Acosta: Yanks Are Better Off Without Him

Ernie Acosta
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You’ve heard it over and over again on the WFAN airwaves or read it in your newspaper. When the Yankees want a player badly enough, they ALWAYS get him. Well not this time, as Cliff Lee shockingly joined the small list of big name free agents that have turned their backs on the pinstripes. He is now immortalized alongside the names Greg Maddux and Roger Clemens (in 1997) as the big name pitchers that were able to say no to the Yankees’ money. With Lee taking his talents to Philadelphia, the Phillies will now boast one of the greatest pitching staffs in major league history. In the wake of his stunning decision there now lies a completely panic stricken empire of Yankee fans that has seen the Red Sox add both Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford.

Now before all of you angry and frustrated Bronx Bomber fateful begin the march on Yankee Stadium calling for the head of Brian Cashman, I’m here to tell you fellow Yankees’ fans that Lee’s signing with Philadelphia was a good thing for the Yankees. That’s right, I did not want Cliff Lee. Why? Because considering his age and the seven years the Yankees would have had to commit to him, this organization is better off without him. Of course when I say better off, I only mean better off long term. I can’t sit here and tell you the Yankees would not have been a much better in team 2011 with him. The Yanks could definitely have used the southpaw to help neutralize the lefty swinging bats of Crawford, Gonzalez and Ortiz. But, a contract of that length to a pitcher that age, who has already experienced back issues, is too high a price.

In case you’ve forgotten, only a handful of pitchers have ever been fortunate enough to land themselves seven year deals. Three of those pitchers are Mike Hampton, Barry Zito and Kevin Brown. Try reading that list again without getting queasy. Undoubtedly, these are three of the worst contracts since the start of free agency. History tells us that long term deals with pitchers simply do not work. The jury is still out on CC Sabathia and what will come out of his seven year pact, but considering his age at the time (28) and steady record of health, there was more reason to take the risk than there was with Lee. If you’re still not convinced there may be some friends from Flushing that can tell you what a mistake it is. You think the Mets aren’t feeling a little bit of buyer’s remorse after inking Johan Santana, to a six year deal back in 2008. As good as he was the first three years of his deal, that contract could prove to be a disastrous one for the Mets if his arm issues persist and Johan was a much better pitcher than Lee.

Now here’s the real dose of reality for you. Much like the beautiful girl who tells you how great you are but she’s going back to her ex-boyfriend, the Yankees and their fans must realize this guy never wanted to be here. He did not want to be a Yankee and certainly did not want any part of New York City. He can say all he wants about going back to a place he had fun and success in, but the fact is he left a lot of money and most likely an extra year on the table, to go back to the friendly confines of Citizens Bank Park.

So now that the Lee saga is over we can all move on. Cashman will really begin to earn his 2011 paycheck now. Carl Pavano is the best available free agent pitcher on the market so it’s obvious the Yankees will have to look for a trade to bolster this rotation. Here are a few names that might make you feel a little less depressed about the upcoming season.

I would drive to Los Angeles in a smart car if it meant the Yankees could get their hands on the 26-year-old Chad Billingsley. As a number three on this staff, Billingsley would fit like a glove. He has already shown signs of even being a good number two pitcher in his brief five year career with the Dodgers. Considering his second half struggles in 2009 and 2010, combined with a solid rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Ted Lilly and Hiroki Kuroda, the Dodgers may be willing to move Billingsley for the right price. Did I mention Rod Barajas is slated as their opening day catcher? With a farm system overflowing with catching talent the Yankees may be in the right situation to land the arbitration- eligibile righty. (On a side note Ted Lilly would have been a quality signing by the Yankees this off-season if the Dodgers had not inked him before his free agency eligibility kicked in).

Second on my pitching Christmas list would be Houston’s Wandy Rodriguez. With an average of 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings, Wandy has established himself as the Astros number one starter heading into the 2011 season. But, if ever there was a team that was in full rebuilding mode, it’s this one. With the ‘Stros only having the rights to Wandy’s services for one more year before free agency comes calling, Houston general manager Ed Wade will undoubtedly realize that 32-year-old pitchers are not meant to be built around and will deal him.

My last guy will shock you and probably cause you to completely stop reading this article altogether, but Carlos Zambrano could be a really interesting fit for this team. I know he’s been a nutcase in Chicago, fighting with teammates in the dugout and taking bats to the water coolers, but I think a change of scenery would really fix this guy. Remember, “Big Z” has been the face of the Chicago Cubs over the last eight seasons. That wouldn’t be the case here. By moving to New York, Zambrano would go from the ace of a struggling staff to just a piece of what could hopefully be a championship team. A number three pitcher at most. Without being saddled with the burden of an entire struggling organization, Zambrano’s mind should be put to ease. And remember Girardi caught him in Chicago for two years of his career. A clear headed Zambrano could be dominant if put in the right situation. Oh, and with $35 million being owed him over the next two years (some of which the Cubs would have to pick up) I’m sure the asking price would not be very high. I just wouldn’t want to be the guy that has to tell him pitchers don’t hit in the American League.

There’s no way of predicting who could become available between now and the trade deadline.
There’s rumors already swirling of Marlins pitcher Ricky Nolasco being shopped and even Chien-Ming Wang is still a free agent…..Hello? The point is there are still options. As this team is presently contructed they are still better on paper than 27 other teams in the major leagues and they have eight months to leapfrog the Phillies and Red Sox.

Although you may not see it, Cliff Lee’s contract could have debilitated the Yankees three or four years from now. Yes, even the Yankees would struggle to overcome a salary like that when he begins to struggle at 35. Just enjoy the fact that he’s no longer in the American League and the next shot the Yankee bats would have at overcoming his dominance of them would probably be in the World Series. So for now just sit back and listen as the trade rumors are bantied about. If you asked me now do I think the Yankees will get that extra arm to solidify their rotation, I’d have to say, yes, of course they will. The Yankees almost always get their man.

pixy Acosta: Yanks Are Better Off Without Him
Comments

One Comment

  1. Dominick Mezzapesa says:

    Just wondering if you still think not getting Lee was a good thing?

  2. Dominick Mezzapesa says:

    You’re kidding right? All of a sudden you’re worried about giving Lee a 7 year contract..OK moron if the Yankees won the next three World series would you then be worried about the last 4 years? NO! Now if you pulled a Washington and gave Werth a long contract it’s stupid because they are not even close to the playoffs let alone the WS. The Yankees are always oh so close and a pitcher like lee is a player that is capable of putting close teams over the top. Plus it’s not like the Yankees will run out of money of the back end of the contract will in any way effect signing players

  3. npc says:

    How can a team with all the resources that the Yankees’ have be so stratgy poor? Why, you ask, becasue of the GM. Cashman is a short term thinker, not strategic and relys on the magic of the Yankees’ checkbook. As the team has gotten old, so has his thinking. Time to move on Brian and let someone who can effectively use the resources carve a new vision.

  4. Joyemaz says:

    Whatever Acosta. How about talking about the pigs that NY fans are – spitting on Lee’s wife and the fact the NY blowhards were deemed too low class for him even at $150 million.

    1. Cruddy Bedgington says:

      Hey stupid, (Joyemaz), Lee said at his press conference that the fans didn’t spit, throw beer, or curse at his wife. He said it wasn’t about not wanting to go to New York, he just wanted to go back to Philly. You should get your facts straight.

      1. Papa Guipetta says:

        Cruddy is correct. . . . what’s with the venom from Joyemaz?

      2. Dag Nabbit says:

        Joyemaz the spaz. . . . you are the pig. Lee denied it and said that those things never happened. . . . you drank the kool-aid too!

  5. NG says:

    lET’S BE PATIENT FOR ONCE. REMEMBER HOW THE YANKESS BECAME DOMINANT- THEY HAD YOUNG PLAYERS WHO WERE GIVEN A CHANCE (JETER, WILLIMAS, RIVERA, POSADA, PETITE). IN THE PAST DECADE VERY FEW FREE AGENTS WORKED OUT- FOR ONCE LET’S SEE REPEAT 1995 AND GIVE THE YOUNG MINOR LEAGUE PITCHERS A CHANCE. MAYBE THE YANKS CAN BE THE NEXT SF GIANTS ROTATION.

  6. Robby says:

    Yanks still have the majors’ highest-scoring team. Hopefully BG keeps improving, Jeter rebounds, Tex gets healthy and Yanks get younger behind the plate. Even at his worst, AJB won 10 games. Add just one of the pitchers mentioned above, let Chambo and Nova handle the No.5 starting spot and Yanks should win the division.

  7. Steve says:

    One thing that I think has been overlooked. The Red Sox added 2 players, but subtracted two as well (Beltre, Martinez). They essentially evened up. They have NOT added any pitching. Not sure why we are conceding the AL East already. The Yankees are not done.

    1. Steve says:

      Also, I would bring back Aceves and Wang. Those moves would be pennies compared to Lee.

  8. Matt says:

    I completely agree. Great article. As a life-long Yankee fan, why would we want a guy that we could not beat?…yet? Let’s hope we face off in the WS and let’s beat his asss fair and square!! I believe in Arod, and Tex, and Cano, and Jeter!!

  9. Christopher Williams says:

    As a Yankee fan I am very happy that we didn’t get Lee. $138,000,000 for seven years is a bit ridiculous for a 32 year old pitcher. A big sigh of relief here.

  10. Chase says:

    Billingsley would be a great fit especially with the Russell Martin deal going down. Don’t really want Wandy, he is good but for a pitcher never being in a pressure moment, why not just roll the dice on Greinke? C-Bills and Zambrano would be a nice consolation though, the fans would fall in love with his fire and, unlike Joba, has experience as a starter before the role was thrust upon him. Boston fans like to throw down junk now but we still have a few months before spring training and to think Cashman won’t make a deal before then is absurd.

  11. Jack says:

    Looks terrible now, but I didn’t like that 7-year contract.

    Just hope they don’t trade Jesus Montero!

  12. SWITCHALICIOUS.COM says:

    MAYBE LEE SOUGHT SOME ADVISE FROM THE CAPTAIN OF THE TEAM WHO WAS BEING TREATED LIKE #$@%, OR MAYBE THE VETERAN CATCHER ( HE THOUGHT HE WOULD BE THROWING TO ) OR MAYBE JUST A VETERAN PITCHER IN HIS LATER YEARS ( PETTITTE – WHO’S BEEN TREATED QUESTIONABLY) I JUST CANT FIGURE OUT WHY HE DIDNT WANT TO COME HERE. HHHHMMM CAN YOU ???? CASHMAN DROPPED THE BALL PUTTING ALL HIS EGGS IN ONE BASKET – WELL WE ALWAYS HAVE GARDY

  13. Bob Clarke says:

    I hope the Yankees have learned their lesson about trying to bring NL pitchers over to the AL. That eliminates everyone on your list except for Pavano and Chien Ming Wang, and I don’t think either of them are even an option.

    Any other suggestions?

  14. Keith says:

    Fat man Malusis said on FAN Mets fans should be walking with a smile on their faces because Lee did not sign with the Yankees. I guess the fat man forgot that the Phillies play in the N.L East and not the A.L East, What’s there to smile about for Mets fans, the Mets now have to face both Lee & Halliday at least 10 times in the 18 games played between both teams. The jokes on the Mets fans. Yankees have won without Lee and will again.

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