The thought of Cliff Lee becoming a Dodger came alive Thursday when Philadelphia placed the lefthander on revocable waivers.
The Dodgers theoretically have the capacity to take on a contract that would pay Lee, who turns 34 this month, at least $94 million through 2016, if no National League team with a poorer record claims him. The Phillies then could work out a deal with the Dodgers (or simply hand Lee over), or Philadelphia could just “Thanks, but just teasing.”
One question I have is why Lee would have value to the Dodgers but not the Phillies, who don’t figure to be rebuilding for long. If we think Lee still has talent, than Philadelphia should keep him. If we think that talent is fading fast, the Dodgers shouldn’t want him.
As for whether they should go for Lee — well, if money is no object for the Dodgers, then money is no object. But if there is a limit, however high, I can understand why they might balk at the price. Not wanting to pay a mid-30s pitcher about $25 million a year isn’t a case of being cheap.
Still, it’s something to think about. Here’s an excerpt from Dave Cameron of Fangraphs.
… Based on the contracts currently on the books, the Dodgers have $135 million already allocated to players under team control for 2013, while A.J. Ellis is their only significant arbitration eligible player. So, if their payroll target was $175 million (which, keep in mind, is a number I pulled out of thin air, and may not actually represent their budget), that would leave them about $35 million to spend to fill out the roster, meaning they could take Cliff Lee’s contract and still have enough left to buy a new first baseman. While Lee’s contract would be a budget buster for most organizations, it might not prevent the Dodgers from making further upgrades in other areas as well.
And, to be honest, there’s probably not a better use of that money available in free agency this winter. Before the season started, the assumption was that the Dodgers would make a huge push for either Cole Hamels or Joey Votto — or both — but they have since re-signed with their clubs, eliminating them from possible consideration. That leaves the big name targets this winter as Josh Hamilton, Melky Cabrera, B.J. Upton, Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Nick Swisher, Anibal Sanchez, Edwin Jackson, and potentially Zack Greinke, if he doesn’t re-sign with the Angels first. There’s certainly some nice players in there, but besides Greinke and Hamilton, no one in that group has the potential impact that Lee would have, and both of those guys come with their own set of risks as well.
And, of course, there’s also the fact that signing a free agent this winter does nothing to help you win in 2012. Yes, if you think you could get Greinke for something close to that same $110 million you’d be committing to Lee, then you might prefer the younger pitcher, but present value has to be a factor as well, and the contending Dodgers are in the sweet spot where every marginal upgrade represents a significant return.
The upgrade would over Stephen Fife — who has racked up a whopping seven strikeouts in three starts since being recalled from Triple-A — would likely add about +1.5 wins to the Dodgers regular season total, and Lee would represent a substantial upgrade to their potential playoff rotation as well. Going from second place finisher to NL West champions could return as much as $30 to $40 million in additional revenues if the Dodgers made a World Series run. Even a first round playoff victory probably nets the team an additional $5 to $10 million in revenue from future ticket sales and the attendance boost that goes with generating excitement in the fan base. …
Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. and Dylan Hernandez of the Times have more, as does Buster Olney of ESPN.com: “Before the deadline, the Phillies made it clear to any team interested in Lee that not only would they not pick up any of the $97 million owed to the left-hander, they also would want top prospects in return. So it’d be a shocker if the Phillies moved Lee in a waiver deal.”
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- Yasiel Puig has played his first two games as a Dodger minor-leaguer, going 0 for 4 in his first but hitting a single and triple in his second. ESPN’s Keith Law tweeted after the triple that Puig “didn’t even square it up but still sent it about 400 feet to LCF track.” Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness passed along video of Puig’s debut from Jason Cole of Lone Star Dugout.
- Whose spots on the Dodger 40-man roster might be expiring? Petriello takes a look.
- Brandon Lennox of True Blue L.A. is examining the Dodger farm system, position by position. Here’s catcher and first base.
- James Gentile of Beyond the Box Score writes about “Hanley Ramirez and Disappointing Primes.”
- A Martinez is going public, with a 9 a.m. weekdays sports radio show on NPR’s KPCC 89.3 FM, reports Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News.
- Framework has a photo showing Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour raising money for the 1952 U.S. Olympic team at a telethon.