should the Yankees turn next? After studying the market, it seems that there are really very little viable external options left. Of course things could change and someone like Felix Hernandez or Matt Cain could become available, but what are the odds of that happening? Right now, I would want the Yankees to stay patient, they have specific needs and there is no reason to waste resources on players who don’t quite fit their needs. Of course, that may be hard to digest considering that the rotation now consists of CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett, Ivan Nova, and Sergio Mitre. But remember, if Andy Pettitte re-signs with the team, the only difference between the opening day rotation of 2010 will being the subtraction of Javier Vazquez. There is no reason to panic, spring training is months away, things will change. As fans we need to remain patient and have trust in the team’s management, as hard as that can be for some.

Open Thread: Lee


"Mr. Lee may become familiar with the pitching mound in Yankee Stadium." Photo Credit: Getty Images via Yahoo Sports


Most of the baseball world expects Cliff Lee to soon decide where he wants to spend the rest of his career (most likely). It’s not a secret that the bidding for the lefty is between the Texas Rangers and the New York Yankees. While I don’t expect another team to land the lefty, can you imagine how shocked everyone would be if that happened? Anyway, if I had to guess, I think Lee will decide tomorrow (Monday) on where he wants to pitch, and although I am biased I expect that to be New York.

Feel free to use this post to discuss Cliff Lee and any other items relating to the Hot Stove.

Around the Horn: Jeter, Lee, Vazquez

Although the offseason has not been very exciting yet, I would expect that to change within the next few weeks so let’s try to sum up what’s happened so far, regarding the Yankees.

  • The negotiations with Derek Jeter have apparantly soured. The Yankees have likely made a contract offer of 3 years worth $45 million, an acceptable overpay in my opinion, and are even willing to up the offer to somewhere within the range of 3 years worth $50 million according to Jon Heyman. The latest news is that Jeter desires a contract for 4 to 5 years worth $23-24 million a year. I have no doubt that any team would offer him such a contract, and perhaps no team would even offer him the 3/45 contract. If Jeter’s agent Casey Close, a horrible lawyer in name, does not make his asking price a little more reasonable, I could easily see these negotiations stretching in January.
  • Cliff Lee has been reportedly shopping around to several teams this winter, but nothing has yet to come of it. But according to Buster Olney, the Lee talks are expected to heat up next week with the winter meetings coming up. Buckle up!
  • Javier Vazquez has agreed to a one year deal worth $7 million with the Florida Marlins. I would not be surprised to see him have a good season, I don’t know why he couldn’t keep it together with the Yankees, and I still don’t buy the ‘he can’t handle New York’ storyline. Oh well, I guess some things are not meant to be.
  • Jonathan Albaladejo will be playing next season with the Yomiuri Giants, Hideki Matsui’s old team, after requesting to be released by the Yankees. I, for one, was looking forward to the chance that he would finally get the opportunity to impact the Yankees next season, but fortunately the Yankees have been compensated with $1.2 million by the Giants.

The Trade That Never Was

"Cliff wonders what he will look like in pinstripes." Photo Credit: Getty Images via Yahoo Sports

Just Yesterday, I was convinced that Cliff Lee would be wearing pinstripes this season. And so was everyone else, including the Yankees. Jack Zduriencik (the Mariners GM) and Brian Cashman had a deal in place that would send Cliff Lee to New York and in return Jesus Montero, David Adams, and Zach McAllister would head to Seattle. The Yankees completely agreed to the deal and it was reportedly just pending physicals. However, Zduriencik decided to do some last-minute shopping and he checked in with the Texas Rangers. The Rangers, feeling the heat, agreed to include Justin Smoak in a deal for Cliff Lee, and that was apparently the selling point for the Mariners. Jack Zduriencik then backed out of the Yankees trade and sent Cliff Lee along with Mark Lowe and a stack of cash (2.5 million) in exchange for the aforementioned Justin Smoak, Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke, and Matthew Lawson. The Mariners claimed concerns about David Adam’s ankle as the reason for backing out of the Yankees trade, but I don’t buy that for a second, and I don’t feel the need to explain why.

So, where does leave the Yankees? Well, personally I am glad the trade did not go through. The general consensus is that Cliff Lee will be a Yankee next season anyway, and I tend to agree. And I am extremely pleased that Jesus Montero is still in the organization. However, the Yankees front office are not happy with the way this went down. The Yankees believed they had the deal in place and it was essentially a finished thing and they are livid that the Mariners backed out after allegedly shopping the Yankees offer around. In my opinion, a GM has the right to check in with other teams when on verge of trading a coveted player, however, many people think the Mariners took it too far. Joel Sherman has some quotes from a Yankee official and an official from another club.

Yankee official: “I don’t think 30 general managers would agree that what the Mariners did was real ethical.”

Other club official: “It’s disappointing to hear that Jack shopped that around, that’s not right. You don’t do that with any team and you don’t do it with the Yankees, because Cashman will drop you in a heartbeat. You don’t use the Yankees because they never forget.”

It’s nice to hear an outsider speak so highly of the Yankees and Brian Cashman in particular, but the fact of the matter is, the Mariners most likely used to the Yankees to get what they wanted. And from what people are saying, they took it way too far. I wouldn’t expect any trades between the Yankees and Mariners going down anytime soon. The relationship between Brian Cashman and Jack Zduriencik is presumably strained after what happened yesterday. And let’s not forget, the Yankees were not all too pleased when the Mariner’s asked for Austin Jackson last year in a potential trade for Jarrod Washburn.

So, what do we make out of this. Well, while the Yankees front office might have been hurt by the Mariners, Brian Cashman is respected in baseball and has strong relationships with several GMs, so I wouldn’t worry about that. Also, while the Yankees will not be sending Cliff Lee to the mound this season, there is a very good chance they will be doing so next season and for years to come. It’s only a matter of money this offseason when it comes to signing Lee and the Yankees can outpay anyone for Lee, who they obviously really want. In addition, Jesus Montero is still a Yankee!  Just think, Jesus might even be catching Lee one day.

Lee to the Yankees almost done…never mind

Joel Sherman reported  last night that talks about a potential Cliff Lee trade between the Yankees and the Mariners heated up to a boil. It looks like the Yankees would be giving up Jesus Montero, David Adams, and another prospect to acquire Lee. Ken Davidoff reported recently that the Yankees and Mariners may have hit a snag in their discussions, but shortly after he reported that the Mariners have stopped talking to all other teams but the Yankees, so at this point it really is looking like a done deal.

I surely hope this trade does not go through. The Yankees would be giving up one of the top 5 prospects in baseball, the best hitting prospect they have had since Derek Jeter, for 4 months of Cliff Lee. I love Cliff Lee as much as the next guy, but you don’t give up someone who has a good chance to be an elite hitter under cheap team control for the next decade for 4 months of someone who you can acquire in just 4 months for the price of zero prospects. I sincerely hope Cashman just wanted to get others teams to up their bids, and the discussions have just gone too further than Cashman intended. Probably, just my wishful thinking.

Obviously, if the Yankees do acquire Lee, they have would have 6 above average starting pitchers. And with A.J. Burnett’s contract, Javier Vazquez would appear to be the odd man out. Unless, the Yankees can acquire an elite prospect for Vazquez, I don’t like this Cliff Lee trade.

Update 3:45 pm

Joel Sherman just tweeted this

#Mariners backing off #Yankees offer, Post has learned. Does not look like #Yankees are in it.

Remember, Sherman originally reported that talks had heated up, so he may know something.

Pondering the future of Lee

"Could you see this guy in pinstripes?" Photo Credit: Getty Images via Yahoo Sports.

Last night the Yankees’ bats were silenced by the Seattle Mariners’ ace, Cliff Lee. The general feeling around baseball is that Cliff Lee won’t be a Mariner once the trading deadline comes and passes on July 31st. And of course, whenever a big name player is the trading block the media feels the need to involve the Yankees. However, while you can never count the Yankees out on a possible big trade, I don’t the Yankees will (or should) acquire Cliff Lee this season. Lee would require too many valuable prospects to acquire and if he isn’t signed to an extension, he will be a free agent at the end of the year anyway. Which leads me to my main point. Should the Yankees pursue Cliff Lee this upcoming offseason? Well, let’s break it down.

Does he have past success to back him up? Cliff Lee began his major league career in 2002 with the Cleveland Indians and it wasn’t until  2008 when he won the CY Young Award that he became the elite class pitcher he is today. Since 2008 Lee has posted an ERA of 2.81 and an outstanding 1.3 BB/9. So far in 2010 Lee has pitched to an ERA 2.45 and a FIP of 2.34. With the Mariners Lee has maintained an other-worldly 0.47 BB/9. He has just 5 walks in 95.2 innings this year! 5 walks! Just for reference, Mariano Rivera who we all know rarely walks anyone has put up 2.1 BB/9 throughout his entire career. In conclusion, Lee seems to have enough success to back up a long term investment in him. Pinpoint control is an attribute that people like to award to everyone these days, but if anyone deserves the honor, it is Cliff Lee.

Can he handle the pressures of New York? Well I’ve always felt this is not an issue with 99% of major leaguers, but just because most people like to ask the question, I’ll discuss it. It’s hard to know what qualifies as a pressure situation, but I’m sure the World Series does so I’ll use that for Lee’s stats in pressure situations. Last year Cliff Lee faced the Yankees twice in the World Series and it is hard to forget how impressive he pitched. In 16 World Series last year Lee had an ERA of 2.81 and just 3 walks. Still, that doesn’t tell the whole story. You had to see him pitch to see how dominant he was. So I guess Lee can handle the on-field pressure cooker. But can he handle the off the field pressures of New York? Well there is no evidence that he cannot, and he also seems to like New York. Yesterday he took the train to Yankee Stadium, but the train passed the Yankee Stadium stop. However, that was no problem for Lee. He calmly got off at the next stop and took the D Train back to Yankee Stadium. When asked about the subway, Lee said:

“I’m not afraid to take the subway.”

When questioned about whether or not he likes New York and Yankee Stadium, Lee said:

“Yeah, I like pitching here, I’ve always enjoyed pitching here. You know there’s going to be a lot of fans. I’ve always enjoyed pitching here. They’re knowledgeable fans that understand the game, and they get into it. As a player, that’s what you like and respect. Obviously, I try to keep them as quiet as possible when I face them on this side.”

I don’t know about you, but I would think Lee would be very comfortable in New York.

The final question, of course Lee has been great these last few years, but can he keep it up? In 2011 Cliff Lee will be 32 years old, so it’s not like he would be considered an aging veteran yet. Still, Lee is on the wrong side of 30 so can we expect his body to hold up? Lee’s injury history consists just of a groin strain in 2007 and an abdominal strain earlier this year. He recovered quickly from both of these injuries so I wouldn’t worry about them. Lee is listed as 6’3″ and 190 lbs so he is not a small guy, but he is not overweight or out of condition by any matter. Obviously anything can happen, but I think Cliff Lee projects to stay healthy for most of his career and since he doesn’t rely on overpowering velocity he could end up lasting a very long time. So to answer the question on whether he can keep up his success, obviously we can’t know for sure but it looks like he is equipped to maintain his success

My take. With 60.85 million coming off the books this offseason in just Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, and Javier Vazquez the Yankees should have some budget room. For the sake of argument, let’s say the Yankees devote 40 million to re-upping Jeter and Rivera, and giving out any due arbitration raises. Although that number is probably higher than it would be realistically, they would still have 20 million to spend. Perfect for Cliff Lee. A starting rotation of CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes, and anyone else would be very impressive. So, should the Yankees pursue Cliff Lee this offseason? I say, yes, yes, yes.