Both the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees built their offseason plans around signing Cliff Lee, only to lose him to the Philadelphia Phillies for considerably less cash.For the only time in recent memory, the Yankees were left out in the cold, unable to secure their primary target and even pushed aside by option No. 2, Carl Crawford.
The Rangers knew Lee was outside their budget but he was so beloved by teammates and fans in Texas and had such a huge impact on the team’s success that they were forced to pursue Lee relentlessly.
There’s less pressure on Texas to react. They’d love a top-of-the-rotation guy, but everyone understands that their situation with Lee was unique. They won’t go offering contracts in excess of $100 million to just anyone. The Yankees, on the other hand, are reeling. This team rarely doesn’t get what it wants, and has fallen from the consensus 2011 World Series pick (when everyone assumed Lee would wear pinstripes), to third or lower on the totem pole behind the Phillies and rival Red Sox. The problem for New York is that there’s not much it can do.
The other ace available, Zack Greinke, has had a history of anxiety issues and the Yankees have made it clear they’re not interested in taking a risk on him in the big city. But there aren’t exactly many high-end free agents left. Lee, Crawford, Victor Martinez, Jayson Werth, Adam Dunn, and Paul Konerko are all gone.
The Yankees need to add pitching, that’s for sure. But signing a broken-down Brandon Webb or possible No. 3 guy like Jeff Francis isn’t going to get anyone excited, which is important to the Yankees. The trade market has also dried up.
The Yankees will first beg Andy Pettitte to come back and then try to finish a deal with catcher Russell Martin. Then they will likely focus their efforts on the relief pitcher market but the fact is that they may have to admit to themselves and to their fans that the 2010 offseason was a complete failure.
They can try again next year when Chris Carpenter, Mark Buehrle, Roy Oswalt, Wandy Rodriguez, and Adam Wainwright could hit the market although the first three are getting very long in the tooth and the latter two are unlikely to reach free agency.
The Yankees could also attempt to inject more power into their lineup next winter as any of Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Jose Bautista, and Grady Sizemore could be free agents; but the Yankees are set at first base where the first two play.
Texas can focus on adding smaller pieces to replace Lee at a fraction of a cost. They are reportedly interested in acquiring Matt Garza from the Tampa Bay Rays and could take a look at Grienke. They also may attempt to move closer Neftali Feliz into the rotation. But the Rangers don’t face the same type of scrutiny as the Yankees.
They made their very best effort to retain Lee, but at the end of the sweepstakes he simply chose to go elsewhere. That’s not the Rangers’ fault and everyone will recognise their efforts. They’re still good enough to remain in the playoff hunt and can spend the money they had penciled in for Lee on a few different important players.
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