Report: Cliff Lee Will Test Free Agency

Cliff LeeFresh off of one of the worst starts of Cliff Lee’s career, we are now also confronted with a recent report by Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal that states that the team is most definitely listening to offers for their ace starting pitcher.

But why would a team look to trade a guy that they still have for one more season when they feel that they can compete and “like their core?”  Well, according to a “source close to Lee,” he is set to test the free agent waters following the 2010 season.  Of course he is.

Earlier reports had the Dodgers looking to add Lee to their pitching staff as they (likely) head into the 2009 post season.  However, the asking price at the time of the report was a “potential top-of-the-rotation starter” a la Tommy Hanson or Clay Buchholz.  Now, Rosenthal adds the Texas Rangers to the mix as a team that could look to add Lee.  But he also states that they will not only not part with their top pitching prospect, but won’t move any of their top three prospects – including the flame throwing Neftali Feliz, who has reached triple digits and just turned 21 years of age.  Somehow, I can’t see both teams being close to an agreeable price.

The issue now is that the Indians may have just gone from only moving Lee for the right price to moving him for the best they can receive.  It wasn’t long ago that Lee’s camp wanted to talk extension, but after not receiving much chatter from the team’s front office, they decided that they would hold off until the end of the season.  Now, after two straight years of Lee being the only pitcher that can be counted on, he’s apparently seen enough.

It’s tough to blame a guy that has now seen solid players shipped off for prospects during back-to-back years.  Couple that with the considerable lack of run support each night out, and it has to get frustrating.  Also factor in that those that tested the free agent waters ahead of him (CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, etc) got paid a lot more than he is currently making – and would be paid by the Indians, ever – and you have the perfect concoction.

It is sad to say, but this entire situation has the makings of a 2008 all over again.  The team is going to hope to compete.  And if/when they start to fall out of the race, they will be forced to move a Cy Young Award-winning arm because of their inability/unwillingness to re-sign him.  If they find a trading partner, that team will not want to move key pieces to their respective puzzle, so we will have more prospects.  Then it’s even more of a waiting game for said prospects to develop.  Similar to now.  A year when – guess what? – we were supposed to compete at the same time.

If we continue to layer prospects, at no point in time will we have a solid top-to-bottom team.  It will always be a few guys with a few more guys in the waiting.  But don’t worry, they should be good eventually!  Even if we were to nab a guy like Hanson or Buccholz from their respective teams, those two are currently a fifth starter and a Triple-A arm respectively.  Their teams currently have at least four other guys that are better than they are.  And we think by subtracting our ace and adding one of them that we would be able to compete just one year later? 

This may sound very pessimistic (can you blame me?), but 2012 will be here a lot sooner than the Indians may want to believe.  If they trade Lee this year or next, there is no chance that they can say we are not in a rebuilding mode.  I cannot imagine Grady Sizemore sticking around for 2010 and 2011 as rebuilding seasons, and then re-signing with us at the end of 2012.  If Lee has officially stated his intentions, it’s time to focus on the actual core and get this ship straightened for the foreseeable future.

Good news is, if Lee is definitely leaving in a year and a half, we can expect better games than we saw yesterday as he hopes to improve his value.  I guess we’ll take what we can, even if it is only every fifth day.

Ken Rosenthal’s Full Count [Fox Sports.com]

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Craig

    I am going to have to try to sound optimistic about Jake Westbrook being the opening day starter next year, aren’t I?

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Scott

    Scary thought, isn’t it?

  • ben

    Dear Indians,

    You suck and are terrible.

    Love,
    Ben

  • Andrew S

    Did you think Lee was going to forget what happened in ’07? He seems like the kind of guy who doesnt let getting booed by the fans go. Maybe ’08 and this season (outside of last night) is just a big middle finger towards all the fans who booed him in ’07.

  • Swig

    It’s fun rooting for a AAAA team

  • Boomhauer

    And so begins the rebirth of the 1960-1993 era Indians…

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com/ Rick

    ben FTW

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Scott

    “And so begins the rebirth of the 1960-1993 era Indians…”

    Do we get another movie made out of it?

  • Joseph

    Can’t really say I’m surprised by this news.

    The only nice thing about the Indians completely sucking is that when I come to Cleveland in September to see them play they’ll be practically giving away tickets. Hell, they may give me tickets AND money to go! :D

  • DK

    by the time you get here in September, Joseph, we will be the Clelumbus Clippians…

    hooray for poor scouting, management, foresight, hindsight, and owndership!

  • DK

    apparently I need spell check…

    *ownership

  • Eli

    If we get another movie, can it be made in Cleveland instead of Milwakee this time?

  • Joseph

    DK,

    This is true! I actually catch the Clippers here when I can; I live in Chesapeake, VA and the Norfolk Tides are here so the Clippers come into town usually 1-2 times a year.

    The way the season is looking I may have seen better action there LOL.

  • Isis

    Fact: Lee approached the Indians in spring training with the desire and intention to negotiate an extension to his contract. What was he told? “Economic issues……sorry, no can do”.

    Cmon people, at what point will you get it? Would you stay if you were Cliff Lee after that episode?

    When is Mark Shapiro held accountable? 2012, 2013,…when?

  • mal219

    Do you think Grady Sizemore will be traded during the 2009 Off season or sooner? And to which team do you think he will go too?

  • Harv 21

    This is not news. Both this post and comments here are kind of surprising and very naive. Lee was never going to resign here unless he has arm trouble. It has nothing to do with watching good teammates get traded, frustration with run support, booing, or the organization dismissing talk of an extension. It only has to do with the enormous 8-figure contract an in-his-prime, stud lefty, who has already won the Cy Young, knows he will get. Do we think his agents wanted anything less in an extension than what the last lefty Cy Young winner got? Lee has no ties to this area, didn’t even spend much time in our minors, and doesn’t live here now I don’t think.
    And it’s also foolish to think that in the Dick Jacobs years we would have signed him. John Hart turned down a trade for Pedro Martinez (Montreal wanted Jared Wright after the ’07 season) because he knew Pedro would demand a big long-term contract – which Boston gave him – and Hart worried that it was too risky to tie up so much money in pitchers who so often end up on the DL.
    Only a few teams will be able to afford Cliff Lee after his success. We were never going to be one of them.

  • The Other Tim

    “Hell, they may give me tickets AND money to go! ”

    They may ask you to pitch the 6 and 7th inning.

  • MrCleaveland

    @ #4 — So he got booed. Big deal. Players get booed all the time. Anybody who would crumple into a heap over getting booed isn’t much of a man, and I think Lee is a lot stronger than that.

    @ #14 — You might have a point, but probably not. Money almost always trumps hard feelings.

    None of this matters though. If the Yankees want him (and why wouldn’t they?), he’s gone.

  • HawkeyeMac

    Grady’s batting average has gone south every year for the last five years. Sooner or later tribe fans are going to have to accept that Grady might not be the player we once thought he would be. The question with Lee is whether we would get more for him this year or next year towards the trading deadline?

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