Lee makes himself more enticing for Yankees
NEW YORK |
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Southpaw Cliff Lee may have won twice with his domination of the New York Yankees in Monday night's playoff victory.
His Texas Rangers took a crucial game in the American League Championship Series, and his potential value as a free agent this off-season grew even higher.
If history is any guide, the Yankees almost certainly will be bidding for Lee's services, employing the motto: If you can't beat him, sign him.
Lee added to his post-season resume by holding the powerful Yankee lineup to two hits while striking out 13 over eight shutout innings, giving Texas a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
The triumph improved his post-season record to 7-0 with a 1.26 earned-run average with 67 strikeouts in 64.1 innings. Two of those victories came against the Yankees in the World Series last year, when Lee pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Once again, Yankee hitters were flummoxed.
"Today was another masterpiece," New York third baseman Alex Rodriguez said after Monday's game.
"It's tough to be any better," said Yankees slugger Mark Teixeira. "If he's any better, it's a perfect game."
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman must have noticed. Lee has played for four teams the past two seasons and could be wearing pinstripes next year if the Yankees win what promises to be an active bidding war.
They wanted him in July when Lee, then the property of the Seattle Mariners, was on the trading block.
The Yankees offered a package built around their most prized minor league prospect -- catcher Jesus Montero -- to get him, only to be outbid by the Rangers, who have also expressed their desire to sign Lee to a multi-year deal when this season is over.
In three postseason games this year he has given up one walk, which has made the baseball world almost forget that as recently as 2007 his career was nearly derailed because he could not throw enough strikes.
His team at the time, the Cleveland Indians, sent him to the minor leagues during the year and left him off their playoff roster.
The 32-year-old Lee is in the final season of a five-year, $23 million deal signed with the Indians ahead of the 2006 season.
Realizing his value had skyrocketed to the extent they could not afford to re-sign him after 2010, the Indians traded him to the Phillies last year when he helped Philadelphia win the National League pennant.
The Phillies then traded him to Seattle, which thought Lee could help them reach the playoffs but their disappointing season led them to put Lee on the trading block in July.
The Yankees' aggressive pursuit was notable because Cashman has expressed the need to make the Yankees younger. They are no longer as willing to deal prospects as in the past.
For example, they opted against trading young players for CC Sabathia in 2008, figuring it was better to keep their prospects and bid for Sabathia when he became a free agent at the end of that season.
They kept their young players, notably pitcher Phil Hughes, and landed Sabathia with a seven-year, $152 million deal.
(Editing by Steve Ginsburg)
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