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Cliff Lee is going to the Phillies. What do the Yankees do now?

Dec 14, 2010, 12:37 AM EDT

Brian Cashman

It’s not just a Yankees world in which we’re all living, but in this case, the implications for the Bombers losing out on Cliff Lee are the most interesting.  Philly? Heck, print up their NL East championship t-shirts already.  The Rangers? They seem like they felt they were out of it for a week now, complete with reports of going after Adrian Beltre as a second place prize.  And really: Texas is a team that didn’t need to go all-in on a 32-year-old pitcher.

But the Yankees wanted Cliff Lee. The Yankees needed Cliff Lee. The Yankees failed to get Cliff Lee, however, and it was the first time that they failed to get their big-fish free agent target since they lost out on Greg Maddux back in 1992.   They’re a well-prepared team and I assume that the panic in the Yankee Universe is about 98% in the fan base and 2% in the front office right now, even if they are reeling somewhat.  This was the plan. All possible Plan Bs are a big, big step down.  So what do the Yankees do?

  • Don’t panic.  This is a team that won 95 games last year and is going to bring back every single player that was on that team. Yes, they’re older, but many stand to improve over last season. Yes, one of their main competitors got better, but the other is getting worse. Reasonable people should have the Yankees as their wild card team at the moment, and they will add before the winter is over.  They’re not rebuilding from some disaster.  They missed a chance to improve greatly in one fell swoop. They’ll make other moves to make up the difference, or to at least try.
  • Get on the phone to Deer Park, Texas first thing in the morning and make a strong pitch to Andy Pettitte.  He may be the biggest immediate beneficiary out of anyone in this deal. The whole “Andy is leaning retirement” thing has seemed overblown to me.  I think it was a negotiation tactic, frankly. Both by Pettitte, whose claims to be leaning towards retirement seemed calculated to make the Yankees desperate, and the team, whose “we think Andy is probably retiring” stuff seemed calculated to act as if they didn’t care.  Now all pretense is gone. The Yankees need Pettitte, and they will pay to get him. Someone besides CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes has to start.
  • Think hard about trading Jesus Montero.  That could be a panic move. I’m not sure.  But if they want another impact starter — and I think they’ll think that — it’s going to take more than the Joba Chamberlain pupu platter to get it done.  Zack Greinke or someone like him — if there is someone like him — will take top flight talent to acquire. Nothing should be off the table for New York right now.
  • Mostly, though, the Yankees should take a few days to think. And to wait.  Because just like Cliff Lee going to Philly was a shock to all of us, it was a shock to many people in baseball who didn’t see it coming. And who may now have a desire to see if they can’t pry something away from the Yankees.  Some offers will come their way.  Brian Cashman will think up some on their own.  They always do.

Mostly, though, we need to remember: the Yankees are not dead until you see their body on the slab. They are far from there right now. And to count them out an hour after they lost out on Lee would be foolish in the extreme.

  1. frankvzappa - Dec 14, 2010 at 12:45 AM

    they may not be dead, but they sure are going to have a tough time navigating their way up that shitcreek without a paddle

  2. Chris Fiorentino - Dec 14, 2010 at 12:48 AM

    HOLY FREAKING CRAP!!! That’s it. The only 3 words I can say. Cliff Lee proved Jayson Stark and many others wrong. He wasn’t all about the money. Also, I haven’t been the biggest Ruben Amaro supporter, but I have to give him some credit here. Obviously, when Halladay comes here, I said Doc WANTED to come here. But TWICE? Nah, I’ll choose to give Amaro the credit. Amazing.

  3. christianduffy - Dec 14, 2010 at 12:49 AM

    Thanks Craig. I’ve just cleaned the vomit off the front of my sweatshirt and am starting to realize that we didn’t spend 7/150 on a 32 year old with back problems. This might be a blessing in disguise. Sure, it doesn’t look that way now, but the Yankees should never be counted out. Also, Brian Cashman is the man. I wanted to say that before everyone drags his name through the mud.

    • Brian - Dec 14, 2010 at 7:52 AM

      actually, Chris, it’s “H20-Lee Crap!!!”

      • Brian - Dec 14, 2010 at 7:53 AM

        That was meant for Fiorentino…

  4. Reflex - Dec 14, 2010 at 12:51 AM

    I think this was a blessing in disguise. I was pulling for the Yanks here just because of how bad the contract they offered was bound to work out. But now they can instead go after someone younger who will only cost them a Catcher that can’t catch and a pitcher who has not been able to realize his potential. In my opinion, they should step up efforts to sign Russell Martin, get Petttite back, and go all in on Greinke or perhaps talk the Giants out of Matt Cain who’s been rumored to be avialable for a couple years now.

    • jkcalhoun - Dec 14, 2010 at 1:00 AM

      Matt Cain? The Giants value him so highly that they chose to suffer through multiple seasons of Bengie Molina hitting cleanup rather than to deal Matt Cain for some offense. What makes you think they’re willing to part with him now?

      • Reflex - Dec 14, 2010 at 1:59 AM

        Hey, it was the rumor a couple times in the past couple years. Not saying they’d do it, only that its the type of thing the Yanks should probably be looking into. Montero really isn’t the answer in NY, and offense is not what they really need. Replacing Posada behind the plate with someone who is gifted defensively with a bat that won’t hurt them would probably be just as effective on the overall team as Posada’s poor defense but elite(for the position) hitting.

    • sabosgoggles - Dec 14, 2010 at 10:58 AM

      Because what the Giants really need is a young catcher. It amazes me how fans, and Yankees fans particularly, will toss off ridiculous trade possibilities with no thought to sense.

      Also, sorry, but: “gifted defensively with the bat”? That’s quite a gift.

      • Reflex - Dec 17, 2010 at 12:32 AM

        Read the rest of the sentence. “Gifted defensively with a bat that won’t hurt them”. ie: a defensive catcher with a decent enough bat not to be a black hole in the lineup. Like, say, Russell Martin. Who they signed.

        And nobody think Montero is a ‘young catcher’ except Yankees fans. He’s a 1B or DH in waiting. The Yanks have both a 1B and a DH for the next few years. His value as a result is as a trade chip.

        The Giants have a couple places they could potentially play Montero, 1B or a corner OF slot come to mind. They also have a very gifted rotation and more talent coming up. Dealing from depth, whether it was Cain or if they could get the Yanks to bite, Sanchez, would be smart of them.

        And I’m not a Yanks fan. I am in Seattle. Lincecum is a home town boy here, and nobody I want to see on the Yanks. But Cain I’d deal in their shoes, especially given all the talent they have on the rise. Bumgarner is going to be every bit as good as Cain IMO, and cheaper for the next few years….

  5. Utley's Hair - Dec 14, 2010 at 12:58 AM

    All I can say is wow!!!!!!! WTF?!?!?!? To paraphrase Harry the K: Ruben Amaro, you ARE the man!!!!!!

  6. Bochy's Head/Timmy's Bong - Dec 14, 2010 at 1:00 AM

    Sure, it may have been a complete non-factor, but I really, really want to believe that a couple of Yankees fans’ moronic behavior was the difference. A level of douchebaggery that even an additional $50+M couldn’t wash away.

    • Jack Marshall - Dec 14, 2010 at 1:40 AM

      Your’re right that the Yankees are harder to kill than Dracula, but they have an over 40 closer, an aging shortstop, a declining third-baseman, and only two starters. one of which is 300 pounds and a knee strain from a lost season. You can’t buy what’s not for sale.

      • bigbbfan - Dec 15, 2010 at 12:17 PM

        “a declining third-baseman” Were you on another planet this past season? That third baseman was one RBI away from leading the major leagues in RBI’s. In other words there were 249 everday players in the majors who would love to be declining that much.

    • mtner77 - Dec 14, 2010 at 1:47 AM


      I was thinking a little along those lines myself. I wonder if those idiot’s are happy that they spit on Mrs. Cliff now? You are right, could absolutely be a non-factor. I hope it was THE reason!

  7. mrznyc - Dec 14, 2010 at 1:48 AM

    If you’re a free agent who wants to win the Yanks have too many guys on the far side of the mountain. They’re sort of stuck until Jeter and ARod decide to pack it in – And they’re going to milk it for every last at bat. It was a great team – Once.

  8. yiterp - Dec 14, 2010 at 5:26 AM

    Let ’em bring back last years team & they will finish 3rd behind Boston & Toronto

  9. thinman61 - Dec 14, 2010 at 7:53 AM

    Joba Chamberlain pupu platter. Love it.

  10. tjammin - Dec 14, 2010 at 9:02 AM

    The Yankees Dead?? Depends on how you define “dead”. To them, winning the series is the only acceptable outcome–anything short of that is a failure.
    What do they do now? I suppose building their franchise the old fashioned way is out of the question? I will point out that in the 90’s they were primarily a home-grown team with a few key FA additions, and won championships year after year. In the 2000’s their M.O. has been to raid other rosters, outspending everyone else to acquire talented by perhaps less than inspired pay-for-play FAs. They’ve only won it once in the last 11 years despite over $2 Billion spent in the last decade. I ask then, is it time to actually build a franchise with true Yankee players rather than trying to assemble an all-star team every year?

    • uyf1950 - Dec 14, 2010 at 9:57 AM

      You might try doing the math again it’s 2 times in the last 11 years that they have won it. It’s 4 times overall that they have been to the World Series in the last 11 years. What other team has accomplished as much? No team.
      As for how to assemble a team. I guess you mean do it the way the Phillies are doing it. Unless I’m mistaken with the Lee addition that makes 7 out of their 14 highest paid players started their careers with a team other then the Phillies.

  11. proudlycanadian - Dec 14, 2010 at 9:18 AM

    I guess that the Yankees will now have to try to out bid Boston for Joe Blanton.

  12. grouchomarx4 - Dec 14, 2010 at 9:50 AM

    Hey, these are The Yankees! The’ve won 27 championships. 28, if you count the Civil War.

  13. john638 - Dec 14, 2010 at 10:24 AM

    Poor Yankees, they’ll have to man-up and play like a team. I’ve never seen more prima-donnas on one team.
    The desire to win by the Yankees and the Red Sox is all consuming without any common sense or concern for the paying fans. I’ve been a Red Sox fan since 1948 and now I don’t care if they win or lose. It’s a working man’s sport being played by millionaires. who don’t care for anything except the $$$$.

  14. ricksterjazz - Dec 14, 2010 at 10:44 AM

    Hundreds of millions to a guy with a history of back problems, and who has gone 26-22 the last two years. The world as we know it is clearly coming to an end. Totally ridiculous. Lee knows what he was doing. He went to pitch in a softer league where the 8 and 9 hitters wouldn’t break into a lot of AL lineups. I think we saw the beginning of the end of Lee dominance in the post season, and I think it will carry into next year.

    • bigbbfan - Dec 15, 2010 at 12:25 PM

      I share your estimation of pitching in the NL versus the AL. In recent years AL pitchers who went to the NL almost always had a considerable improvement in their record and the opposite seems to be true of NL pitchers goiing to AL. I am sure that Lee did not relish the thought of facing Boston and Toronto so many times next year. San Franscisco managed to hit him pretty well and they had a very weak hitting team.

  15. grouchomarx4 - Dec 14, 2010 at 11:24 AM

    A guy named Lee should never be a Yankee.

  16. uyf1950 - Dec 14, 2010 at 11:31 AM

    Right now I would think the Yankees first priority has to be to get Pettitte back for 1 more year. That’s critical. Then look for a pitcher via trade (I like Garza) I’m just not sure how practical that option is with the Rays in the same division. Or they can go short term for a couple of years and try a trade with those same Phillies for Blanton. Although I think that’s probably not the Yankees first choice. Then there is always the very short term of the Yankees just looking to replace Vazquez (which they could sign a blind pitcher to do that). They could take a flier on Brandon Webb and hope for the best. Or maybe hope the Cardinals might be interested in entertaining an offer for Carpenter after all he will be 36 at the start of next season and the Cardinals hold a club option for 2012 for $15M. The Cardinals may be interested in freeing up some payroll to sign Pujols. We shall see what the next few weeks bring.

  17. smokehouse56 - Dec 14, 2010 at 1:55 PM

    ROTFLMAO at the yankee fans here on the board. The Phillies sold out every seat last year and will again this year. Oh, that broken down old Cliff Lee. We didn’t want him anyway. “Hundreds of millions to a guy with a history of back problems, and who has gone 26-22 the last two years.” “He went to pitch in a softer league where the 8 and 9 hitters wouldn’t break into a lot of AL lineups. I think we saw the beginning of the end of Lee dominance in the post season, and I think it will carry into next year.” Groucho, you can stick the Yankes up your butt. They are old, losers and useless. Halladay and Lee WANTED to play for a great team and fans. Who woundn’t

    • lordd99 - Dec 14, 2010 at 2:40 PM

      Meh, I saw the same type of nonsense coming from Philly fans when Werth left.

    • yankees1996 - Dec 14, 2010 at 3:52 PM

      Your great team and Lee got their a$$e$ handed to them in the 09 World Series, memory problems?

      • smokehouse56 - Dec 15, 2010 at 2:08 PM

        Just like the Yankees their butt handed to them last year, eh.

    • uyf1950 - Dec 14, 2010 at 5:50 PM

      Who wouldn’t? I can think of one, how about Werth. But you will probably say something like the Phillies didn’t want him anyway and he wasn’t worth (no pun intended) $126M. And that all may or may not be true. But you know one other fact that you can take to the bank that is the Phillies offense will not be the same without him in it and without him hitting behind Ryan Howard who even at 31 years old has already started to see a decline in his numbers. The Yankees may be getting older, but hardly losers. You don’t have to go back to far in your memory (2009 World Series) to remember the beating the Yankees put on your precious Philadelphia Phillies team.

      • smokehouse56 - Dec 15, 2010 at 2:26 PM

        Hey uyf, I am still sick that Werth left. I saw the Phillies on TV and in person all four years that they won the NL east. Jason Werth was a damn important part of that team and I really hated to see him go. It will make the Phillies weaker. So don’t make assumptions, please. They will use part of his salary to help pay for Lee. Connie Mack always said that pitching is 75% of the game. We will see. I don’t understand the hate toward the Phillies. You know their past history as well as I do. Terrible. But since the Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Pete Rose in the 70’s (2 world series with one series victory) era to the 1993 last the first champion Phillies, the Phillies have become a force. Today they have the best team in the game. You said “remember the beating the Yankees put on your precious Philadelphia Phillies team.” I guess you don’t remember the shellacking the Giants gave the Yankees. Remember Rollins 38 game hitting streak, Howards 58 homers, Hammels world series MVP, Halladay’s perfect game plus playoff no hitter, Untly’s 5 homer in the 09 world series, Lidge and his 47 for 47 saves, and now the fab 4. Yes, for a change, they are my “precious” Phiilies. Live with it.

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