Cliff Lee: Ranking the Odds of Every MLB Team Landing the Ace
Cliff Lee "Wanted" posters have already begun to be printed up by just about every Major League team there is. Well, at least those that will be able to afford him.
Now that the World Series has come to an end, it's time for front offices around baseball to saddle back up and look at their roster to see what they can change and what they will need going into the stretch of offseason that will lead into spring training in February.
We all know there's been talk about the New York Yankees being the favorite to land the left-hander, but the statements Lee made at the end of the World Series seems to point in the direction of the Texas Rangers.
There's no question team owner Nolan Ryan and general manager Jon Daniels will do everything in their power to bring him back. But, make no mistake about it, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman will pony up as much money as he can to lure Lee to the Bronx.
While the Rangers and Yankees will battle for his services, don't count out several other teams around baseball from coming out of nowhere and offering a tempting package.
Here are the odds for every team in the MLB on being able to sign Cliff Lee.
No. 30: Kansas City Royals
I don't know if I should give the Royals a less than zero percent chance of landing Cliff Lee. The franchise has a lot of work to do before they get to any kind of status above "bad."
No. 29: Arizona Diamondbacks
I wanted to start the list with the Arizona Diamondbacks, but then I forgot about the Kansas City Royals.
The Diamondbacks might be on their way up, but they're still a long ways from being able to sign the left-hander and being the winning team that Lee says he wants to sign with.
Odds: Just above awful
No. 28: Baltimore Orioles
The Baltimore Orioles' odds aren't much better than the Arizona Diamondbacks. In fact, they're not better at all.
If Cliff Lee wants to sign with a winning team, Baltimore may as well wish the other teams well and move on.
Odds: Not a chance
No. 27: Pittsburgh Pirates
Most would think the Pittsburgh Pirates would have the worst odds of any team in the big leagues. While that might be true, the two teams above them have had no shot and neither do the Pirates.
So really, they're not above anyone.
No. 26: Cleveland Indians
Cliff Lee's former team actually might have a shot at bringing the left-hander back. Just because I said "a shot," doesn't mean it's a good one.
Odds: Just above 'none'
No. 25: Seattle Mariners
Seattle is where Cliff Lee came from before his stop with the Texas Rangers.
While they have a new manager—a guy that Lee might be familiar with—it won't be enough to convince him to head back to the Pacific Northwest.
They have talent, but they need a lot more than just a solid left-hander to get them to be a winning squad.
Odds: Low, very low
No. 24: Toronto Blue Jays
Another thing that Cliff Lee will be looking for is a warmer climate.
Now, I know that New York isn't exactly the warmest spot on the planet, but the "winning" part of it negates the cold.
For Toronto, they just don't have anything he'll be looking for.
Odds: A little higher than none
No. 23: Colorado Rockies
A young and up-and-coming team, and they're out west—sort of. Maybe Colorado will have a very slight chance. But, when it comes to money, they won't have it.
Odds: Climbing, but still low
No. 22: Florida Marlins
The Florida Marlins have the warm climate that would appeal to Cliff Lee and they're not far from his home in Arkansas so that's also appealing.
But the Marlins don't usually keep high payroll players around for that long so I don't think Lee is in their plans.
Odds: Not high
No. 21: Houston Astros
The Houston Astros have a team that could be good, but it's going to take a lot longer than Cliff Lee would be willing to wait.
However, they are in Texas and they do play in a dome stadium instead of the open air, so it won't get as hot when he's on the mound.
Got to give them credit for something, right?
Odds: Gaining, but still low
No. 20: Oakland Athletics
A west coast team might appeal to Cliff Lee, especially one that has a young, up-and-coming ball club. However, the A's are a ways away from being a contender.
Odds: Going up, sort of
No. 19: Detroit Tigers
The Detroit Tigers made it to the World Series back in 2006 but lost to the eventual champion St. Louis Cardinals in five games.
They do have talent offensively and adding a guy like Cliff Lee would definitely make them better. But there are teams in front of them that can offer him more money and more years.
Odds: Feeling ok
No. 18: Tampa Bay Rays
Can you imagine adding Cliff Lee in front of young pitchers David Price and Matt Garza? Talk about a fearsome threesome.
However, Tampa is trying to cut payroll, not add to it.
Odds: Only if they win the MLB lottery
No. 17: Washington Nationals
Before being traded, former Houston Astros ace turned Philadelphia Philly Roy Oswalt had made a comment about pitching alongside pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg.
But, like I said, that was before he was traded.
With Lee, he would be the only thing Nationals fans would have to look forward to with Strasburg out for most, if not all, of the 2011 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Odds: Better than you think
No. 16: Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers are in a quandary at this moment. They have a young offense, for the most part, but they could also lose Prince Fielder if they decided to trade him during the offseason.
While Lee would be a great addition to this team, the only thing they don't have is the kind of money that will put them in the running with the top five teams.
Odds: Could be lower
No. 15: Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies already have money wrapped up in Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Colt Hamels and Ryan Howard. They won't add Cliff Lee to that, especially with the money it would take to get it done.
Odds: Better than you think
No. 14: Chicago White Sox
The Chicago White Sox could lose a few players from their 2010 roster, including first baseman Paul Konerko.
While they might have the money to make a run at him, there isn't another for Cliff Lee to decide that Chicago is the right place for him.
Odds: Might be good
No. 13: Chicago Cubs
No Lou Piniella, no Kerry Wood, no Derrek Lee.
The Cubs are not on their way up and are looking to make trades, not sign players.
Odds: Maybe in another 100 years
No. 12: New York Mets
The Mets are a lot like the Los Angeles Clippers—always getting picked on and always in the shadow of big brother.
While they may have the money, that's about all they have to entice Cliff Lee to come to New York.
Odds: Not bad, but not great
No. 11: San Diego Padres
The San Diego Padres would love to add a guy like Cliff Lee to a rotation that already boasts the likes of Mat Latos, Wade LeBlanc, Tim Stauffer and Jon Garland. Adding Lee to those four would make the Padres immediate National League contenders.
However, the Padres will have a hard enough time re-signing All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. That alone should take them out of the running.
However, the warm climate of San Diego and how much they surprised people this year could make him look twice.
No. 10: Minnesota Twins
The Minnesota Twins could be one, big free agent pitcher away from becoming more than just a divisional round of the playoff contender.
They got to the playoffs this past season but unfortunately, they ran into the New York Yankees and didn't last long.
The one thing that could keep him from signing with the Twins is the cold temperatures and the money available.
Odds: Dark horse, maybe?
No. 9: San Francisco Giants
Yes, the defending World Series Champions could be inside the top 10 teams that could end up signing the left-hander this winter.
Lee has seen what this team brings to the table; they beat him twice in the World Series; and he could join a rotation that boasts Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Barry Zito.
I'd say they might have a big shot at bringing him over.
So where's the problem? Well, having that much money locked up in Barry Zito could be the issue, but if they are able to deal him this offseason, the Giants could become solid contenders.
Odds: Stronger than you think
No. 8: St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals could factor into the mix but will sit behind seven other teams, hoping their manager, Tony LaRussa, might be able to do some recruiting.
This franchise has won a World Series and they have one of the best players in the game, first baseman Albert Pujols.
But when it comes down to location and money, the Cardinals may not have it to give.
Odds: Gaining ground
No. 7: Cincinnati Reds
The Cincinnati Reds surprised most everyone as they were able to hold off the St. Louis Cardinals to win the National League's Central Division.
However, they ran into a good Phillies ball club and that was all she wrote.
They do have some young talent on this team that will lead the Reds into the future and bringing in a guy like Cliff Lee would go a long ways for them.
However, location is going to be a big thing to consider for this free agent and it's not going to be the right fit for him.
Odds: Could sneak up the ladder
No. 6: Atlanta Braves
The Atlanta Braves bid a fond farewell to longtime manager Bobby Cox as they will begin a new era without their longtime skipper.
The one thing that would appeal to Cliff Lee is the location. Atlanta's not far from his home in Arkansas, which means he'll never be very far from home.
The Braves have power in the lineup and talent in their pitching, but will they have the money it would take to entice him or the ability to say, "We can compete year in and year out?"
Odds: Better than good
No. 5: Los Angeles Dodgers
With Joe Torre out, the Los Angeles Dodgers will start a new era when the players report to spring training in February. They will be managed by longtime New York Yankee Don Mattingly.
There's no question Los Angeles has the money, and they have the warm climate that Cliff Lee has made mention of before.
Also, they have young talent offensively and he could add to an already talented pitching staff.
So what's to hold Lee from signing in L.A.? Well, one reason could be Ted Lilly's three-year $33 million contract.
But they are without Manny Ramirez and his contract, so maybe L.A. becomes a definite suitor?
Odds: If they can pony up the dough
No. 4: Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox are always in the hunt to sign any player that the Yankees are in the hunt for.
They have the money; they have the offense; they have the pitching. Cliff Lee knows adding himself to their roster gives the Red Sox a definite shot at being contenders for the next few years or as long as he's on the team.
However, can they outbid the Yankees?
Odds: Yankees won't let it happen
No. 3: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim might be able to sneak in front of a lot of teams and bring Cliff Lee exactly what he's looking for.
Location, warm weather, Southern California, money, talent on the roster and a chance to win. Everything this free-agent left-hander is looking for.
The only thing it doesn't offer is being close to his home in Arkansas. But when push comes to shove, is that really going to be the most important thing?
Odds: Great and climbing
No. 2: New York Yankees
Everyone, well at least those outside of Texas, are already handing the Yankees the service of Cliff Lee before the decision has even been made.
The "experts" outside of Texas believe that money is the only thing that plays into this decision. Apparently they have already had private conversations with the free agent. Wait, it's just an opinion? Oh, well maybe it's not a foregone conclusion then.
While Yankee fans will push away any Ranger fan that dares to say Lee is staying in Arlington, they tried to do that too when the little ole' Rangers came to the ALCS and promptly pushed aside the big bad Yankees for their shot at the World Series.
Yes, the Yankees have the money and yes they bring Cliff Lee the opportunity to win a World Series. But, I leave you with this thought.
Why would Cliff Lee sign with the team that didn't make it to the World Series?
Odds: Could be a lock
No. 1: Texas Rangers
For a guy who is facing free agency for the very first time in his career, this is a big decision to make. Cliff Lee wants to know what it's like to be sought after by just about every team in the big leagues.
This might feel like he's in high school again, having all these coaches coming to his home to give him their speech about why their team is the best fit for him.
But, when it's all said and done, the decision is his to make.
He's said all the right things about the Texas Rangers. Not only about the organization, but about the players he's spent the last few months with, as well as the fans.
Texas treated him well and having a guy like Nolan Ryan running things could give Lee the satisfaction in knowing that a guy who was one of the best in the game during his day would do everything he can do to make sure this team wins year in and year out.
Don't be surprised, if Lee signs with Texas and it's not the most outlandish contract ever. He may sign for what they're offering him, just to come back here and be a part of what's to come.
Odds: Better than great