Normally I am completely, and 100 % whole heartedly opposed to the New York Yankees obtaining star players. They have enough, they get enough, you get the picture. The Yankee haters reasons for hating the Yankees are known, and it’s a dead horse not worth beating anymore.
This time though it’s different. The Seattle Mariners are actively shopping Cliff Lee, arguably the game’s best pitcher and a guy who is absolute money in the post-season. Of course, pitching in Seattle, post-season prowess is rather irrelevant.
Six teams have been linked as the most likely destination for Lee, with those six being the Rangers, Twins, Rays, Yankees, Phillies and Mets. The Reds name has been brandished about as well, but they seem the least likely of the bunch to pull the trigger.
There are two names in particular that stand out of that bunch, the Phillies and the Mets. The Mets likely don’t have the pieces to make an offer strong enough to entice Seattle to send Lee to play for the Mets.
The Philadelphia Phillies however do.
It’s been pretty well documented that Jayson Werth is a potential trading piece from the Phils as they try and tinker away at their roster, as well as protect themselves from Werth’s pending free agency. This is important because the Mariners have made it clear they want a big bat in exchange for Lee, in addition to some young prospects (or an elite prospect with a big bat, as well as some other pieces). The Mariners also have the capability to get an extension done with Werth, or re-sign him if they so choose, making him an attractive player to them in their attempt to shop Lee.
While the Mets technically enter this final weekend of games before the All-Star break as the Atlanta Braves closest competition in the National League East, most fans and experts alike believe that the biggest threat to Atlanta sending Bobby Cox out with another division title comes from Philadelphia.
That being the case, Cliff Lee going back to the Phillies could very well tip the scales in the favor of the Phillies, and in the very least set them up to take the wild card route to the playoffs.
Once in the playoffs, a tandem of Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee would be downright close to unbeatable. It would be very akin to the Randy Johnson/Curt Schilling duo from Arizona nearly a decade ago.
In other words, the Braves do not want Cliff Lee pitching for Philadelphia, at all.
If the best way to prevent that is for him to join the Evil Empire, fine.
Now the argument could be made that it would be just as fine if Lee went to the Twins, Rangers, or Rays, all American League teams, and all not named the Philadelphia Phillies.
The one problem with that would be the re-signing of Lee. It’s very unlikely he would be anything but a rental (and how ridiculous is it that under that scenario, perhaps the best pitcher in baseball would have played for 5 different teams in less than 18 months) should he be dealt to any of those clubs.
This becomes an issue for Atlanta because at this point Lee then would hit the open market, and now, the Mets are in play for his services. No longer having to try and come up with the necessary bartering chips in a trade, they can just throw good old hard cash at Lee to try and lure him to the Big Apple. Now the Braves would have the prospect of having a still very dangerous Phillies team, a young and talented Marlins team, an up and coming Nationals squad, and a Mets team with Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, and Cliff Lee in its rotation. Not exactly a gauntlet I’d be stoked about navigating every year. It’s absolutely not a Mets squad I’d want to deal with next year.
However, if Lee goes to the Yankees, it’s very likely that he would then re-sign with the Yankees, and thus, not be a detriment to the Braves hopes of winning any National League pennants.
It’s doubtful the Yankees would be willing to tp with top prospects, especially catcher Jose Montero, if they didn’t feel they had a good opportunity to re-sign Lee, or in the very least, if they weren’t going to make every effort to.
Now, once the Evil Empire obtains Lee for the long term, then I may not be so happy with the notion. Then again, Jorge Posada isn’t getting younger, and Montero was slated to be his success, so the Yankees will be weakened at an important position. That’s however neither here, nor there at the moment.
Back to the topic at hand. Lee with the Yankees long term doesn’t excite me. However, Chipper Jones and Bobby Cox won’t be Braves for the long term, so getting the most out of them means keeping Cliff Lee out of the National League East.
If Lee beats the Braves in the World Series, I can live with that. But I’d hate to have him send Cox packing in the NLCS.