clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Yankees should sign Cliff Lee to a minor league contract

New, comments
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

We're now in December and the Yankees have neglected to do much of anything so far this offseason. They traded John Ryan Murphy for Aaron Hicks, but according to what Brian Cashman said on Thursday, they might actually be done. If that's the case, the Yankees will enter the 2016 season with a full rotation, but one that's full of question marks and under performers. This might sound ridiculous, especially since he's not even close to a sure thing himself, but New York should try to sign Cliff Lee to a minor league deal.

The Yankees' old friend, Cliff Lee, is now 37 years old and a free agent after the Phillies declined their $27.5 million option and decided to pay him a $12.5 million buyout just to go away. Lee's six 200-inning seasons in a row finally caught up to him as he missed the entire 2015 season with a torn flexor muscle and a portion of the 2014 season after suffering an elbow strain. That's some scary injury history right there, but as of right now he's been cleared by his doctors to pitch again and he's throwing in preparation for a return to the majors. Despite all that, Lee had a 3.65 ERA and 2.96 FIP in 81.1 innings back in 2014 and if he can harness even that level of talent, he'd be an upgrade over a good portion of the current rotation.

Keep in mind, though; this is Cliff Lee and he's already made over $143 million in his career, so if he's going to pitch in 2016, he'll probably hold out for a major league deal first. Cashman's contract offer will likely have to include some heavy incentives and multiple opt out dates, in case it takes him longer to build up his innings. He's already spurned New York once before, so location will be important. Since he lives in Philadelphia, it's likely he will prefer to stay on the east coast, so the Yankees might have an advantage there, unless Pittsburgh or Baltimore get involved, but hey, Scranton isn't that far from Philly!

I wouldn't say the Yankees have a good chance of signing him, but they might be better off than most. Brian Cashman has tried to acquire Lee through trade and via free agency, so it's possible he might try again now in order to finally get his man. At best, the Yankees could come away with another Hiroki Kuroda-type veteran pitcher, and at worst his arm falls off before he even signs. That leaves a lot of variables in between, but he could be a solid asset to have. First things first; they have to scout him first and see how he's holding up, how his velocity is playing, and what his control is like. He might not be the same pitcher he was anymore.

The Yankees seem extremely content to not sign any long-term free agents in an offseason filled with ones who make sense. Maybe spending a little extra on a one-year non-roster invitee could be something they're willing to do instead.