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Why Renting Cliff Lee Might Make Sense

By Mike Silva ~ May 30th, 2010. Filed under: Mike Silva, New York Mets.

For the better part of six months we have been mentioning Cliff Lee in connection with the Yankees. There continues to be rumblings that Lee wants to pitch in the Bronx and be reunited with former teammate CC Sabathia. The Yankees have mutual interest, especially since they may have two openings in their 2011 starting rotation. What does this mean for right now? The Mets are in need of a starter and Lee, along with Roy Oswalt, Kevin Millwood and Jake Westbrook, could all be available come the July 31st deadline. If you knew that Lee would only be a two month rental would you still pull the trigger on a deal?

Although Citi Field doesn’t appeared to be his desired destination that doesn’t mean things can’t change. The Mets rented another lefty, albeit for a full season, 10 years ago when they acquired Mike Hampton from the Astros. Both Roger Cedeno and Octavio Dotal were desirable commodities, but neither came back to burn the Mets, especially considering Hampton pitched them to a pennant.

That is why I believe the Mets should make a huge push for Lee if they continue to hang around the National League. I have my doubts about the division, but the Wild Card, with Lee or not, should be very attainable. Yes, the Red Sox, Yankees, and even the Dodgers have premium talent to give Seattle, but I believe the Mariners will suffer from the fact that Lee has made it known he is going to test free agency. That is where the equalizer comes in and the Mets may be able to pry Lee without giving up Jenrry Mejia or Wilmer Flores. What team will give up their top 1 or 2 prospects for someone that might leave? Hard to believe many considering the premium put on farm systems in today’s games.

As much as the Mets system is improved, they don’t have any “can’t miss” player that deserves being held on to like fine china. Jeurys Familia, Kyle Allen, Reese Havens, and Fernando Martinez are nice prospects, but not worth losing a chance at the playoffs over. They are good enough where I could see a deal made without sacrificing Mejia or Flores. I am also not sold on whether Flores should be untouchable.

With Lee the Mets would have the best threesome in the National League, maybe all of baseball. Imagine facing Santana, Lee, and Pelfrey in a short series? I was skeptical about Lee, who was actually sent down to the minors in 2007, but he proved his worth last season. He won 7 games for the Phils down the stretch, ironically the difference between them and second place Florida in the division. During the playoffs he pitched to a 1.56 ERA and shut down the Yankees in a classic performance during Game 1 of the World Series. Lee is a difference maker and might be a better pitcher than their current ace Johan Santana. Who knows, maybe he falls in love with Citi Field and the team and does an anti-Hampton and signs a contract. Friendships with CC Sabathia only go so far.

This is all good for discussion right now, but Seattle is still only seven games out in the AL West and the Mets have to show that other parts of their team are good enough to make a Lee rental worthwhile. I believe they are, but proof is in the performance and the Mets haven’t shown the ability to consistently win. If they do, Lee would be worth the rental because not only could they win the National League, but they might be able to win a title with him in the rotation.

That would be worth selling off a couple of prospects and living with Lee in pinstripes in 2011.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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6 Responses to Why Renting Cliff Lee Might Make Sense

  1. Shamik

    Nope, if I were the Mets I don’t do it unless I sign him to a very lucrative extension. Their farm system took a long time to get back to where it is right now.

  2. Patrick

    I’d be really reluctant to give up Havens as I think he really could be a valuable while not super star above average producer especially at 2B.

    But I agree, I have no fear in moving some prospects for Lee. If I could be greedy and keep away from Meija, Flores, Kirk N and Havens I’d like to be greedy.

  3. GravediggerHebner

    I’d love to have a pitcher who has proven he can win in the crucibles of the north east and the post season.

    I agree the Mets system doesn’t contain an untouchable, can’t miss prospect.

    My worry is that all the rumors I hear center around the Mariners desire for a good young catcher in their return, and it’s not that I worry about parting with Josh Thole, it’s that I don’t think he’s good enough to entice Seattle. If their rumored desire for a catcher is true I’ll hope my assessment their impression of Thole is incorrect.

  4. Burn

    I like the idea of a move for Lee…..I am sure if they trade for him and they can make the playoffs he will resign……He is angry with the Phillies……Citi Field is a haven for pitchers, wheras Yankee Stadium will inflate is numbers drastically……he will have a chance to be part of an NL trio with Santana and Pelfrey…..The Mets have to make this move….then overpay for him in the offseason

  5. RonOK

    Isn’t all this moot unless the Mets show propensity to win on the road?

    Except for their 9-1 and 5-2 homestands, the Mets are 12-23 and a dismal 6-16 on the road … as a comaprison, look at three of the worst teams in baseball — Orioles (6-21 on the road, 15-25 overall, Mariners (7-16 on the road, 19-29 overall and the Astros (7-15 on the road, 16-23 overall.

    I contend the Mets are a train wreck and talk of competing for a post-season berth is ludicrous.

    The Mets home wiining percentage is currently at 68% — if that holds for the entire season, they would be 55-26 at Citi Field …. their road winning persentage is 27% — if that also holds, they will finish at 22-59. They would be a at 77-85 for the season.

    Now, I do not think these percentages would hold over a full season … but even if the Mets go onto win 62% of their home games and 35% of their road games, they would finish at 78-84 …. this is not a contending ballclub ….

    Would Cliff Lee make a difference? Absolutely — if they are going to go for him, they need to do so sooner than later so they have more of him to try and alter their road trends.

    Would I trade one or two of the “chips”? Yes — if I thought the Mets were contenders not pretenders ….

    This team is just not that good ….

    Wright is all messed up, Bay is inconsistent, Davis is playing well but an unproven rookie, Castillo/Cora are way l,ess than average, Reyes is still too inconsistent and Barajas has been an absolute stud.

    Beltran is an unknown and will only be here for about 80 games anyway …. if he needs a month to get going like Reytes did, we are talking production in August and September.

    Johan is Johan (although I am alarmed at his fastball topping out at 90), Pelfrey s improved, Niese — when healthy — may be a .500 pitcher …. Perez and Maine are disasters …. Takahashi may be OK but RA Dickey? And the bullpen? Come on, they will be toast by July 4th.

    Granted Lee would replace one of them, but is this enough to even be considered a wild card team?

    Cliff Lee for the entire season like Hampton in 2000 would have made some sense …. getting him now even though I think it’s nuts is predicated on the Wilpons approving the expenditure which they have shown absolutely no propensity to do since signing Bay.

  6. RonOK

    I forgot to mention Pagan — who has been fantastic and Francoeur — who has been dreadful.

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