• Cliff Lee Prize In Yanks Eye

    Posted by on May 30th, 2010 · Comments (34)

    Via Joel Sherman -

    The Yankees are just one of many teams that have begun to proceed as if Cliff Lee — not Roy Oswalt — will be the prize of the July 31 trade market.

    That means they have increased their scouting attention on a pitcher they already were following closely because he projects as the best pitcher of the coming free-agent class. Remember that the Yankees had a scout on almost every start CC Sabathia made in 2008 in anticipation of the lefty’s free agency after the season.

    One AL executive went so far as to say last week, “I have no doubt that the Yankees will sign Cliff Lee.”

    The assumption is logical. Javier Vazquez ($11.5 million) will come off the payroll, and Andy Pettitte ($11.75 million) contemplates retirement annually. Their combined salaries are roughly what it is going to take on an annual basis to secure Lee.

    There is no doubt the Yankees front office is enamored of Lee. The Yankees can imagine going forward with Lee and his former Indians teammate, Sabathia, heading the rotation followed by A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes, and if he wanted to come back again, Pettitte. If not Pettitte, then the presence of horses such as Lee and Sabathia would more comfortably allow the Yankees to break in someone such as Ivan Nova as a low-cost No. 5 starter.

    But having their eyes on Lee does not mean the Yankees will be at the forefront of the derby come July 31.

    The Yankees often feel they get asked to pay a higher cost in trades dating to a time when George Steinbrenner was truly in charge and more apt to impetuously order a deal regardless of the cost.

    I have little doubt that Cliff Lee will test the free agent market this coming off-season. And, I have little doubt that that Brian Cashman will open up the Steinbrenner Family Checkbook and throw an obscene amount of money in an offer to Lee. Lastly, I suspect that Lee doesn’t care where he signs – and just wants as much money as he can get when he’s on the market.

    So, it sure sounds like Cliff Lee will be a Yankee in 2011. But, I have to wonder…if the Yankees hadn’t screwed up on Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, Ross Ohlendorf, Gerrit Cole, Jeremy Bleich, Andrew Brackman, Alan Horne, Ryan Pope, Humberto Sanchez, Christian Garcia and Dellin Betances would it be necessary to throw gobs of dough at Cliff Lee this winter?

    Comments on Cliff Lee Prize In Yanks Eye

    1. Raf
      May 30th, 2010 | 9:44 am

      if the Yankees hadn’t screwed up on Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, Ross Ohlendorf, Gerrit Cole, Jeremy Bleich, Andrew Brackman, Alan Horne, Ryan Pope, Humberto Sanchez, Christian Garcia and Dellin Betances would it be necessary to throw gobs of dough at Cliff Lee this winter?

      One has nothing to do with the other. With the way the Yankees operate, they could develop 4 aces, and still would throw money @ a FA ace.

    2. Evan3457
      May 30th, 2010 | 10:17 am

      How do you know they “screwed up” on any of them?

    3. SFYanks
      May 30th, 2010 | 10:46 am

      Yeah, nice try there Steve. That last paragraph is pure nonsense. And you know that the Yankees screwed up those players how? And it wasn’t just the players themselves?

    4. May 30th, 2010 | 11:00 am

      Evan3457 wrote:

      How do you know they “screwed up” on any of them?

      Wasn’t that the Cashman plan – to develop starting pitchers from prospects so that the team wouldn’t be dependent on having to shell out boat loads of money on older free agent pitchers? Well, if any of those aforementioned Yankees prospects had developed into solid starters for the Yankees, then there’s no need to go out and buy a CC, AJ or Lee…

    5. May 30th, 2010 | 11:01 am

      SFYanks wrote:

      And you know that the Yankees screwed up those players how?

      By selecting and trading for the ones that they kept, passing on other players, and trading the ones that they didn’t keep.

    6. Evan3457
      May 30th, 2010 | 11:09 am

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      Evan3457 wrote:
      How do you know they “screwed up” on any of them?
      Wasn’t that the Cashman plan – to develop starting pitchers from prospects so that the team wouldn’t be dependent on having to shell out boat loads of money on older free agent pitchers? Well, if any of those aforementioned Yankees prospects had developed into solid starters for the Yankees, then there’s no need to go out and buy a CC, AJ or Lee…

      Pitchers have a high attrition rate in ANY organization. You can make a list of prospects just as long for just about any team.

      Kennedy is now starting for another team. Just about everyone I know, except for me, was “tired of his act”. I said, to anyone who asked, that he’s going to make some team a decent #4 starter. Ross Ohlendorf has been hurt and largely ineffective this season, and was traded for Marte, who only saved the Yanks’ butts in the World Series last year. Please don’t try to tell me that this organization and fan base would’ve given him a fair shot at settling into the rotation (see Javy Vazquez for the latest example). Gerrit Cole and his father lied to the Yankees, if you believe Oppenheimer.

      Injuries to pitching prospects is commonplace. Careers of even top prospects are derailed by them. And it’s not much, but Brackman may finally be beginning to figure things out; he just threw the two best games of his minor league career back to back. Long, long way to go there.

      Hey, Steve! Are the Red Sox developing young pitchers? Why the need to sign Lackey, then?

    7. Raf
      May 30th, 2010 | 11:23 am

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      Well, if any of those aforementioned Yankees prospects had developed into solid starters for the Yankees, then there’s no need to go out and buy a CC, AJ or Lee…

      Or a Cone, Rogers, Gooden, Hunter, LaPoint, Hawkins, Sanderson, Perez, etc, etc, etc.

      Yanks have always bought pitching, whether they had them in the system or not.

    8. Scout
      May 30th, 2010 | 3:11 pm

      Steve:

      Would you rather the Yankee organization NOT open its check book to bring in outstanding talent? There were complaints last winter when Cashman said he had to stay within a budget, despite enticing talent out there for the left field and DH roles. I hope the team will have the resources next winter to do what it takes to put a winner ont he field over the next several seasons.

      That said, I share the disappointment that the organization has not been able to develop more front-line pitching talent. I do question some of the decisions to draft pitchers with limited upsides and/or serious injury histories. But as others have noted, pitching prospects ALWAYS suffer injuries that derail their careers. You can only hope to load up on so many that some have to pan out (like the Yankees seem to have done with catchers).

    9. GDH
      May 30th, 2010 | 5:40 pm

      Meh. During the time frame of all those aforementioned “screwups,” the Yanks have managed enough pitching to win the World Series, and saw Wang (until injury) and now Hughes become dominant big leaguers in the toughest division in baseball. They’ve had a host of semi-successful relievers come up as well, and help the team, either by trade, performance or both, and they’ve had their share of fizzles. But the net result is pretty good by any standard.

      Even now, with the bullpen a mess, and injuries throughout, and underwhelming 3-4 hitters, and our ace laboring, we have the second best record in baseball and are only a few games out. Seems like it’s not too bad of a screw up – yet.

    10. 77yankees
      May 30th, 2010 | 7:48 pm

      Raf wrote:

      Yanks have always bought pitching, whether they had them in the system or not.

      The list of home grown pitchers in the Steinbrenner era who made a significant long term contribution is a short one: Ron Guidry, Pettitte, Ramiro Mendoza and Mo. You can throw in Dave Righetti there too, though technically he came from Texas in a trade.

      Plenty of others were traded away to have success elsewhere: Scott McGregor, Tippy Martinez, Lamaar Hoyt, Jose Rijo, Doug Drabek, Bob Tewksbury, Al Leiter, Ted Lilly – to name a few.

    11. May 31st, 2010 | 9:04 am

      Scout wrote:

      Steve:Would you rather the Yankee organization NOT open its check book to bring in outstanding talent? There were complaints last winter when Cashman said he had to stay within a budget, despite enticing talent out there for the left field and DH roles.

      There’s a difference, for me, in having to pay a pitcher $20 million a year for 6 years because you can’t manage to develop your own pitchers and passing on a proven OFer, to sign a washed up one, because you’re looking to save $3 million.

      The former is a turn-off, to me, and the latter, also IMHO, is just stupid.

    12. May 31st, 2010 | 9:05 am

      Raf wrote:

      Yanks have always bought pitching, whether they had them in the system or not.

      Bought, or, “traded for”?

    13. Raf
      May 31st, 2010 | 9:38 am

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      Raf wrote:
      Yanks have always bought pitching, whether they had them in the system or not.
      Bought, or, “traded for”?

      Bought. With the exception of Cone (who was traded for then retained as a FA) every one of those pitchers mentioned was bought with Yankee dollars.

    14. Raf
      May 31st, 2010 | 9:40 am

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      Scout wrote:
      Steve:Would you rather the Yankee organization NOT open its check book to bring in outstanding talent? There were complaints last winter when Cashman said he had to stay within a budget, despite enticing talent out there for the left field and DH roles.
      There’s a difference, for me, in having to pay a pitcher $20 million a year for 6 years because you can’t manage to develop your own pitchers and passing on a proven OFer, to sign a washed up one, because you’re looking to save $3 million.
      The former is a turn-off, to me, and the latter, also IMHO, is just stupid.

      OF’ers are a dime a dozen, where ace-caliber pitchers command a premium, hence the price tag. I bet you when Cliff Lee hits the market that he won’t be “Damoned” and sign a couple of weeks before ST.

    15. Evan3457
      May 31st, 2010 | 10:54 am

      Raf wrote:

      Steve Lombardi wrote:
      Raf wrote:
      Yanks have always bought pitching, whether they had them in the system or not.
      Bought, or, “traded for”?

      Bought. With the exception of Cone (who was traded for then retained as a FA) every one of those pitchers mentioned was bought with Yankee dollars.

      …and Cone was originally acquired from KC in a salary dump deal.

    16. Raf
      May 31st, 2010 | 11:13 am

      Evan3457 wrote:

      …and Cone was originally acquired from KC in a salary dump deal.

      Toronto

    17. Evan3457
      May 31st, 2010 | 10:47 pm

      @ Raf:
      Right, Jays.

      Duh.

    18. Raf
      June 1st, 2010 | 1:12 am

      Starters, 1996 ALDS

      Cone: retained as FA after 1995 season (traded from Toronto)
      Key: FA
      Pettitte: signed as a NDFA (draft and follow)
      Rogers: FA

      Same pitchers in the ALCS and WS

      Starters, 1997 ALDS

      Cone
      Pettitte
      Wells: FA
      Gooden: FA

      Starters, 1998 ALDS

      Wells
      Pettitte
      Cone

      ALCS

      Wells
      Pettitte
      Cone
      Duque: FA

      Same pitchers in WS

    19. June 1st, 2010 | 8:39 am

      @ Raf: IIRC, the pitcher the Yankees gave up to Toronto, at that time, was one of the better pitching prospects, no?

    20. Jake1
      June 1st, 2010 | 9:43 am

      every team has oodles of pitching prospects that dont pan out. cant kill the yankees for trying to stockpile young talent

    21. MJ Recanati
      June 1st, 2010 | 10:37 am

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      IIRC, the pitcher the Yankees gave up to Toronto, at that time, was one of the better pitching prospects, no?

      If you’re referring to Marty Janzen, yes, at the time he was considered an above-average pitching prospect. But what does that really mean anyway?

    22. June 1st, 2010 | 10:42 am

      @ MJ Recanati:
      It means the Yankees developed a pitching prospect that allowed them to trade him for a proven pitcher – as opposed to not developing any pitchers and then being forced to go out and overspend to get one.

    23. Raf
      June 1st, 2010 | 11:54 am

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      @ MJ Recanati:
      It means the Yankees developed a pitching prospect that allowed them to trade him for a proven pitcher – as opposed to not developing any pitchers and then being forced to go out and overspend to get one.

      Marty Janzen, who was the “key” to the deal at the time was 1-2 with a 4.95 ERA in 20 innings @ Norwich, after posting a 10-3, 2.61 record @ Tampa. Even if you throw in the other two arms in the deal (Jarvis and Gordon) it was hardly worth the defending Cy Young award winner (who happened to be the highest paid Jay :D )

      Cone was acquired via trade, but retained via free agency, and even if you want to eliminate Cone from the discussion, it doesn’t take away from the overall point that the majority of pitchers who started a playoff game for the Yankees were pitchers who were bought.

      Key, Gooden, Hernandez, Wells, Rogers vs Pettitte. Let’s not confuse the Yankees with the Braves :D

    24. MJ Recanati
      June 1st, 2010 | 11:56 am

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      It means the Yankees developed a pitching prospect that allowed them to trade him for a proven pitcher – as opposed to not developing any pitchers and then being forced to go out and overspend to get one.

      Are you implying this hasn’t happened since the Janzen-for-Cone trade?

    25. June 1st, 2010 | 12:49 pm

      @ MJ Recanati:

      I’m saying it hasn’t happened in the last 5 years or so.

    26. MJ Recanati
      June 1st, 2010 | 1:13 pm

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      I’m saying it hasn’t happened in the last 5 years or so.

      That they haven’t done it doesn’t mean they couldn’t have. They could’ve traded Hughes/Chamberlain for Santana but opted not to.

    27. June 1st, 2010 | 1:20 pm

      Yes, and, instead of trading for Santana, they went out and overpaid Sabathia and Burnett in order to get them to fill huge holes in their starting rotation.

    28. Raf
      June 1st, 2010 | 1:22 pm

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      @ MJ Recanati:
      I’m saying it hasn’t happened in the last 5 years or so.

      The Vazquez trade doesn’t count?

    29. June 1st, 2010 | 1:27 pm

      Vazquez? This year’s trade, yes. The one before 2004 was more than 5 years ago. Then again, Vazquez’s performance is not up there with getting a Clemens, Cone, etc.

    30. Raf
      June 1st, 2010 | 1:29 pm

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      Yes, and, instead of trading for Santana, they went out and overpaid Sabathia and Burnett in order to get them to fill huge holes in their starting rotation.

      That isn’t necessarily true.

      R/G
      10: 4.14 (so far)
      09: 4.65
      08: 4.49
      07: 4.80
      06: 4.73

      The holes weren’t as huge as you imply.

    31. Raf
      June 1st, 2010 | 1:38 pm

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      Vazquez? This year’s trade, yes. The one before 2004 was more than 5 years ago. Then again, Vazquez’s performance is not up there with getting a Clemens, Cone, etc.

      You’re moving targets again… If the issue is that the Yanks haven’t developed starters, that hasn’t been the case, because Hughes, Kennedy, Wang, Chamberlain were given rotation spots. If the issue is that they haven’t developed pitching prospects to trade, that hasn’t been the case as they had the opportunity to trade Chamberlain, Kennedy, Wang & Hughes for pitching, but chose not to.

      To add to that, not all trades are created equal. Clemens, Cone, and Wetteland, to name 3 were salary dump trades, Randy Johnson forced his way here (for lack of a better term), but the Yankees gave up different packages for each player.

    32. June 1st, 2010 | 1:39 pm

      That includes the bullpen too, no?

      Bottom line, look at how many starts CC and AJ made for the Yankees in the regular season and post-season in 2009. If they don’t make those starts, who does? There’s your holes.

    33. Raf
      June 1st, 2010 | 1:53 pm

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      That includes the bullpen too, no?
      Bottom line, look at how many starts CC and AJ made for the Yankees in the regular season and post-season in 2009. If they don’t make those starts, who does? There’s your holes.

      If we’re talking bullpen too, then we include the Marte & Villone trades, Hitchcock’s reacquisition, among others (too many movements year to year to research)

      As for CC & AJ, if they don’t make the starts, someone else will. The Yanks aren’t going to go with 3/5 of a rotation over a season and into the playoffs. Perhaps they take a different approach in the development of Hughes, Kennedy & Chamberlain. Perhaps they target different pitchers in the offseason, perhaps they fill the positions in house, perhaps they make a trade. There are too many variables.

    34. MJ Recanati
      June 1st, 2010 | 4:21 pm

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      Yes, and, instead of trading for Santana, they went out and overpaid Sabathia and Burnett in order to get them to fill huge holes in their starting rotation.

      I’m not sure why that is relevant. You said the Yanks hadn’t developed pitching prospects to trade for established starters and I said that the fact that they had not made trades doesn’t mean that they couldn’t. Signing Sabathia/Burnett doesn’t change the fact that the Yanks COULD HAVE made the very trade you’re saying they haven’t made in 5 years due to a lack of pitching prospects.

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