Top 5 Suitors For Cliff Lee
“The Decision” — another one — was made Tuesday.
The boots were made of smooth ostrich, reports indicate. They were black. Of the Justin variety.
Then, a second “Decision” was made.
These boots were adorned with a royal blue eagle design, brown base and white top.
Clear out the barn! Tune the acoustic guitars! Fire up the grill!
Yes ma’am! Sooee! Cliff Lee, and his boots, are a-stayin’ in Texas!
It’s Hot Stove season for Major League Baseball, and that means a whole lot of hot air.
Free agent negotiating begins at 12:01 Sunday, and Lee is the ultimate prize.
Even a stop at Circle E Western in Sulphur Springs, Texas is enough to keep the rumor mill churning: A sure sign that Lee’s boot purchase means he must be committed to staying in Texas? Right?
Well, they do wear boots in New York too. (Sometimes, in the case of the Naked Cowboy, that’s all they wear.)
Lee is 32. He is a former Cy Young winner. He is fresh off a second consecutive World Series appearance. And he is one of the best postseason pitchers in the history of the game.
He is the most desired pitcher in America right now. His every move will be scrutinized, studied, misinterpreted even.
In his last 42 starts, he’s had 10 different battery mates on four teams. Soon there may be a fifth.
For a long time, word has been that a New York squad — guess — will open up the checkbook and make him pull a “Sabathia.”
Sabathia pitched for Cleveland. He left. He won a Cy Young. He made a half-season stay for a team and helped turn them around. He headed into free agency. He left for NY — for seven years, $161 million.
For Lee, it’s a similar story, with the ending yet to be determined.
Who will land him? NY? Texas? A sleeper? We present our top 5 list:
5. Boston Red Sox
A disappointing third place finish in the AL East has put the pressure on GM Theo Epstein to make changes.
The Red Sox were riddled by injuries this year, but the pitching core of Josh Beckett, John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka is still good. Lee would make it elite.
With that said, each of the three are locked down to big contracts. Adding another huge contract to the mix is probably a long shot.
4. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
A big “if” is attached to this one. The Angels will go after Lee, IF they don’t land Carl Crawford. Jayson Werth is another name the Halos are attached to.
After scoring just 4.2 runs per game last year, the Angels first want a big bat.
But, with owner Arte Moreno expected to increase payroll, the Angels could give Lee a go if they decide to make him their top priority. Teaming him with Jared Weaver and newcomer Dan Haren would make for a fearsome trio.
3. Washington Nationals
Are the Nationals willing to spend money after making history with deals to Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, both No. 1 draft picks?
According to one report from The Denver Post, the Nationals “are telling agents they are willing to overspend, if necessary, to bolster their rotation.”
If they do, it could put them over the top and into the playoffs. Lee would also provide an experienced voice for the younger up-and-comers.
Unfortunately, to land Lee, the Nationals would have to offer a huge deal over seven or eight years, putting him nearly into his 40s.
2. New York Yankees
Contrary to assumptions, the Yanks are not willing to throw the bank at Lee, as they did for Sabathia. Sabathia was 28 when the deal was made. For Lee, a four- or five-year contract is more reasonable.
The team also has to deal with re-signing Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera — quite the AARP group itself.
However, despite owner Hal Steinbrenner saying he won’t go over a $206 million budget — what a miser — never expect the Yanks to get outbid for a player they really want.
Lee wanted to go to NY at midseason, and even had his bag packed when the pinstripes were at Safeco.
He’s best friends with Sabathia. And his wife is best friends with Sabathia’s wife.
However, there is the beer thing. And the spitting. And the obscenities.
Lee’s wife, who was harassed by New York fans during an ALCS game, said afterward, “It’s hard not to take it personal.”
1. Texas Rangers
There’s no place like home, and for Lee and his wife, it’s a restored 1927 house in Little Rock, purchased this winter. The home of their childhood is only a 40-minute flight away. In Benton, Ark. -- both attended the same middle and high schools -- and it’s where their families still live.
“For my family, this couldn’t be a better situation,” Lee told reporters.
His wife said, “Cliff can fit in anywhere, but it makes my life a lot easier. We’ve never had a short commute before. Having a direct flight from Little Rock is great.”
The purchase was only just made. This from a couple living at the Four Seasons Resort in Irving since the mid-season trade from Seattle.
Just as importantly, the Rangers are out of debt.
Team legend Nolan Ryan bought the team from Tom Hicks over the summer, and is willing to go big for his big lefty. A new $80-million-per-year TV deal won’t hurt either.
The team is fresh off a World Series appearance and their young pitchers will only get better.
Not to mention, the Rangers topped the Yankees in the ALCS.
To reach writer Dan Watson, click here.
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