Wednesday, October 27, 2010

How a Rangers' title could hurt the Yankees

There are plenty of good reasons for me to root for the Rangers - Nolan Ryan, Jeff Francoeur, the fact that they took care of the Yankees in the ALCS. But the main reason I'm pulling for Texas is the hope that they will take care of the Yankees in the offseason as well - by re-signing Cliff Lee.

If Lee leads the Rangers to a world championship, it's going to be that much harder for him to leave. There will still be a good chance, since the Yankees will offer the highest bid regardless of Texas' new TV contract. And I don't buy the notion that fan abuse of Lee's wife will play any role in his decision, except to drive up what the Yankees will need to offer.

But a Rangers' title will make it impossible for Lee to trot out the cliche of "I just want to go someplace where I'll have a chance to win." Because that place this offseason is shaping up to be Arlington.

The irony is that the teams that lose out on Lee might well be lucky in the long run. Lee will turn 33 during the 2011 season. Ideally, you'd want to give him no more than a four-year deal. But the way things are shaping up, he'll probably get six or seven years at CC Sabathia money.

Speaking of Sabathia, he is now scheduled for knee surgery on Friday. Johan Santana also underwent surgery for a torn meniscus two offseasons ago and it marked the beginning of his recent struggles. But the New York Times points out that Sabathia's surgery will be on his right knee, which is better for a lefty than having surgery on the left knee, as Santana did, since lefthanded pitchers push off their left leg.

So Sabathia will probably be fine. But his surgery underscores the risk of signing any pitcher to a long-term deal, as the Mets know all too well with Sabathia and earlier contracts for Pedro Martinez and Billy Wagner. (Oliver Perez is a whole separate category.)

It's why I don't want the Mets to sign Lee, since it's a win-now move, and the Mets are not in that position. They were in that position when they signed Santana and Wagner, so I continue to think that those were good moves. While I'm glad the Mets had Pedro for a little while, I have to concede that signing did not ultimately pay off.

Since the Yankees are always in win-now mode, they don't need me to tell them to go all-out for Lee. But if the Rangers win, the Yankees will have to compete for Lee's services with a team that isn't just in win-now mode, but actually has won now.

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The Yankees have signed a free agent from a World Series winner at least once - Don Gullett from the Reds after the 1976 season. Gullett went 14-4 for the Yankees' 1977 title team, but only won four more games after that. If there any other examples, I hope Squawker Lisa or Uncle Mike will let us know.

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