Photo: AP Images
Cliff Lee reportedly took $50 million less to pitch for the Philadelphia Phillies for the next five years. In doing so, the move left the Yankees and Rangers with holes in their rotations.And no matter who Texas and New York pick up now, they are lesser teams without Lee.
According to Fangraphs.com, Lee has been worth approximately seven Wins Above Replacement (WAR) each of the last three seasons. In other words, Lee’s teams won seven more games with Lee than if they had replaced him with Joe Replacement off the street. For comparison, only seven other starting pitchers were even worth at least six wins in 2010. Lee was the only pitcher worth at least seven wins.
So the Rangers and Yankees missed out on a seven-win pitcher. In the Yankees case, Lee would have replaced Javier Vazquez who actually cost the Yankees wins in 2010 (-0.2 WAR). But neither team is going to use Joe Replacement off the street in their rotation.
The Yankees still have CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, AJ Burnett, and Andy Pettitte (if he doesn’t retire) in their rotation. Most believe the Yankees will avoid trading for Zack Greinke, but they could go after Matt Garza (via trade) or Carl Pavano (free agency). Both will likely be worth about three wins in 2011.
Even if the Yankees can get Pavano or Garza, the Yankees will potentially win four fewer games in 2011, just by losing Lee. And that is huge in the AL East.
Meanwhile, the Rangers now appear the favourites to land Greinke, a 5-6 WAR pitcher. So losing Lee only cost the Rangers 1-2 wins in 2011.
Without Lee, both the Yankees and Rangers will be lesser teams in 2011. But the snub hurt the Yankees much more than it hurt the Rangers. And in the AL East, where every win counts, the Yankees could struggle just to make the playoffs.
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