Texas Rangers Baseball: Adding Cliff Lee Doesn't Make Them Contenders

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Texas Rangers Baseball: Adding Cliff Lee Doesn't Make Them Contenders
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To add Cliff Lee or not to add Cliff Lee, that is the question surrounding a lot of teams as the trade deadline is just a few weeks away.

For the Texas Rangers, however, the answer to this question has to be a resounding—no.

For one, the team is currently four and a half games up on the defending AL West champion Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and don't look to be slowing down any time soon.

Second, unless the Angels make a blockbuster deal that makes them far and away better than they are right now, and unless the Rangers fall on their face, I don't see this race going any other way than the Rangers' way.

That being said, I'm wondering if we can kill the Cliff Lee to Texas rumors once and for all.

I'm not saying this team doesn't need him because Lee definitely makes this pitching staff a lot more formidable than they have been all season.

However, does adding a guy like Lee make them contenders to get to the World Series, let alone the ALCS?

Now, before I go into my rant, bare in mind that this is only my opinion and you can agree or disagree with me all you want, and believe me I welcome a debate on the subject.

For my money, Lee is too expensive and the Rangers would have to give up too much for a guy that is a lock to go into free agency and not sign long term with Texas. So are the Rangers really ready to give up a few of their top hitting and pitching prospects to land a guy for two months?

ESPN Dallas' Richard Durett talked to Lee when the Mariners made their stop in Texas back in early June. He asked Lee about the possibility of him signing a new deal in Texas and he told Durett, "I'd prefer cooler temperatures and a perfect climate, but any pitcher would tell you that."

Let's be honest, Lee is more than likely headed to free agency where there will be no shortage of teams jockeying for his signature on the dotted line.

So, if Lee really does intend to head to free agency after this season and has no intention of signing long term with whatever team he's traded to, why would any team give up top prospects for two months of his service?

Put yourself in Rangers' general manager Jon Daniels' shoes. Think for a second that you have a chance to add one of the best starters in the game right now to your rotation. There's no question this guy makes you better, but better doesn't necessarily get you past potential playoff teams like New York, Boston, Minnesota, and Detroit among others.

My intention right now is not to dispel what Lee could do for a team like the Rangers down the stretch, my problem is giving up players that make this team better for years to come and not just for two months.

Let's say, hypothetically, the Rangers did make a deal that brought Lee to Texas. He gives you another eight to 10 good starts down the stretch and the Rangers win the AL West.

Their first round of the playoffs comes against the New York Yankees and they get beat three games to one a best of five series. Now what?

Lee makes it clear to the Rangers that he's not willing to sign long term and wants to test the free agent waters. He signs with another team prior to the 2011 season and now you're out two to three top prospects for what?

I know it seems like I'm making the same point over and over again, but this is not the best move for the team going forward.

The Rangers need a player they can control for the foreseeable future. The Astros are apparently willing to pick up some of Roy Oswalt's remaining contract, but any deal for the Houston right hander would need approval from the courts as the Rangers are currently in the middle of bankruptcy proceedings.

However, there's one problem with landing Oswalt. Daniels has been quoted as saying that they are only able to make a deal for a player who's contract is up at the end of the 2010 season.

So, with that information being known, a few other players the Rangers could look at come the trade deadline are Jeremy Guthrie, Jake Westbrook, and Ted Lilly.

Honestly, the way Lilly has pitched so far for the Cubs, he would be my first choice, and he's not going to cost the Rangers nearly as much as Lee would.

Jamey Newberg of The Newberg Report has an interesting article that talks about this exact thing and he goes over some of the prospects, plus major league talent, it would take to possibly get a deal done.

Now, bare in mind that he puts together a lot of names but in the end, he does put it in perspective. One of the names that he mentions I don't think would bother Ranger fans much at all, Rich Harden.

Harden hasn't exactly been the pitcher that the Rangers were hoping he would be, though his numbers have declined in each of the past three seasons.

In 2008, Harden finished 5-1 through 12 starts with a 1.77 ERA for the Chicago Cubs. In the very next season, through 26 starts, Harden finished 9-9 with a somewhat respectable 4.09 ERA. But, this season, Harden has struggled to the tune of 3-3 record and a 5.86 ERA through 12 starts and is currently on the disabled list.

While Harden has been struggling, as has Scott Feldman who turned in a career performance in 2009 for the Rangers finishing 17-8 with a 4.08 ERA.

This season, Feldman has looked nothing like his 2009 self. He's currently 5-7 with a 5.48 ERA and has given up 17 earned runs in his last four starts, including five earned runs each in starts against the Angels and Pirates.

But, even though Harden and Feldman are not the guys the Rangers thought they would have in 2010, they've been getting huge starts from not only C.J. Wilson (3.34 ERA) and Colby Lewis (3.35 ERA) but they've been pleasantly surprised by Tommy "Big Game" Hunter, who sports an unbeaten record (5-0) and an even more eye opening 1.98 ERA on the season.

With Wilson, Lewis, and Hunter holding the Rangers' ship afloat so far, it wouldn't hurt to land another starter to really make this team untouchable.

However, Dave Michaels of KVCE Radio here in Dallas thinks it's their bullpen that needs to hold strong. "So far during this season they have won games that they were not suppose to win, and they've lost games they were suppose to win. Go figure, that's baseball. As far as what they will need in the playoffs they have the arms right now but they need a bullpen that won't fold under the pressure."

That being said, I asked Michaels if he thought the Rangers could move Neftali Feliz from the bullpen to a starter and possibly look at making a deal for a guy like Heath Bell. He told me, "I don't think [Feliz's] arm can do that. He is better out of the bullpen and not as a starter. Spot starter maybe but a regular starter no way."

So, in the end, this is a deal that is going to be broken down and debated in every which way but loose.

There will be fans that want to see this deal get done and have Lee added to the pitching rotation, than there are others who are not willing to bring a rent-a-player who will only be with the team for two months.

As it stands right now, the Mariners have yet to even put the left hander on the trade block, according to Andy Martin and Christian Red of the New York Daily News. A source told both Martin and Red, "It is the same thing with [Mariners' general manager Jack Zduriencik] as it has been all along. He knows to contact teams when he's ready to deal. He hasn't done that yet, but that could change any minute."

While the baseball world waits for that phone call to come from Seattle, the teams that are interested in acquiring him will make back up plans just in case the Mariners decided to ride out the year with the left hander.

Though the odds of that are slim at this point, but stranger things have happened.

As for the Rangers, they continue to lead the AL West by 3.5 games over the Angels. At this point, they're not bad where they are and I don't see them making any sort of a deal prior to the trade deadline due to the court proceedings.

That doesn't mean they can't make a waiver wire deal as teams have been known to wait until after the deadline to make their moves. It's not out of the realm of possibility that the Rangers will be able to make a trade after the bankruptcy dealings are over though it's unknown when that will be.

For now, as long as the Rangers keep playing the way they have to this point, they should be able to hold off the Angels.

However, if the Angels make the big move, it could make the race that much more interested as we head down the stretch.

 

You can follow Todd Kaufmann on Twitter (twitter.com/toddkaufmannbr) or find him on Facebook.

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