Rangers Free Agency: Some Guy Named Cliff Lee
Obviously over the past week or so we have been bombarded with constant talk about what the Yankees are doing in regards to Cliff Lee. Seriously it has almost gotten to the point where we were getting updates as to what restaurant they ate at and what they had for lunch (oh wait, we actually did get that one).
But here is some truth in the matter. These writers and bloggers, and I am one of them, we have no “real” idea what is going to happen. I got an e-mail earlier today from Rangers Insider Jamey Newberg and it is a perfect example or template if you will of what we (writers and bloggers) are telling you…BLAH BLAH Cliff Lee BLAH BLAH Yankees contact BLAH BLAH BLAH visit Arkansas BLAH BLAH BLAH six to seven year contract BLAH BLAH BLAH over $150 million BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH!!!
All writers and bloggers can do is telling you “scenarios” that make sense for their team and stuff their fan base wants to hear. Seriously, could you imagine what would happen if a Yankee beat writer dare write something like, “We don’t need Cliff Lee,” “We’re a better team without him,” or “We have no chance to sign the top free agent this season.” If a Yankee beat writer did that he would get crucified by the fan base and would be writing about the happenings at the fish market the next week.
And I’m not above this either, if I started writing and trying to convince y’all that we are better off without Cliff Lee, that we don’t need the best free agent starting pitcher for 2011, that having a guy who nearly single-handedly won a couple games for us in the postseason isn't worth bringing back, then I too would expect some negative comments. So therefore, writers and bloggers will continue to write about the positive things that can and should happen for their teams. You will continue to hear Yankee writers use words and phrases like, “birthright, sense of entitlement, Yankees get who the Yankees want, and unlimited payroll.” Also you will hear Ranger writers use words and phrases like, “family atmosphere, window of opportunity is just opening, awesome young core, and Greenberg / Ryan have the money to spend now.”
OK, now that I have let you in on a few secrets of how this writing, blogging, and reporting world of sports works, here are some actually quotes from Brian Cashman, the Yankee GM. After returning from his trip to Arkansas to meet with the Lee family and Cliff’s agent, Cashman said the situation to sign Cliff Lee is not a “do-or-die situation”. He told the YES Network, “I don’t feel like we are in a desperate situation here…are not trying to do anything at all costs.” Also Cashman doesn’t necessarily consider the Yankees the front-runner in the Cliff Lee sweepstakes.
Alright, that is what he said, now for a little analyzing. Don’t read too much into those comments, the Yankees have deemed Lee their #1 target this offseason and they will go after acquiring his services pretty hard, don’t mistake that fact at all. Basically Cashman is setting up the fan base for the possibility that the Yankees don’t sign Lee, that they do have a back-up plan and are very satisfied about the current team they have.
Writers and bloggers are going to tell you that the Yankees will sign Lee no matter what, they will pay X-amount of money, and they will for sure get the players they want to get because they are the Yankees. But who are you going to believe, a blogger wearing his Yankee pajamas or the New York Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman…exactly.
I won’t deny that it isn’t going to be easy to re-sign Cliff Lee, it is going to more than likely be a contract worth $20-25MM a year and be 5-7 years in length. Currently I’m looking for the Rangers to offer him a 6-year / $140MM contract with a mutual seventh year worth $26MM. Yes, I know, that’s a lot of money, but I am willing to commit to this ownership group and front office being able to continue doing what we are doing while paying Cliff Lee that kind of money. In fact earlier today it was reported that the ownership group has approved a $90MM payroll for Jon Daniels and his staff to work with, that's an increase of over $25MM from last year.
Now will Lee be as good as he has been during that entire contract? No, not at all, I’m not even going to try and convince you that he is going to be an All-Star caliber pitcher for the next six years, when he will turn 38. But this is how you build championship teams, you HAVE to overpay and overextend a little bit to keep the best of the best. In the words of Ron Washington, “That’s just the way baseball go.”
Rangers Spin: Downside of offering Lee that kind of money: Well you will now have committed a huge chunk of the future to a pitcher who will go from him early to his late 30s during the life of the contract. When he loses we will question the deal, when he slumps we will talk about how stupid it is, if he gets hurt we will worry about the future of the franchise, financially speaking, and even when he wins we will say, “Well that’s what we are paying him for.” Also, Lee might only have 3-5 “great” years left in him, though he could have more. Positive side of signing Lee, in those five years having an ace like him is exactly what this till young team needs to compete at the “big stage” year-in and year-out. Lee as the ace for a long time is how you front-line a rotation in preparation to win multiple championships, and with him at the helm that is exactly what this franchise can do. Also in regards to how dominant he can be, think about what he did to the Rays and Yankees and what the Giants did do us a few times…now do you really want to face Cliff Lee or field behind him?
The free agency race has just begun and the Cliff Lee sweepstakes is so far the most exciting race of it. I don’t know what Cliff Lee is going to do, no writer or blogger has a clue. I’m confident we will re-sign him, but it ends there, I’m just confident. If Lee becomes a Yankee, it will not shock me. However if he signs somewhere else outside of Arlington or the Bronx, that will shock me. I will keep you updated as things develop and I have a feeling between Thanksgiving and the Winter Meetings, which is early December, that the Cliff Lee sweepstakes is going to heat up big time.