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As expected, the Cliff Lee sweepstakes came to an end late on Monday night. The team that he chose to play for is what was completely unexpected. The free agent left-handed starting pitcher who helped the Texas Rangers advance to their first World Series in 2010 shunned the Rangers and the big-spending Yankees to sign with the Philadelphia Phillies, the team he helped to the 2009 World Series. Lee has agreed to what is believed to be a five year deal worth approximately $120 million (with vesting option for sixth year). The Rangers and Yankees had both reportedly offered seven years, so Lee gave up $20-40 million in this decision.
Can I just reiterate the best part of that first paragraph, please? Cliff Lee shunned the New York Yankees. OK, that made me smile. The Yankees offered the most money, and Lee still chose to go to a place that he loved, that he wanted to be. Sure, the MLB Player's Association will likely reprimand him, but I applaud him in this decision. It is actually refreshing to hear that it apparently wasn't completely about the money. (That said, Lee and his agent will find that their lives will be more comfortable from this point forward still.)
Lee will join a starting rotation that already includes Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels. Sure, the Phillies lost Jayson Werth to the Nationals in free agency, but I think a lineup that still includes Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and others will likely score enough runs to make those starters successful.
The Yankees have to be reeling. They generally don't lose out on players that they deem their highest priority. So now what will they be doing? How quickly will they put together a package for Zach Greinke? Who else will they be going after at this point? Between losing out on Lee and watching the Red Sox add Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, we have to assume that the Yankees feel the need to do something big. The early thoughts have been that the Yankees will spend a significant amount of money on bullpen. Could they be interested in Jesse Crain, Brian Fuentes and/or Matt Guerrier? Interestingly, the Red Sox have shown interest in all three of them as well.
What about the Rangers? Nolan Ryan was pretty clear about his desire to land the already-32-year-old left-hander. What do they do now? Will they trade Michael Young and attempt to acquire Adrian Beltre? What other pitchers are could they acquire? Maybe Matt Garza? They will also make an attempt to acquire Greinke from the Royals. For what they were willing to pay Lee, they could add two, maybe three, high-quality starters.
One other name that the Rangers have shown interest in is Twins free agent right-hander, Carl Pavano. All along, we knew that Pavano would wait until Lee signed because the loser(s) of the Lee sweepstakes may be interested in Pavano. We know that he will not be going back to the Yankees, but the Rangers are a real possibility. Or, maybe he will look at the Lee situation and decide that he loves Minnesota and Ron Gardenhire and sign with the Twins, after all.
It's strange that a free agent signing can make a person really feel good. I feel good that Lee didn't sign with the Yankees. I feel happy that he chose comfort and happiness over an extra $23-40 million. I am excited to see what that Phillies rotation will do. And I'm also excited because the Cliff Lee signing will hopefully signal the end of the Carl Pavano saga, whatever his decision might be.
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