The Boston Red Sox should be as wary as other MLB teams to keep clear of starting pitcher Cliff Lee or else their postseason hopes could fly right off that proverbial ‘cliff’.
In his thoughts about the MLB landscape, Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe had this to say about Lee: “There were teams kicking around scenarios for the veteran lefty this past week, but they are unsure about devoting $6 million to $8 million, plus incentives to Lee, who hasn’t pitched in the majors for most of two seasons.”
Danny Farris of Fox Sports said, “The 37-year-old sat out the entire 2015 season while rehabbing a torn flexor tendon — his last appearance was in July of 2014.” He continued by saying, “It was earlier reported that Lee would need a ‘perfect fit’ to sign with a team, likely meaning some combination of salary, location, playing time and playoff competitiveness. As pure speculation, some teams that fit that bill could be the [Los Angeles] Angels, [Cleveland] Indians, [Baltimore] Orioles, [Washington] Nationals and [Chicago] White Sox.”
As far as Red Sox Nation should be concerned, they should be grateful that Boston was not on that speculative list.
The Red Sox starting rotation was a nightmare last season, but signing David Price and calling up a few young arms like Eduardo Rodriguez has given the fans hope that it will not be repeated in 2016. Some people are wondering who will be the No. 2 starting pitcher behind Price, if Buchholz cannot reclaim former glory. The temptation by a few fans is to continue searching for another big-name pitcher on the free agent market, like Lee. However, Lee himself should not be what Boston is looking for.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound left-hander has been dominant on the mound for most of his career. The four-time All-Star has a 3.52 ERA in 13 seasons between Cleveland, Seattle, Texas, and Philadelphia. Even in his 13 starts in 2014, he had a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts to only 12 walks.
Yet, it’s not going to be the same man as the 2008 Cy Young Award winner if another team signs Lee, now.
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Not that Boston would likely be a place that Lee, or his wife, would want to move for, as Lee’s family has been often the topic of discussion whenever he has been up in trade or free agent talks. Cleveland may only be a possibility considering he had already played there for so long.
The Red Sox may or may not have the playoff competitiveness that was mentioned in Farris’ report, but salary would also be a major concern. With Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, Rick Porcello, and now Price costing Boston a king’s ransom, let alone Dustin Pedroia’s long-term contract that was already in place when they arrived, the Red Sox have already spread their money thin over the team. That’s not even counting the money invested in Rusney Castillo and Yoan Moncada to get them out of Cuba and into the Red Sox organization.
If the Red Sox were to then add Cliff Lee’s hefty financial demands onto the payroll, younger star players like Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts, two players waiting out for the new MLB agreement, will cost the team more money than they can afford. With the Beantown Babes becoming starters last season, and pretty much becoming who the team relies on for wins, the decision to bring on another aging and expensive veteran, who may or may not have healed well enough to play at an elite level, seems foolish at this point.
If anyone in Boston is a Cliff Lee fan, don’t hold your breath that the Red Sox will sign him before this season starts. You may end up passing out.