06.30.10

The (Rising?) Price For Cliff Lee

Posted in Baseball at 6:30 pm by

The New York Post’s Joel Sherman proposes the following prospect grab-bag in order to wrest workhorse SP Cliff Lee from Seattle, “Wilmer Flores plus an outfielder from among Angel Pagan or Double-A lefty swingers Kirk Nieuwenhuis or Sean Ratliff, whose five homers in his first 58 at-bats since being promoted From A-ball has caught scouts™ eyes, and a third piece from among infield prospects Reese Havens or Jordany Valdespin or pitchers Bobby Parnell, Brad Holt or Jeurys Familia.”  Fuck, why not throw in Jay Payton, Alex Ochoa and Gregg Jefferies while you’re at it, Joel? The Mets would have Lee’s guaranteed services for all of 3 months, surely that’s enough to justify 5 players at a minimum. The Seattle Times’ Larry Stone read the same item of Sherman’s and unlike me, he’s not blinking.

Lee is pitching at the absolute top of his game right now. He has never been better, which is saying something for a guy who went 22-3 with a 2.54 ERA in his Cy Young season of 2008. Teams know they are getting an absolute difference-maker, someone who can pitch them into the postseason, and then pitch them to a title. That’s a powerful inducement, whether you’re a team like the Mets, hungry to steal some glory from the Yankees, or the Twins, tired of making it to the playoffs and falling short of the World Series, or even the Reds, smelling their first playoff run in a decade.

For another thing, Lee has the proven postseason bona fides from last year as an additional selling point — a combined 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in five starts, including a complete-game masterpiece in Game 1 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium. Again, a powerful inducement.

The monetary cost is not prohibitive — the pro-rated share of Lee’s $9 million contract. It is true that great young (and therefore inexpensive) players have never been more coveted than they are right now. Teams are loathe to part with them. And yet the desire to win rings often trumps logic in situations like this. And don’t forget the acquiring team gets draft picks if Lee signs elsewhere next year.

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