New York Yankees: The Importance of Acquiring Cliff Lee

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New York Yankees: The Importance of Acquiring Cliff Lee

I had a terrible dream last night.

It was opening day, and the Yankees were visiting the American League champion Texas Rangers on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball.

Much to my dismay, Cliff Lee was making the start for the Rangers. I had a front-row seat, with Nolan Ryan to my left and Kristen Lee to my right. Each time Lee struck out a batter, his wife would spit on me, and Ryan would give me a Robin Ventura-style noogie headlock.

After Lee fanned the side on eight pitches (Mark Teixeira gave up after strike two), the Yankees took the field with free-agent lefty Plan B, Erik Bedard, on the mound. Bedard's shoulder literally exploded during his first warm up toss. It was gross.

As he stumbled toward the dugout like a zombie from The Walking Dead, his replacement, Carl Pavano's Mustache, was carried in from the bullpen. It immediately strained its buttocks.

At that point, rabid Rangers fans surrounded me, each with razor sharp claws for hands and antlers affixed to their skulls. Hank Steinbrenner put a cigarette out on my forehead, just because he can get like that sometimes.

Ron Washington approached and offered a speedball, the size of which would make Chris Farley blush. Understanding what life had become, and that things probably wouldn't get better, I went to town on it. I died. I died right there in Ron Washington's culpable arms.

End of dream.

I think what my subconscious is trying to tell me—besides the fact that I need psychological help—is that my favorite team really needs to sign Cliff Lee.

It wouldn't surprise me if Brian Cashman was having similar night terrors. He looks at the Yankee rotation he assembled and sees a mountain of liabilities.

Andy Pettitte is 38 and in the midst of the will-he-or-won't-he stage of his offseason. Phil Hughes won 18 games in 2010 and somehow still emerged a question mark. A.J. Burnett is the most expensive No. 5 starter in the history of the sport.

The only part of the equation that Cashman probably doesn't worry about is CC Sabathia, who, for the record, a) turns 31 in July b) weighs 300 pounds c) just had knee surgery and d) has thrown 1,015 innings in the past four years.

Don't get me wrong. I don't think we've reached the point where you worry about Sabathia still being an elite pitcher. I'm just saying the big man could use a security blanket. After all, the playoffs made it exceedingly clear that having that second ace-level starter increases your odds for success immeasurably.

Look no further than the San Francisco Giants, who paired Tim Lincecum with Matt Cain and blew through the postseason to win it all.

The Yankees thought they had their version of Cain when they signed Burnett. They probably still hoped that was the case heading into 2010. But that's all over now. It's hard to imagine Burnett ever having a truly important role in a Yankee playoff series going forward.

Cashman already knows snagging Lee will cost north of $120 million. He's also aware that he has $240 million in salary already promised just to Sabathia and Burnett. I'm sure there's a part of him that is very wary about adding another monster salary to the rotation.

But part of the process of acquiring Lee is the admission that the Burnett signing was a failure. That takes some pride swallowing for Cash and the organization, especially since Burnett still has three (long) years remaining on his deal.

After Lee, the drop-off in the free-agent market is steep and stomach-turning. Hiroki Kuroda? Jake Westbrook? Um...Javier Vazquez? To stay a true contender, the only logical move is to acquire Lee to play Robin to Sabathia's Batman.

Everyone wins in that situation: Sabathia wouldn't feel the need to be perfect every time out, Cashman would regain favor amongst the fans, and Lee would be rich enough to buy a Pope-Mobile to protect his wife in New York. Best of all, the bad men in my head would finally go away.

Seriously, Cash. Make this happen.

Dan Hanzus writes three columns a week on his New York Yankees blog, River & Sunset. He can be reached at dhanzus@gmail.com. Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.

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