Looking at the 2011 MLB Free Agent Tracker, Cliff Lee is the obvious name that jumps out. According to the NY Daily News, Lee's agent Darek Braunecker, Camp Lee isn't in any rush to make a decision and it's unlikely that Lee will sign before the GM winter meetings, which take place Dec. 6-9 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
"Historically, these deals take some time," Braunecker told the Daily News in a telephone interview Monday. "When you look at the calendar and we're already into the second week of November; we don't handicap the timing of this stuff, but we don't anticipate this happening too quickly."
There are those who predict that Lee will ask for a CC Sabathia-type contract, which is seven years / $161 million. I think it's important to note that Lee is 32 years old (will turn 33 in August), while Sabathia was 28 when the Yankees made him the highest-paid pitcher in the history of the league and the odds of that happening are pretty slim, at least in terms of the length of the contract.
When the Texas Rangers beat the New York Yankees in this year's ALCS, it amounted to the Biggest Accounting Upset in MLB History. This accomplishment raised the eyebrows of GM's across MLB mostly because it brought attention to the fact that if you make the playoff tournament and have one great pitcher, it's possible to win a short series.
Most people assume that Lee will either end up on the Yankees who will simply be able to out-price everyone, or he will go back to the Rangers, who even with their financial problems can be monetarily competitive because Texas does not a state income tax.
So who are the real players in the Cliff Lee sweep stakes?
By all accounts there are very few teams that are bidding for his services. Here are the teams believed to have interest in possibly paying a king's ransom for Lee's services (in order of last year's payroll.)
- New York Yankees (No Surprise here)
- Chicago Cubs (ESPN reports they are a "wild-card", but I don't see it.)
- New York Mets (You would think the, new regime will at least make it appear that they are showing interest if nothing else.)
- Los Angeles Angels (Lee would make a fantastic fit here.)
- Minnesota Twins (Have shown the ability to pay since they've entered their new stadium. They may be losing Carl Pavano and will be obsessed with beating the Yankees a short series.)
- Milwaukee Brewers (Have publicly expressed interest, but it's hard to believe that Lee would choose them even if all things were equal.)
- Washington Nationals (ESPN reports that they are a dark horse too. I have to believe they were just trying to fill the page to make a story.)
- Texas Rangers (By all accounts he enjoyed his time there and it's relatively close to his Arkansas home; have a great advantage with no state income tax.)
In the end, if Lee simply wants to go where he can get the most money, the Yankees will simply be bidding against themselves as they literally have the wherewithal to simply say "get your best offer and come back to us and we will beat it."
People shouldn't discount the Rangers ability to bring him back however as even the Yankees may have a number they consider to be too high if the Rangers go all out and the Yankees also have to make up for the difference in taxes. - Mike Cardano
Mike Cardano is the founder of Around the Horn Baseball & Xtra Point Football.
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