Cliff Lee: Why the New York Yankees Should Not Sign the Texas Rangers Ace

Nicholas Goss@@NicholasGoss35Correspondent INovember 12, 2010

Cliff Lee may leave Texas as a free agent this Winter
Cliff Lee may leave Texas as a free agent this WinterRonald Martinez/Getty Images

Cliff Lee is a very good pitcher, and he has had great success in both the American and National leagues during his time for the Cleveland Indians, Philadelphia Phillies, Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers.

However, Lee is already 32 years old, and it's likely that his best days will soon be numbered.

The New York Yankees are ready to make another big splash this MLB offseason, and a starting pitcher is a top priority. But given Lee's age and lack of success in the World Series, should Yankees GM Brian Cashman find a different starter?

This winter will not be a shopping season full of great starting pitchers. The drop-off in quality starters after Lee is immense, and the Yankees might not want to wait another year for a different crop of free agents.

Consider that the Yankees must re-sign veterans Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter this winter, both of whom are New York legends who surely cannot be seen in another uniform. 

Jeter and Rivera will cost a pretty penny, but not as much as what Lee will demand.

Lee will surely ask for over $100 million for at least five seasons, and he could possibly look for a deal similar to what the Yankees gave pitching ace CC Sabathia prior to the 2009 season (seven years, $160 million).

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During the regular season, Lee was not the dominant pitcher the Rangers had hoped for after sending top hitting prospect Justin Smoak to Seattle in a package for Lee.

Lee was spectacular during the 2010 MLB playoffs until the grandest stage, the World Series. Lee was battered in Game 1 by a Giants offense that was finding it difficult to score runs, ultimately taking the loss. 

In the clincher at home in Game 5, Lee gave up a three-run homer to eventual series MVP Edgar Renteria. That was the difference in the game, giving Lee a second World Series loss and the Giants a world championship.

Cliff Lee's sudden collapse in the World Series should trouble every team looking to sign him this winter. Did the pressure of the World Series get to him? It's difficult to tell because he is such a calm person on the mound, but perhaps he was a bit rattled. 

Game 1 nerves are understandable in the Fall Classic, but Game 5 was a must-win for the Rangers, and Lee blew it.

What if Lee begins to show his age sooner, failing to fulfill the large contract he will receive from some desperate team? The Yankees have already blown huge contracts on A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira (who has had decent regular seasons but very weak postseasons), and they cannot afford another blunder.

As a franchise, the Yankees are an aging organization, and (assuming they re-sign Jeter and Rivera) they will not be allowed to usher in a younger player at the shortstop and closer positions. Andy Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada are all key players for New York who showed they're on the decline last season, yet the team does not have a proven young backup for any of them. 

Brett Gardner, Phil Hughes and Robinson Cano are good young players, but they are the only ones with mild success.

Catching prospects Jesus Montero and Austin Romine could each be the eventual successor for Posada, but catchers are difficult to project due to the rigors of playing the position.

The Yankees should instead turn their attention to Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Carl Crawford while continuing to develop young pitcher Phil Hughes, also looking for veterans they can sign to low-risk/high-reward deals.

The Yankees must show patience this offseason and not give in to Lee just because he is the only big-name starter available. Just because Cashman has a big checkbook at his disposal, it doesn't mean he has to use it to make up for the disappointments of last season.

The Yankees will always have money, but their ability to spend it wisely will determine their future success. Cliff Lee, at 32, is not a smart investment for the Bronx Bombers.