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Rosenthal’s right: the Rangers should pass on Lee

Dec 2, 2010, 8:37 AM EDT

cliff lee in ws

I tend to rip writers more than I praise them. Not a great trait, I know, but I gotta be me.  In this case, though, I think it’s worth pointing out that Ken Rosenthal nails the Rangers-Cliff Lee thing in my view:

If I were the Rangers, I would almost want to lose Cliff Lee. Don’t get me wrong, Lee would be a tremendous asset. But for five years, $135 million or whatever the final price will be . . . well, let the Yankees take that gamble. Lee will turn 33 next Aug. 30 — in the first year of his new deal . . . The Rangers need not obsess over Lee. They need not worry about the Angels, A’s or any other American League team. They need only remember how they got in this position in the first place. By making sound baseball decisions.

Lee would be nice. He’s won a Cy Young and has starred in the postseason.  But I also think it’s not unreasonable to think that he has peaked. That doesn’t mean he won’t be excellent for a while longer. It’s doubtful, however, that he will be better, and $125 million+ pretty much requires that he maintain or improve on his current production for several years running.

It could happen. The odds don’t favor it, though, and a team like the Rangers (i.e. any team other than maybe the top couple of cash cows in the league) would be in big trouble if that gamble doesn’t pay off.

While the Yankees are almost certain to outbid Lee anyway, mooting this, if I were the Rangers I wouldn’t even take the chance. I’d let Lee go, wish him the best, and then allow Neftali Feliz to go back to starting where, dollar-per-dollar anyway, he’s almost certain to be a more valuable starter than Lee over the next five or six years.

  1. kcfanatic - Dec 2, 2010 at 8:41 AM

    Tey could then pick up Greinke, who when playing on a competitive team is probably a better pitcher pay hime $10-$12 million for the next 2 years and lock him up with a 5 year $70 Million contract.

    • Jason @ IIATMS - Dec 2, 2010 at 8:46 AM

      “picking up” Greinke is a great fallback option, but hardly cheap. True, there’s less of a dollar outlay but they will further purge their farm system (which they did to get Lee in the first place) to “pick up” Greinke. And it’s not like Greinke is dirt cheap; his contract for the next two years:

      2011:$13.5M
      2012:$13.5M

      That’s still pricey.

      • kcfanatic - Dec 2, 2010 at 8:50 AM

        That’s half the price for Lee, for a much younger player. $13 mil is a steal for a true #1, Cy Young winner. You are right though, Rangers can’t get him without giving up almost every remaining high end prospect in their farm system.

      • Jonny 5 - Dec 2, 2010 at 9:13 AM

        I know a team that has one of the best prospects for first base burning a great big hole in their pocket. He may be ready for the big leagues actually. Jonathan Singleton is a great trade chip for the Phills. It’s a damn shame though that the Royals have a really good one too in Hosmer, so I guess it’s no trade for Greinke to the Phills.

      • BC - Dec 2, 2010 at 9:24 AM

        Agree wholeheartedly with kcfanatic. Instead of $23mil per year for 5 years for a 32 year old pitcher, you conceivably get a guy for $13.5mil for 2 years, and even if you then sign him for say, $18mil over 4 years beyond that, you’re saving money. And, he’s what, about 4 or 5 years younger than Lee? Go for it, I say.

      • kcfanatic - Dec 2, 2010 at 9:46 AM

        To Jonny 5,

        Royals are stock piled at 1st base. They have two on their active roster that they can’t get enough playing time for now, and add Hosmer and I believe one more in the farm system. At some point, you would think the Royals would quit drafting big, slow hitters that play a below average first base.

      • Jonny 5 - Dec 2, 2010 at 10:07 AM

        Yeah, the Royals will be able to get help they need though by trading Greinke. They should be able to get pretty serious offers because his price is right for a couple of seasons anyway.

  2. xpensivewinos - Dec 2, 2010 at 9:25 AM

    Ludicrous to pay that much money to a guy who plays once every five days who will be in his late 30’s when the contract expires and whose career was in the toilet just a few years ago. Don’t any of these teams learn from the mistakes of past contracts?

    And even if he stays healthy, makes all of his starts and somehow miraculously wins what 22 or 23 games a year (which the odds are against), is he really worth a million dollars a win?

    He was pitching against the Giants in the exact scenario they hope to be in again (isn’t that why they would pay him so much money) and we saw what he did when the pressure was the greatest. People were comparing him to Koufax. Uhhhhhhh, sorry pal, not even close.

    Let the Yankees choke on this contract while they’re still trying to swallow AJ Burnett’s…….

    • Lukehart80 - Dec 2, 2010 at 9:33 AM

      Cliff Lee crumbled under the pressure??? Get real…

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Dec 2, 2010 at 9:46 AM

        Of course he crumbled under the pressure, the man just isn’t clutch! Remember last year when he faced the Yanks in the WS and went 0-2 with 14ER in 3IP. It’s the reason the Phils lost the WS!

      • gmc173 - Dec 2, 2010 at 1:02 PM

        Church ur joking right? did u watch last yrs world series? Lee was 2-0 and beat cc.

  3. gt929 - Dec 2, 2010 at 10:03 AM

    As a Ranger fan, I am torn by the subject of Cliff Lee, for all the reasons cited by Rosenthal & Calcaterra. You want a guy like him on your team for deep playoff runs, but the price and risks are very high. I’m glad it’s not my decision. My philosophy is simply this: INIT= In Nolan I Trust!

    As for Lee’s performance in WS Game1- Lincecum wasn’t exactly lights out either, and if I recall, several pitchers got hammered that night. I think the atmospheric conditions in SF may have had some effect. In Game 5, he pitched very well except for one single regretable pitch, maybe due to his own stubbornness. Hope it was a lesson learned.

    • jkcalhoun - Dec 2, 2010 at 10:22 AM

      WS Game 1- both starters were lacking one or more of their key pitches. Lee had no curve that night, couldn’t hit his spots with anything, and struggled, while Lincecum’s lease on his new slider had apparently lapsed after NLDS Game 1 against Atlanta. He didn’t it back until Game 5; I wonder whether the blister problem reported during the NLDS was the reason.

      In any case, if WS Game 1 showed anything, it showed that when Lee’s stuff deserts him he can be extremely hittable. That hasn’t happened very often over the last three years, but I wouldn’t bet $125 million that it can’t happen more often as he gets older.

    • uyf1950 - Dec 2, 2010 at 11:36 AM

      Welcome gt929, good to see you. I’m also having some fun over at the other site, with some lame posters who insist on talking trash. If you know what I mean.

  4. gt929 - Dec 2, 2010 at 12:10 PM

    Yup, the only ways to deal with them is by subtle sarcasm or by just ignoring them. You handled it well.

    INIT is my new sign-off!

    • gt929 - Dec 2, 2010 at 12:13 PM

      Ooops, that comment should have been in reply to UYF. Sorry, I’m fairly new here.

  5. uyf1950 - Dec 3, 2010 at 6:03 AM

    I hear what posters are saying about Lee and you may well be right. Very few long term deals work out in favor of the clubs whether they are for pitchers of position players and I believe that most teams understand that going in. But several of you have cited Lee’s off years and why would any team offer him the money that apparently at least 2 clubs are willing to. Those same posters need to look at Greinke’s records other then 2009 when he won the CY (and many would argue that King Felix should have won it in 2009) his record is less then inspiring. If you applied the same criteria to Greinke that some of you are applying to Lee, Greinke is not worth a bunch of prospects and not worth a long time deal either. Again, other then 2009 look at his ERA, his WHIP, his BAA those are not the numbers of an ace or realistically even a #2 on some teams. Again discount 2009 and what you have is a very average pitcher. I’m sure many will take exception with the following but the evidence that would tend to support the position that Greinke is a “one hit wonder” so to speak more then anything else.

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