Perplexed About Lee

As Dave noted earlier this afternoon, several teams are currently trying to improve their starting pitching, presently plugging holes either internally or via stopgap veterans. Two of the bigger names on the market, Erik Bedard and Jake Peavy, have battled health issues all season, vastly reducing their perceived value in the market, especially given the haul of prospects required to entice their respective employers. Another name tossed around a bit, Brandon Webb, is out for the season and potentially half of the 2010 campaign.

Rumors regarding Roy Oswalt have been floated with increased regularity as well, but his no-trade clause combined with a very lucrative contract and Drayton McClane’s unwillingness to realize the current incarnation of his franchise is doomed, makes the Astros ace hard to move. The other popular trade candidates are Jarrod Washburn, Paul Maholm, Zach Duke, Jason Marquis, and potentially, Aaron Harang.

All of this brings us to Cliff Lee, currently a better pitcher than any of the guys mentioned above, who also has a pretty favorable contract relative to his contributions. Lee makes $5.75 mil this season with an $8 mil option for next season. His 2010 salary will actually be $9 mil on the option based on the incentive stipulating a $1 mil raise should he win the Cy Young Award in either 2008 or 2009. Seeing as he won the award last year, the incentive has kicked in.

With the Indians tanking and Lee’s value likely higher than it ever will be, it makes sense for Shapiro to kick the tires on a potential deal netting him prospects, but for some reason, more rumors and trade talks have involved guys like Marquis, who is actually making almost double Lee’s salary this year, and is a free agent at the end of the season with no option on which to hang his head. I am honestly perplexed as to why Lee has not attracted more attention; or if he has, why we have not heard about it yet. It is almost as if teams are still waiting for the massive regression to occur, when we now have a year and a half of awesomeness from the Indians lefty proving his worth.

Since the beginning of last season, Lee has thrown 334.1 innings over 47 starts, with a 2.67 ERA almost matched by an equally low FIP, a 1.17 WHIP, a sub-2.0 walk rate, and a 4.2 K/BB ratio. The only thing missing is the reputation that usually accompanies the name of a pitcher with numbers like that over an extended period of time. It is time to start realizing that Cliff Lee has become a very good pitcher, not a back of the rotation upgrade. If any of the Phillies, Brewers or Rangers is serious about solidifying their rotation by trading a young stud prospect, they should start amping up efforts to acquire Lee. He might not win the Cy Young Award again, but given his contract and current established level of performance, as well as the lack of health issues, no other pitcher being discussed as a trade target would be a more significant upgrade.



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Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.


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cpebbles
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cpebbles
6 years 10 months ago

Look for a comparable player for the Indians to use as a measuring stick and the obvious person is Johan Santana, but trading partners aren’t going to like that comparison because of Lee’s allegedly lesser stuff (Which is probably an unfair perception) and much shorter track record of CY-caliber pitching.

I don’t think people are waiting for Lee to revert to a back-of-the-rotation guy, but any regression at all is a big deal if the Indians are holding out for an enormous offer, as I suspect they are.

nomad91
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nomad91
6 years 10 months ago

It seems the Indians asking price is very high at the moment, as cpebbles mentioned. Ken Rosenthal reported this week that the Indians want a Tommy Hanson/Clay Bucholz caliber pitching prospect in exchange for Lee. The Indians probably feel that they can make some changes and contend next year, rather than blow everything up and rebuild, in which case it makes sense for them to hang onto Lee and exercise his option, especially given the affordability of his 2010 option and the lack of pitching talent at the upper levels of their minor league system.

Still, it does seem odd that we haven’t heard many rumblings about him.

Tripon
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Tripon
6 years 10 months ago

If you’re an organization that has a Tommy Hanson/Clay Bucholz type of pitcher, why not hold on into him instead of trading him for Cliff Lee?

hans
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hans
6 years 10 months ago

Can we excuse Rosenthal for making the obligatory Clay Buckholz mention, the Indians wouldn’t trade Cliff Lee for a 24 year old overhyped (not his fault he plays for Boston) good but not great pitching prospect.

Judy
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Judy
6 years 10 months ago

I think it’s easier to excuse Rosenthal for the Buchholz mention than it is to understand why it seems to be so difficult for people to spell his name. What is so complicated about HH?

Steve
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Steve
6 years 10 months ago

Odalis Perez

Why will no one sign him? Sure he is no Cliff Lee, but he is not terrible.

Ed
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Ed
6 years 10 months ago

How badly do you want to sign a mediocre player who made a huge stink and backed out of a contract he agreed to?

Preston
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Preston
6 years 10 months ago

I’m with nomad – I think the reason we haven’t heard trade rumors is because the Indians have very little interest in trading him. The AL Central is very weak, and it’s not looking particularly likely to be much better next year due to lots of young talent. If the Indians can fix their bullpen (often as much luck as anything else), they can easily compete next year – but trading Cliff Lee would decimate an already shallow group of starters.

hans
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hans
6 years 10 months ago

This is it right here. I think Shapiro listens to offers, but the trade demands will remain high, the Indians are in a position of leverage, they don’t have to trade Lee this season, and it only really makes sense to trade him if they are going to get a player or players that will help them compete next season as well.

diderot
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diderot
6 years 10 months ago

Wait a minute–Cliff Lee is ‘a better pitcher’ than Jake Peavy or Brandon Webb?

Eric Seidman
Guest
6 years 10 months ago

The exact sentence says that Lee is currently a better pitcher than anyone mentioned above. The last 1.5 years of Lee is certainly better than Peavy, and Webb isn’t in the discussion because he’s on the shelf until next June. In their peaks, sure, Peavy and Webb are better and have more of a pedigree. But Lee has sustained his awesomeness for too long to be considered a fluke, and going on pure numbers, yes, he is a better pitcher right now, costing less.

Christo P. Ney
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Christo P. Ney
6 years 10 months ago

Well…you kind of answered your own question there.

Sustained success at a reasonable cost. Why trade that without getting a top of the rotation prospect and good position guy in return.

Cleveland’s attendance numbers are already hovering near the bottom (27th- 22,000/game). What would a Lee deal do?

There have been plenty of reports on Lee but all of them start with the astronomical price Shapiro is asking.

In that division, no team should be completely giving up on this year and next year. Trading Lee would be that.

Charles
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Charles
6 years 10 months ago

Perez? Seriously? He couldn’t crack the Nats rotation, how can you justify anyone in contention putting him into their rotation, let alone pay him major league money (he already rejected a minor league contract from DC).

Joe Twinsfan
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Joe Twinsfan
6 years 10 months ago

Perez is a testament to the fact that there are still a lot of market inefficiencies left to capitalize on in the MLB. He posted FIPs of 4.18, 3.99, 4.52, 4.81, and 4.21from 2004-8. Why a team like the O’s, Indians, or Angels haven’t come calling is beyond me. He ain’t great but he could be a solid #4-6 starter.

Matt
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Matt
6 years 10 months ago

Remember, Perez didn’t reject a minor league contract from DC. He signed it, then refused to report to camp unless he got a better deal. That’s almost certainly why nobody is signing him: nobody wants to deal with those headaches over a fifth starter.

Joe Twinsfan
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Joe Twinsfan
6 years 10 months ago

Yeah I know, but looking at MLBTR, he’s been almost entirely absent even from any rumors for the whole season. I guess I’m just surprised no one’s come calling. Seems like someone would at least attempt to see if he was worth the headache.

MadThinker88
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MadThinker88
6 years 10 months ago

As a Tribe follower I can easily tell you the only way Lee gets dealt this season is for a haul that rivals the old Colon to Montreal deal in 2002.

They may revisit that idea come the offseason as Lee is a free agent after 2010 but Lee is guy that prefers the ‘lower’ pressure media situations. I believe it is due to an issue one of his children that local media respects and leaves alone.

People also forget that the Tribe has 3 starters on the DL at this point and a 4th is in the minors getting his ‘head’ and mechanics put back together. With this division, this team could go from last place this season to 1st place next season and no one would be surprised.

Kyle
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Kyle
6 years 10 months ago

I’m not sure why the author thinks it makes sense to trade Lee for prospects at this point. Perhaps he is studying the situation solely from a buyer perspective and not really considering the roster needs for the Cleveland club. With the Indians’ young, potent offensive core still intact, and their pitching staff only damaged for the short term, they are easily one of the stronger AL Central teams at the beginning of 2010. But the rotation only really works next year with Cliff Lee at the top of it, as there are many question marks (Reyes, Westbrook, Carmona, Lewis…)

I don’t see why it’s so ‘expected’ that a team would want to give up a clear chance to contend the following year for the sake of some risky prospects. If this were June 2010, it would be a different story.

Jason
Guest
6 years 10 months ago

LA sports radio says CLE quickly turned down Dodger offer of 4 pretty good prospects for Lee. The only way something like this happens is if its salary dump situation, which doesn’t appear to be case with Indians, despite DeRosa trade. Or if someone includes a can’t miss like T Hanson or Claytn Kershaw (i wouldn’t include Bucholtz in this category either). But thats not going to happen, because (1) fair or not, no one thinks of Lee in same category as Sabathia or Santana, and (2) in this financial market teams would rather hang onto less expensive youth anyway. So unless things change drastically, I agree with Kyle this may be a 2010 story.

BTW – as Dodger fan I would LOVE to have Lee, who I think is a #1, and especially in weaker hitting NL, and clearly make them NL favorite.

Steve C
Guest
Steve C
6 years 10 months ago

I would not be surprised about collusion against Perez because he backed out of the deal.

Though that may be the budding conspiracy theorist in me talking.

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