Fresh 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]