Lee Signing Great for Doc, Slap in Face of NY


I have to chime in with my thoughts about the Cliff Lee signing. How could I not? When the tide turns as much as it has in the A.L. East and in all of MLB for that matter, I believe a lot of attention has to be paid to the situation.

Both Boston and Baltimore added to their offensive talents by going after FAs such as Carl Crawford (who NY reportedly really wanted if they lost out on Cliff Lee), Adrian Gonzalez, J.J. Hardy, and Mark Reynolds. The  Yankees were so concentrated on Cliff Lee that they arguably let some other FAs – most notably Crawford – slip by. The Steinbrenner brothers seemed to believe that they could simply throw money at Lee and “expect” him to want to play in NY – the supposed center of the baseball world.

Well, not anymore.

As much as the Lee signing helps the Phillies, it stuns and seriously damages the Yankees. How could a player – any player – not want to come to NY? How dare they?

Doesn’t everyone want to play in pinstripes?

The quick answer is no.

Both Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee could have chosen different routes. They could have starred FA in the face and chosen the “empire dollars” instead of going to the Phillies. Instead, they chose to go to the team that THEY liked best, not the one that decided to tell them what their choices should be.

The 2010 season was a marvellous one for Roy Halladay. He threw like a pitching god and joined the very few that have a perfect game in their resume. I know that he would give the greatest season of his career up just to have that one world series win. Well, he may not be able to do that, but he is going to have the best shot of his career to win that all ellusive world series ring now that Cliff Lee has joined the Phillies.

I, as a long time Doc supporter and fan, am ecstatic for Doc that this has occurred. This mean that he’ll get the best chance he could imagine to win over his 3-year contract with the Phillies, at an amount much lower than what the Yankees would have paid for his services: $20 million per season. Doc didn’t even try to get top-dollar money when he joined the Phillies because he wanted to be surrounded by a strong supporting cast. Had he asked for $25-27 million per season, could the Phillies have jumped into the fray as they have to get Lee? I’m not so sure, but I know they would have tried.

That Lee rejoined the Phillies helps MLB a ton. If he had signed in the American League and in the A.L. East on top of it, it would have brought yet another star to the division and closed the focus of MLB fans all over to the division as a result. Spreading out the talent between teams and allowing for power-house teams to exist in both the A.L. and N.L. goes a long way to maintaining a broader attraction in MLB. That’s why I like where Lee went. That and the fact that I know that both Texas and the Yankees have the money to land on their feet, mostly due to massive T.V. related income.

What to expect now from the Yankees and Rangers?

Well, in my opinion this solidifies the chances that Neftali Feliz will once again be placed in the rotation and enhances the chances that Derek Holland and other young pitchers in the organization will move quickly now.  Surely, the Rangers now become the most likely team to land, or at least to chase Zack Greinke heavily. This means that if the Jays were really interested in the ace, they’ll likely have to meet most of Kansas City’s demands. The Rangers could also become active in the chase for Carl Pavano, a pitcher that the Yankees will likely avoid adding due to his rough injury filled years in NY. Ben Sheets and Brandon Webb are also strong possibilities for the Rangers, although both carry heavy burdens of injury risks.

For the Yankees side of things, I’m not sure. They say that they are not enthused about Zack Greinke, already missed out on Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth, and can’t go after the 2 remaining top FAs on the market in Adrian Beltre and Rafael Soriano for obvious reasons (Arod and Sandman).

Some possibilities for the Yankees offensively now stand at Magglio Ordonez, Vladimir Guerrero, and possibly even bringing back Johnny Damon to fill in the 2-hole once again. Both Vladdy and Maggs seem unlikely to want to go to NY – a new trend – as they are happy with the team they played for in 2010 (Tex and Det respectively). The Yankees will likely spend a lot of money on their pen as well, but where does this leave the rotation?

Now that Andy Pettitte knows that Cliff Lee won’t be part of the NY rotation in 2011 and that the Red Sox will have both Carl Crawfor and Adrian Gonzalez added to their lineup, will he return for yet another season despite threatning to retire? I doubt it, although leaving that much money aside seems tough to do….doesn’t it?

Let’s say he signs. The rotation stands as:

C.C. SabathiaPhil HughesAndy PettitteA.J. BurnettIvan Nova or other.

I would contend that all A.L. East opponents of the Yankees have better rotations than this one, aside from the Orioles. That, my friends, makes the Yankees a very desperate team right now.

My favorite minor league option internally for the Yankees is a pitcher I own in fantasy circles: David Phelps. He pitched extremely well in AAA in 2010, but will he get a shot at the rotation with the Yankees? I doubt it.

Instead, I entirely believe that the Yankees will pull out all of the stops to make a trade or two for an impact pitcher. Whether it is for Zack Greinke, Matt Garza, or the almight king Felix Hernandez, the Yankees will be on the prowl because the FA alternatives are simply uninviting to a team in such a high pressure situation. The top FA options?

John MaineBen SheetsRich HardenJustin DuchschererBrandon WebbJeremy BondermanChien-Ming Wang

All of the FA pitchers above have 1 thing in common – injury risk. Can the Yankees really count on any of them to perform? No. Do some have upside? Sure. The Yankees would have to cross all of their fingers and toes if they decide to go that route, so I expect them to perhaps take one of the ones above AND to trade for another pitcher.

If, on the other hand, Andy Pettitte decides to retire, forget about the Yankees making the playoffs without making at least 2 major starting pitching additions in 2011.

What does this all add up to: a slap in the face of NY, its fans, and more importantly, its new management.

Although I wasn’t the biggest George Steinbrenner fan, I did know two things that made me respect him: he wanted to win more than anything else, and he pursued that interest with class, not just dollars. His sons seem to lack some of his charm and have thus created a new FA landscape where other teams with “close to Yankee money” can swoop in and grab the best FAs on the market.

Are the famed Yankee pinstipes going to lose their allure under the new duo of Steinbrenners? I say yes. Not only are other teams increasing the amount of money they spend, but many teams are using better ways of attracting top-level talent. Many teams are entering new ball parks – Minnesota and Florida for example – which are allowing them to spend more money as their incomes increase. Simultaneously, many teams are using other ways than the FA market to build their contending teams. The Jays and their accumulated draft picks are one such example, as is their renewed focus on scouting and the international market. Remember, the Jays beat out the Yankees when bidding for Adeiny Hechavarria, and the Yankees were also beat by the Reds in the chase for Aroldis Chapman. So, this new Era of being beat when bidding for a player applies more than simply to the FA market. It also applies to the international market.

Unless the Yankees are able to land Felix Hernandez, I can’t honestly put them at the top of the chase for a wild-card spot in the A.L. in 2011. If the Jays make just a few good moves, they could even leap over the Yankees and be the best contender for that spot as early as 2011.

As much as I am happy for Doc Halladay, I equally believe that the Cliff Lee signing with Philly was the biggest slap in the face the Yankees have ever received. Well, Cliff’s and Doc’s, if we’re counting.

Maybe I’m too happy about this signing, but I can’t help it. If the Yankees can’t beat other teams by overspending on players, how will they win?

My message to them is this: wake up NY, you’re not as attractive as you think you are!! Actually, no, stay asleep so that the Toronto Blue Jays can reap the rewards of such mistakes.

That’s my take on the Lee signing. Good luck to Doc and the gang and I hope you get the ring you’ve been looking for. Once you have your World Series ring and your contract with the Phillies expires, you’re more than welcome to come back to Toronto so that they can eventually retire your number.

– MG

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