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Around The Yankees Galaxy - 12/14/2010 - Cliff Lee edition

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I've been pretty lukewarm about Cliff Lee throughout this process, as I've tried to balance my love for what he'd bring to the Yankees in 2011 and 2012 with my fear of what he'd be able to contribute in (gulp) 2016 and 2017.   And although I can't say that I'd have been entirely dissatisfied with either outcome, I'm kind of glad that it's over.

Now we're left to wonder what's next, and I think it's important not to panic.  The Yankees had a good team last season, and will have a good one in 2011, with or without Lee.  It's kind of easy to forget that they won so many games despite giving almost half of their starts to replacement-level quality pitchers - Burnett, Vazquez, Moseley, and Mitre - and when that's your benchmark, it isn't that difficult to improve. 

I think the first order of business now will be getting Andy Pettitte to return for one last season, and then taking a good hard look at the team's internal options, mainly Ivan Nova and (I hope) Joba Chamberlain, with an eye towards 2012.  Whoever the 5th starter is, he doesn't need to set the world on fire, just pitch better than replacement level.  I'd go with Chamberlain first, because he's done that before (notwithstanding our outrageous expectations) and because Nova's groundball tendancies aren't a great match for middle infielders who are over 35.

But the Yankees will be fine.  The AL East is still a dogfight, but the Rays have gotten slightly worse this offseason, while the Red Sox have just maintained the level of talent they had last season.  The only team that scares me now plays over in the NL East.....