Lee to Phils: Did the Yankees try too hard?
Since the trade dead-line in August of 2010, the New York Yankees were rumored to be on the verge of landing pitcher Cliff Lee from the Seattle Mariners. However, on a last minute bid the Texas Rangers swooped in and pried Lee away from the Yankees. Of course we all know the rest of the story, Yankees bow out of the ALCS to Cliff Lee and the Rangers. Cliff Lee put together a remarkable postseason, especially against the Yankees, allowing just 13 hits, one walk and two runs while accumulating an astounding 34 strikeouts over 24 innings. Inevitably Cliff Lee became the hottest commodity on the free agent market once the season was over, and everyone knew that the New York Yankees would be the biggest suitors for Lee’s services.
After Lee signed with the Phillies, like a domino effect, the Yankees began running out of options to make the team better. Carl Crawford signed with the Boston Red Sox, Jayson Werth signed with the Washington Nationals and Kerry Wood is back with his former team, the Chicago Cubs. The Yankees’ focus on Lee prevented them from landing one of these big name free agents. The Yankees off-season was not all bad though, they were able to sign closer Rafael Soriano to a 3 year, $35 million dollar deal. Soriano finished last season with a league leading 45 saves, a 1.73 ERA (Earned Run Average) and 57 strike-outs in 62.1 innings pitched. The Yankees are also pursuing some low risk/high reward pitchers on the scrap pile of the free agents list. The team has reportedly been linked to the likes of Freddy Garcia, Jeremy Bonderman, and Justin Duchscherer. All of these pitchers are capable of winning games in the big leagues, however pitching in the American League East will be a test for these pitchers. Garcia had his first healthy season in three years last year posting a 12-6 record with a 4.64 ERA with only 89 strikeouts. Bonderman had a dismal season, going 8-10 with a 5.53 ERA and Duchscherer had anxiety problems, along with two recent shoulder surgeries in Oakland. Garcia looks like the best option statistically, but inconsistency and injuries mar his chances of being a Yankee. Some internal solutions the Yankees could turn to is young righty Ivan Nova, and the veteran Sergio Mitre. Nova made a few spot starts for the Yankees in 2010 going 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA. Mitre, who pitched for the World Champion Florida Marlins in 2003, was predominantly a reliever for the Yankees in 2010 going 0-3 but had a very solid 3.33 ERA in 27 games last season.
If the Yankees want to compete with the Red Sox and the rest of the American League East, it’s all going to come down to how good the younger players can step up this year. It’s going to be difficult but not impossible. So I say to all the Yankee fans out there, have faith because the Yankees still have an All-Star at every position on the field and anything is still possible. The Yankees, however, need to expand their horizons a bit when it comes to free agents because as we all saw with Cliff Lee, money isn’t everything. Some guys may not be awed by Yankee money, and that’s why the Yankees need to resort to their plan B’s and C’s much quicker and not wait on the decision of one guy. Let’s see how the Yankees fare this season without Lee.