Cliff Lee’s imminent free-agent destination is no certainty yet, but there’s one reason he would re-sign with the Rangers (his family) and 160,000,000 proverbial reasons he would sign with the Yankees. Maybe there is a chance his family is reason enough to sign with the Rangers, but, as we have often learned this time of year: the Yankees + desperation mode = new Yankees. Think for a moment of the last time you remember the Yankees turning up as offseason losers and you will understand the likelihood they lose out on Lee.
But the rest of the league, known as "Other 28," still could make waves by adding starting pitchers this offseason. Some teams are blessed with an abundance of arms, while others are cursed with low revenues and looming free agency. Other teams sign or make deals for pitchers each offseason but still always have a need (I’m looking at you, Milwaukee).
Here, then, are 10 pitching targets for teams missing out on Cliff Lee.
Multiple reports make it clear that Grienke is available, and let’s just say there are teams with money to spend after missing out on Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford. Already the Blue Jays, Nationals, Dodgers, Phillies and Angels have been linked in deals with the Royals. Likewise, the Royals are again in purge mode and seem likely to deal the 2009 Cy Young winner.
While most of the talk in the last week has revolved around teams distancing themselves from Greinke trade talks, the next domino is clearly Lee. A team like the Rangers will have the money and prospects to spend on the younger ace, who has a no-trade clause, and could be a more attractive destination than a desolate Kauffman Stadium next September.
That would make Greinke one of the most attractive Plan Bs in free-agent history.
The next domino could wind up being Garza, who brings with him another year under contract at a similar price as Greinke. The Cubs reportedly are the most likely suitors, inasmuch as they have the most to offer in a deal to the Rays, who need to replace middle-of-the-order hitters Carlos Pena and Carl Crawford. The Rays have a ton of pitching at the Major League and Triple-A levels, meaning Garza is likely expendable.
Nolan Ryan and the Rangers have reportedly contacted Andy Pettitte, who remains signed with the Yankees but has hinted at retirement. While subsequent reports denied any contact, the Rangers will be looking for a lefty SP if they lose out on Lee, and where better to look than the team that would take him? Pettitte is a long time friend of Ryan, whom he called after their ALCS loss, and is a native of nearby Deer Park, TX.
Pavano remains the best free agent available, and several teams have expressed interest in the 17-game winner, with the Nationals and Rangers leading the way. Pavano’s agent will reportedly meet with the Nationals this week, though MLB.com is reporting the Nats seem unwilling to offer more than a one-year contract. Pavano has evidently told teammates and club officials with the Twins that he would offer a hometown discount to the Twins.
The Chicago Tribune reported that Webb is their number one target this offseason. Webb, who hasn’t pitched since Opening Day of 2009 because of a shoulder injury, would fit in well with the Cubs disabled list, which has long been home to high-priced acquisitions. It is likely that the Cubs will administer a lengthy physical before offering Webb a contract.
The Nationals are another possible destination for the 31-year-old righty. The two sides talked at length during last week’s winter meetings.
The New York Post reported last week that the Yankees had inquired about Francisco Liriano, who is arbitration-eligible for the second year in a row and a likely candidate for a contract extension—from the Twins or someone else. While the Twins are unlikely to deal their young ace, one Twins official says they might be willing to deal control specialist Kevin Slowey or righty Nate Blackburn, whom the Twins signed to an extension before the ’10 season, especially if they re-sign Pavano.
The White Sox reportedly will listen to offers for Buehrle, whose contract expires at the end of 2011. Meanwhile, Buehrle recently told the Chicago Tribune that he is considering retirement after the upcoming season, making him well-suited for a one-year run with a team looking to fill a slot in the rotation. The Mets are one of those teams and will be looking to add a front-of-the-rotation arm to replace Johan Santana who is likely to miss the start of the season.
SI.com is reporting that the Phillies are looking to unload the $17 million that remains on Blanton’s contract over the next two years and are likely to part with the veteran if there are any takers. Blanton is an innings-eater that could fit in as a fourth or fifth starter with a contending club.
Okay, forget about last year. Oh, you and everyone else already have. Millwood lost a league-high 16 games last year pitching in hitter-very-friendly Camden Yards. In fact, Millwood hasn’t called a pitcher-friendly ballpark home since he pitched for the Braves eight years ago. Also, his agent is Scott Boras, and the Nationals are among the teams interested, so he’s sure to be in line for a huge contract
The big man has pitched for four teams in the last three years, a number that might have been higher had he been healthy. His NL WHIP over the last year-and-a-half was a solid 1.1 before a back injury sidelined him for the rest of the year. A return to health would likely make him a solid number three or four starter for a National League club.