After another disappointing season where the New York Yankees failed to win a playoff game, rumors are swirling regarding how they are going to improve their roster to better compete with the Toronto Blue Jays for the 2016 season. While this may seem five years too late for many Yankees fans, former Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee is a possible free agent target for the team.
After Cliff Lee won two games against New York in the 2009 World Series, Yankees fans have been calling for the team to acquire the ace pitcher. When Lee became a free agent after the 2010 MLB season, it was speculated that the Yankees were the front-runners for his services. Instead, Lee shocked everyone in baseball and signed with the Philadelphia Phillies, the same team that traded him away a year earlier.
MLB hot stove: Cliff Lee would be 'good gamble' for Yankees, report says https://t.co/mTBIORXs2S— NJ.com Sports (@NJ_Sports) January 18, 2016
While Lee has battled injuries over the past few years, he still had great numbers with the Phillies when he was healthy. In his last complete season in 2013, Lee had an ERA of 2.87 and a WAR of 7.3, the second highest of his career. Battling injuries in 2014, Lee only appeared in 13 games, but still had a respectable ERA of 3.65. Lee was shutdown halfway through the season and has not pitched since suffering a setback in the beginning of the 2015 season.
With over a year off, Lee feels as though he is healthy enough to pitch again. While he is now 37 years old, there is a chance that Lee can still be a solid pitcher. As reported by NJ Advance Media, Lee wants to sign with a contender for the 2016 season. While the report speculates a list of teams that Lee could sign with, the Yankees may make the most sense. Even though he has not pitched in a few years, Lee is still thought to be demanding a fairly high salary, which is something the Yankees have been willing to pay in the past.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe provided his thoughts regarding Lee’s free agency and the Yankees’ chances of signing him.
“While there’s been a great deal of inquiry, some teams say they haven’t been able to get a good read on Lee’s readiness. Is he ready to join a team right away or is he eyeing a midseason return after elbow issues wiped out his 2015 season? According to an official from an NL team, Lee wants to sign with a strong contender. An AL official said he knew very little about Lee’s offseason program and progress. Another NL official thought Lee was asking for a high base salary. If the 37-year-old lefty is progressing well, he would be a good gamble for teams like the Royals, Astros, Rangers, Orioles, Pirates, Yankees, or Blue Jays.”
As the Yes Network reports, Lee is only looking to return if he can find the “perfect fit.” While the New York Yankees have not exactly been competing for the World Series title over the past few seasons, their rich tradition and dedication to improving are sure to interest Lee. The fact that Lee has two young children is going to factor into the decision, according to his agent, Darek Braunecker.
“This is going to have to be a situation where [it has] to be a perfect fit for Cliff from a competitive standpoint, from a financial standpoint. The overall opportunity is going to have to be the right fit for him to pursue, to leave home, to leave his two relatively young children.”
For a rotation that has question marks, a healthy Lee could provide stability and the potential for top of the rotation numbers. While veteran pitcher CC Sabathia was able to remain relatively healthy last year, he is clearly not the same pitcher. In 29 games, he had a record of 6-10 and finished with an ERA of 4.73. Since the 2012 season, Sabathia has not been anywhere near worth his huge contract.
While Masahiro Tanaka has shown that he has the potential to be a great pitcher for the New York Yankees, he regressed during the 2015 season. The good news is that Tanaka is still a young pitcher, and injuries may have had a factor in his declining numbers in 2015.
Until Cliff Lee signs with a team, rumors will continue to come out regarding his connections to the New York Yankees. While Lee will likely not be the same pitcher that he once was, he can still be a solid contributor to a rotation with many question marks.
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