Before I start, I just want to let you all know this is not a repost of something I have previously written. In fact, this is more of a during finals procrastination tool that further shows me that baseball news takes precedent over any dedication to my academics that I might have at this time.
But for good reason.
Under some pretty, well, unforseen circumstances, the bidding war that is the free agency process of Cliff Lee has become quite a wild ride. Since free agency started a week after the San Francisco Giants won the 2010 World Series, there has been plenty of speculation on where the most heralded free agent in recent memory may go. That speculation, as of early Sunday evening, has reached an all-time high.
Here is where it currently stands.
RANGERS: First, it was Texas. Much like he was in Philadelphia, Lee had just been an integral part of a historic run in franchise history, a run that ended without a ring after a trip to the World Series. Viewed as somewhat as a savior to the the Rangers after a midseason deal sent him to Arlington last July, many people in baseball circles thought if the Nolan Ryan led organization were willing to give him a contract with enough years (7+) to allow him to raise his family Texas, he would stay. As it stands now, the years are not the issue. The Rangers brass eliminated that part of the equasion by offering him that duration in their formal contract offer. The issue is, does Lee want to be the face of a franchise for the rest of his career that may not have enough depth within the farm system, enough talent on the big league roster, and most importantly to compete with the traditional powerhouses of the AL for a pennant year in and year out. Remember, for all the accolades Cliff Lee has, a World Series ring is not one of them. Yet.
YANKEES: Yes, I know it’s a shocker that the Yankees are involved in the process of trying to sign a highly priced free agent, but try to contain yourselves. While there is plenty of the negative that is associated with playing baseball in the Bronx, you can not deny the positives of wearing the uniform with the most famed pinstripes in all of sports. First, there is a little something called money. As shown in years past, the Steinbrenner led front office is willing and ready to outbid any team, in both years and actual money per year, for Lee’s services. For a player who is approaching his last opportunity for a maximum contract, there is not much more security for a guy of his age with his resume can ask for. In addition to the dollar signs, what comes along with the fame of fortune of playing for the Yankees is the opportunity to compete in the postseason virtually every year. Now I know Lee enjoys beating the Yankees in that spotlight, but for a guy who spent a good majority of his professional career playing for rather unsuccessful franchises such as the Montreal Expos and the Cleveland Indians, the lure of playing for a team that will literally buy him a championship has to be somewhat attractive. Well, at least more attractive than moving to New York, a city that has caused the Lee family their own headaches when they verbally harassed the wife and kids last year. Don’t be surprised if that’s one of the main deciding factors that pulls him away from the bright lights of New York City. Besides If Lee was going to sign with the Yankees, the team clearly willing to offer the most lucrative contract, don’t you think he would have signed the dotted line already?
PHILLIES: And last but not least, the reason I am even taking the time to even write this. As of late Sunday night, the ”mystery team” that has rumored to be lurking around during these sweepstakes is in fact the Phillies. As most you know from following baseball for the past 2 years or reading this blog for the same amount of time, there is a prior relationship between Cliff Lee and the Philadelphia Phillies organization. Summed up quickly, the Phillies traded for Lee at the trade deadline during the 2009 season. He then sparked a run, especially in the postseason, that left the Philadelphia two wins away from winning their second consecutive World Series title. After all was said and done, the Ruben Amaro and company then returned the favor by trading him to the Seattle Mariners in fear that he wouldn’t sign a long term deal and wouldn’t be able to co-exist with a newly acquired player named Roy Halladay. With that, it is quite understandable that Cliff Lee may still harbor some anger and resentment towards the Phillies organization. This is a business though, and from a business and a baseball standpoint, Lee seems to be considering the Phillies once again.
The combination of a successful and competitive franchise along with a sports town that he is beloved by if he would decide to step into the home clubhouse of Citizens Bank Park for at least 81 times a season has to be the main factor. However, will that along with a sense of selflessness that is so rare among professional athletes these days make up for the lack of money (20 mil a year) and guaranteed years (3 or 4 years) he’d be able to get from the Phillies in contrast to his offers from the Rangers, Yankees, or any other mystery teams out there.
Oh do I sure as hell hope so..
UPDATE (12:10 AM)
So I guess miracles do happen.
According to Jon Heyman of SI.com has reported that Cliff Lee will spurn both the Texas Rangers and the New York Yankees for a second tour of duty with the Philadelphia Phillies.
More to come when this becomes official.