Over the past few weeks we’ve heard all manner of things about what may or may not motivate Cliff Lee. His wife hates New York. He’s a country boy who wants to stay near Arkansas. Yankee fans are rude, rude rude!
I think this kind of thing is somewhat meaningless — the contract offers are ultimately going to decide where he goes — but let’s add one more non-monetary consideration to the pile: a little birdie tells me that Lee was not terribly happy in Texas, and that he is particularly concerned about how his body would hold up pitching an entire season in the North Texas heat.
It’s not clear if his unhappiness in Texas has to do specifically with the heat, if it also involves discombobulation over the fact that he was traded there in mid-season or if he just hates the place. And yeah, that’s second hand info. And yeah, I’m sure Lee and his agent will deny because they have absolutely zero interest in limiting their market right now, but it is what I’m hearing and you can place as much weight on it as you’d like.
But assuming Lee is concerned about the heat: is it a rational concern? I don’t have all of his box scores sitting in a database now in order to graph them against game time temperature, but just eyeballing it, I see that for his career he’s 6-5 with a 5.07 ERA in Arlington (of course he’s 2-2 with a 5.91 in the Bronx). He made eight regular season starts there in 2010, seven with the Rangers, one with the Mariners. He was shelled in two of them and was his Cliff Lee-like-self in the other six. On those two bad days the game time temperature was 85 and 91 degrees. Overall, he doesn’t show a big first half/second half split. His ERA is a bit higher in the second half but he strikes more guys out. If he’s concerned about wearing down over the course of a long hot season in Texas, there certainly isn’t a ton of empirical evidence to support it. He’s a good pitcher in the heat. He’s a good pitcher in the cold. He’d probably be a good pitcher in a biodome planted on the lunar surface.
But we’re not dealing with empirical evidence here. We’re dealing with the notion — a notion gossiped my way, but which purports to reflects Lee’s feelings on the matter — that he is worried about pitching in the hot Texas weather over the course of a season. It won’t make a difference if the Yankees do what everyone expects them to do and substantially outbid the Rangers. But if it’s close? This may just be something that pushes Lee towards Gotham.
In their second trade on Friday, the Phillies dealt right-hander Jeremy Hellickson to the Orioles for outfielder Hyun Soo Kim, minor league lefty Garrett Cleavinger and international signing bonus slots. The Orioles will also receive cash considerations from the Phillies.
Hellickson will bolster a pitching staff that, while not well-positioned to contend for a division title, still stands a slim chance of reaching the postseason this year. The Orioles have not yet revealed where he’ll land in the rotation, though MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli speculates that the right-hander could supplant either Chris Tillman or Ubaldo Jimenez.
The 30-year-old righty went 6-5 in 20 starts with the Phillies, racking up a 4.75 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 5.2 SO/9 through 112 1/3 innings in 2017. It’s a bit of a comedown from his performance in 2016, during which he maintained a sub-4.00 ERA for the first time since 2012. While Hellickson’s numbers haven’t been outstanding, he’s been relatively healthy and hasn’t sustained anything more serious than a mild knee sprain and back tightness over the last year. His presence should bring some consistency to an ailing Orioles rotation that currently ranks third-worst in the league with a cumulative 5.90 ERA and 2.2 fWAR.
The Phillies will receive some outfield depth in 29-year-old left fielder Hyun Soo Kim, who carries an underwhelming .232/.305/.288 batting line with five extra bases and 10 RBI through his first 142 PA in 2017. He made just 33 starts in left field this season and could step into a similarly limited role in Philadelphia’s outfield after the club traded Howie Kendrick to the Nationals on Friday.
Cleavinger, 23, has seen mixed results in his first Double-A stint this season. The left-hander dragged a 6.28 ERA, 5.4 BB/9 and 9.8 SO/9 through 38 2/3 innings with Double-A Bowie and has struggled to improve both his control and velocity during three seasons in the Orioles’ farm system.
Although the deal netted Baltimore some much-needed pitching depth, they still have a long way to go before they can give the AL’s top teams a run for their money. Per FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, it doesn’t look like they’re done adding at the deadline just yet:
The Mets acquired closer AJ Ramos from the Marlins, the team reported Friday. The Marlins will receive two prospects in the deal, right-hander Merandy Gonzalez and outfielder Ricardo Cespedes.
The trade comes as some surprise given the Mets’ current status as non-contenders in the NL East, though MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo points out that they could position themselves for the division title again in 2018. They also have a proven closer in right-hander Addison Reed and will presumably continue to field offers for him before he hits free agency following the 2017 season.
Ramos, 30, is coming off of his first All-Star campaign with the Marlins in 2016. He racked up 20 saves in 40 appearances and compiled a 3.63 ERA, 5.0 BB/9 and 10.7 SO/9 over 39 2/3 innings in 2017. He’s due $6.55 million this season and will remain under team control through 2019.
The Marlins, meanwhile, will receive the Mets’ No. 9 and No. 22 prospects. Gonzalez, 21, began the season in rookie ball and advanced to High-A St. Lucie in June, pitching to a cumulative 1.78 ERA, 1.7 BB/9 and 8.4 SO/9 through 106 innings. He was ranked No. 5 among the Mets’ pitching prospects and No. 9 in their system, and has found some success in the lowest rungs of New York’s farm system despite some command issues and trouble defining his breaking balls.
Cespedes, 19, progressed to Short-Season A Brooklyn in 2017 after several stints in rookie ball. In 81 PA with Brooklyn, the center fielder slashed .240/.278/.280 with a double and 12 RBI before getting sidelined with an undisclosed injury.