After last night's performance, there is no way the Texas Rangers can let Cliff Lee walk as a free agent.
Even winning the World Series this season would not be worth it to the franchise if Lee walks, goes to a rival playoff team like the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox or even their division rival Los Angeles Angels*.
*I mean why not the Angels? They could sign Lee, then move the Dan Haren contract if they want. Then they would have a rotation of Lee, Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana, Joel Piniero and Scott Kazmir. I say they can move Haren because I do not believe anybody would take Kazmir, or Piniero. Both are free agents after this year anyway, so the Angels would save on those contracts in 2012.
I also think Lee would get a kick out of dominating a weak A.L. West many more seasons.
But the Angels probably can use a solid bat in the middle of the lineup rather than another arm.
But how would Texas feel if Lee signed with the Yankees, as is expected by almost everybody on the planet?
Terrible. Like the rest of baseball.
That would then make the Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies the odds on favorites again next season to reach the World Series.
The Rangers need Lee to have the bonafide ace at the top of their rotation, and for him to keep working with C.J. Wilson, Derek Holland and Matt Harrison, three more lefties in Texas.
It is not just Lee who does well when he is there. The other young pitchers also improve. Imagine Lee with another full season working with Wilson and now Holland?
With the combination of their current roster—plus one of the top minor league systems—if Lee stays, Texas will be tough to beat over the next five plus seasons.
But, as I said, most people believe that the Yankees are going to sign Lee. After what Lee has done over the last two post-seasons, it is a head scratcher if a team like the Yankees do not sign him.
They have the big market, the bigger money (they have many, many monies!) and good friends in CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett already on the roster. I even wrote a piece some time ago singing the virtues of such a marriage.
Now I firmly believe it will not happen Yankee fans.
One, Texas will want him back very badly. With their ownership situation stabilized and a new T.V. contract signed, they also have many, many monies.
And Lee being from Arkansas appears to fit in nicely with the other southern boys in Texas.
But another reason why Lee will not be in pinstripes next season is that the Yankees can't afford him on a seven year, $160 million Sabathia type contract. How many nine figure contracts can one team have? Even if they are the Yankees?
The Yankees have $145 million already tied up for next year, add $40 million more for Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and probably Andy Pettitte. Andy is not retiring, not after a game like he pitched last night. It is very tough to leave a game you played for so long, especially when the player is still performing at a high level.
And with the various arbitration cases of Phil Hughes, Joba and others, that is a lot of cash already spent. Plus Burnett's contract is like an albatross around the Yankees luxury tax necks.
Adding another $20 million for seven more years of Lee pushes next years payroll to $205 million. Funny, but every time I saw Lee pumped his fist and smiling last night, I envisioned him counting higher and higher during winter negotiations.
And there could be lots of dead money for the Yankees next year, too.
What last night's game solidified for me is that Alex Rodriguez can not play an adequate third base anymore.
He literally can not move to his left one foot to attempt to reach a ground ball in the hole. Several ground balls last night were not even hit that hard and got through there without Alex getting close.
Maybe that is one reason why Jeter seems to have limited range up the middle. He needs to compensate more to his right due to Alex's limited range to his left. I did read this year that scouts have seen Jeter position himself in different spots this year, the first time all career he has done that.
Do not be surprised if Alex has more work done this off season on his surgically repaired right hip.
So if Alex has limited abilities in the field, he will need to be a DH sooner than expected, which limits his value for the money he receiving.
More somewhat dead money.
Too many older players on the roster already, more legendary Yankees to be signed this off season and too much dead weight money for Burnett and Rodriguez.
Doesn't sound like it would be wise to add a 33-year-old pitcher to a $160 million contract guaranteed to age 40.
Brian Cashman is smarter than that and will try and work a trade for a younger, but still well established pitcher rather than try and sign Lee.
But rest assured, he will "remain in the bidding" to drive the price up for whoever lands Lee's services.