If Cliff Lee’s wife is calling the shots, he’s staying in Texas

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Good story from USA Today’s Bob Nightengale this morning about Cliff Lee. After the familiar “holy crap, this guy is good” stuff, Nightengale talks to Lee’s wife Kristen.

Now, every marriage is different and I don’t deign to suggest that Lee’s marriage is like mine, but I will say this much: if my wife and I were in the Lees’ position, and if she was exercised enough to say this kind of stuff to a reporter, it would be because, privately, we’d already made up our minds to stay in Texas:

“That’s the greatest thing, being so close to home . . . Cliff can fit in anywhere, but it makes my life a lot easier. We’ve never had a short commute before. Having a direct flight from Little Rock is great . . .”

. . . Perhaps the Rangers’ greatest sales pitch simply was having Kristen sit in the visiting family section at Yankee Stadium during the playoffs. She says there were ugly taunts. Obscenities. Cups of beer thrown. Even fans spitting from the section above.

“The fans did not do good things in my heart,” Kristen says.

“When people are staring at you, and saying horrible things, it’s hard not to take it personal.”

Which isn’t to say that a substantial difference in money wouldn’t make Lee pick New York anyway. It’s just that if things are even close to equal, you have figure that lifestyle would win out.  And remember: “close to equal” doesn’t require that the Rangers come terribly close to what the Yankees offer. Why? Because there’s no income tax in Texas. So discount whatever the Yankees offer by Lee’s effective tax rate before you compare offers.  And, given that proximity to Little Rock is so appealing to the Lees, if the Rangers are willing to throw in a no-trade clause, the cash part of the deal could likely be even less.

Cubs won’t make Kyle Schwarber available in trade talks

Kyle Schwarber
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Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Cubs won’t deal Kyle Schwarber this winter, despite multiple inquires from teams around the league. Schwarber is approaching his first year of arbitration and will remain under team control for another three seasons before reaching free agency in 2022.

The decision comes on the heels of one of the strongest seasons of the 25-year-old outfielder’s short career. Over 137 games and 510 PA for the Cubs, he proved a passable defender in left field and batted .238/.356/.467 with 26 home runs, an .823 OPS, and 3.2 fWAR in 2018. He also led the National League in intentional walks, with 20, and bumped up his total walks from 59 in 2017 to 78.

Despite his marked improvements from previous years, Schwarber’s performance still left something to be desired — specifically against left-handed pitchers, who held the slugger to a paltry .224/.352/.303 with four extra-base hits across 91 PA. Still, it’s evident the Cubs feel Schwarber is capable of strengthening his splits in the years to come, and they might stand to get more value from him on the field than they would in a trade this offseason.

Of course, that’s not to say the Cubs intend to pass the Winter Meetings in total silence, especially as they’ll be seeking bullpen and catching depth in advance of their 2019 run at the division title. As club president Theo Epstein remarked last week, “We’re certainly open and active in trade talks with a lot of deals that usually don’t come to fruition. So, we may make some trades. We could make big ones that transform the roster. We may make smaller complementary ones. But there’s certain things we’d like to accomplish.”