Aces

The winners and losers of the Cliff Lee deal

32 Comments

The easy answer is that the Phillies and their fans are the biggest winners here. That goes without saying and explanation, I hope. But let’s look at the others in this epic story to see who comes out ahead and who comes out behind by Cliff Lee joining the Phillies:

WINNERS

Ruben Amaro: I said last night on Twitter that Amaro was a ninja for coming in so quietly for the kill. I’m thinking this morning that “ninja” doesn’t do it justice. Amaro is certainly not perfect as a GM — I still don’t like the Ryan Howard extension and his trading away of Cliff Lee last year cost him tens of millions of dollars to get him back — but in terms of approach and tightness of the ship he runs, Amaro is without peer. No one saw this coming before yesterday. No one believed it once it happened. Impressive.

The Red Sox: The Yankees didn’t get their man. They’re not done of course, but when your arch rival loses out on his primary objective, you can’t help but be happy. For the Yankees to improve their pitching staff now, they will have to give up talent. Talent which could have been used to make other moves later.

Andy Pettitte: This is bad for the Yankees, but good for the pocket book of the guy who this morning finds himself in much greater demand today than he was yesterday.

Carlos Ruiz: I lost it in the Twitter onslaught late last night, but someone made an excellent point: Chooch just has to sit back and catch the ball for seven or eight innings, four out of every five games. The men throwing it have a better plan than he could come up with on his own. And they’ll more often than not put it right where he places his glove.

The Rangers: I’ve said it multiple times, but they didn’t need Cliff Lee, even if it would have been nice to have him for a couple of years.  They don’t need the risk a six-year deal would have entailed. They have the pieces to compete in the AL West for several years. For them, losing out on Lee was really winning.

Any team shopping a starter: The Yankees, for the first time in modern memory, are desperate. I don’t want to overstate things — I’m sure Cashman and his guys thought about what might happen if they don’t get Lee — but they certainly need to deal. There are a lot of teams who will now reassess which of their pitchers are available in light of this deal.  I’ll throw one out there: Frank Wren: call Brian Cashman and see if he’ll take Derek Lowe’s entire contract off your hands!

LOSERS

The Yankees: for reasons stated.

The Braves and the rest of the NL East: I won’t suggest that having four aces will guarantee the Phillies the World Series — just ask the 1991-94 and 1996-2005 Braves how that worked out — but over the course of 162 games there is no way this rotation doesn’t grind their division rivals into dust. I suppose this is why God created the Wild Card.

LeBron James: See, it’s possible to take a bit less money and to go someplace where you’re not the top dog in the hopes of winning a title without being a deluded, self-important jerk about it. Really, if it wasn’t for “the Decision” James wouldn’t be getting the crap he’s getting. It was all about manner, not destination. Lee just made his decision and let the reporters take over. James could have done that too.

Playing card manufacturers: If someone hasn’t already placed a call to get a license for a deck of Phillies cards with Halladay, Lee, Hamels and Oswalt as the four aces then I don’t believe in humanity anymore.

I’m sure there are others, but those are all who spring to mind at the moment.

With Cliff Lee gone, what’s next for the Rangers?

DANIELS
5 Comments

First, a little perspective about what the Rangers actually offered Cliff Lee. Though they wouldn’t guarantee a seventh year, they were reportedly willing to offer $23 million per season over six years with a vesting option for a seventh year that would have brought the value of the entire deal to $161 million. It wasn’t more guaranteed money than what the Yankees offered, but no matter the final tally, the Rangers clearly wanted this guy. They didn’t get him.

With that out of the way, it was refreshing to hear that even after lengthy and ultimately unsuccessful negotiations, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels gave Lee credit for not chasing the most money possible (via Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram):

“Let’s give the guy some credit. How many people criticize players for running after the last dollar?” general manager Jon Daniels said. “Cliff didn’t do that. He made a decision for other reasons, and I have to respect that.”
This is still a tough blow for an organization who clearly wanted to retain him, but I have a feeling this could end up being a blessing in disguise for the Rangers in the long run. Still, where do they go from here?
  • They could explore the trade market for a starting pitcher. We already know that Matt Garza and Zack Greinke are available. The problem? They will cost premium prospects in return. While the Rangers’ farm system has produced excellent talent in recent seasons, they aren’t anywhere near as deep as they have been in the past. It won’t be a slam dunk to outbid teams for either pitcher.
  • Also known as the elephant in the room, the Rangers could move Neftali Feliz into the starting rotation. Feliz set a rookie record with 40 saves this past season and posted a sparkling 2.73 ERA and 71/18 K/BB ratio over 69 1/3 innings. He has a chance to be much more valuable as a starting pitcher in the long run, but will the Rangers be willing to move him next season? The bullpen might not skip a beat if Alexi Ogando or Frank Francisco is moved into the closer role. The Rangers could even consider signing Rafael Soriano.
  • Sign Adrian Beltre. Why? Because he’s the best player available, that’s why. Yes, he is represented by Scott Boras, so it’s not like they’ll get him for cheap, but Beltre is coming off an MVP-type season where he batted .321/.365/.553 with 28 home runs and 102 RBI. He’s also one of the best fielding third baseman in the game and an obvious improvement over Michael Young at the hot corner. If the past is any indication, Young probably won’t be very happy with having to move positions again, possibly to first base/DH duty this time, but the Rangers could continue to explore a trade in the months leading up to spring training.
There’s no easy answer here, but please don’t count the Rangers out for 2011 already. It’s not like the Angels have gotten any better this offseason, aside from adding a pair of left-handers to their bullpen. And plus, while Lee didn’t stay with the Rangers, he didn’t go to the Yankees, either, which has to be worth something. Right?

Quote of the Day: the New York Yankees didn’t want Cliff Lee anyway. Right.

sour grapes
18 Comments

This comes from an anonymous New York Yankee official quoted by the Daily News’ Mark Feinsand in the wake of the Cliff Lee deal:

“Anybody who would leave $50M on the table obviously doesn’t want to pitch in New York. Thank God we found out in time.”

That might be the most ridiculous quote I’ve heard in some time. What, only those players who would take top dollar want to pitch in New York? No one wants to go there for their own reasons?  And “found out in time?”  What does that mean?  Is the implication that Lee has some character defect that would have made him a problem in New York and that the Yankees were only saved by the grace of Lee’s skewed value system?  Hey Mr. Yankee: if he had a problem, you should have figured that out before you offered him all that scratch.

There will be spin, counterspin, rationalizations and ultimately reason coming out of all of this in the coming days.  We’re not getting a ton of it tonight, however.