If you had to make one bet on free agency this winter, it would be that Cliff Lee signs with the Yankees.
The Yankees have the money and the motivation to sign Lee given that their rotation is a bit of a mess. Lee’s agent, Darek Braunecker, also represents A.J. Burnett and has a good relationship with Brian Cashman.
It’s also worth pointing out that Lee is 6-5 with a 5.07 ERA in 14 career regular-season starts at Rangers Ballpark and is very tight with CC Sabathia, his former teammate in Cleveland.
In the end, it comes down to money and the Yankees almost always get their man. Much has been made of the Rangers signing a lucrative new television contract. That’s nice. The Yankees own their network. As Chris Rock once said, Shaq is rich. The guy who pays Shaq is wealthy.
But the Rangers will try and keep Lee. The Cubs could take a shot and teams like the Astros will inquire to their chances. If only to try and drive up the price, the Red Sox will get in the conversation.
Here is the question: Should Red Sox fans hope Lee signs with the Yankees?
Crazy as that sounds, maybe you should. The Yankees are going to spend money, so if Lee somehow rejects them, they will turn to Plan B. There is not another starter worth dropping $100 million on, so they could try and improve their lineup by signing Carl Crawford or Jason Werth.
If the Yankees sign Lee, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, they’ll come close to whatever their supposed budget is. But if Lee balks, anything is possible.
I’d take a rotation of Lester, Buccholz, Beckett, Lackey and Matsuzaka over Sabathia, Lee, Pettitte, Hughes and Burnett. It’s close but they’re comparable.
And a lineup of Ellsbury, Pedroia, Crawford, Youkilis, Ortiz, TBA, Drew and Scutaro will be just as potent as what the Yankees run out there, maybe more so given the advancing age of some of the Yankee stars.
So crazy as it sounds, the Red Sox may be better off if the Yankees sign Lee.