Yankees pursuit of Lee is smart move
If the Yankees indeed are on the verge of acquiring Mariners left-hander Cliff Lee, as reported by the New York Post, there would be a distinct logic to the move:
• First and foremost, Lee is the best starting pitcher available, a proven winner in the postseason. He would enhance the Yankees’ chances of winning their second straight World Series – even though they already rank third in the American League in rotation ERA.
• The Yankees are the front-runners to sign Lee as a free agent this offseason. If they acquired him now, they could lock him up before he ever hit the market – without losing their first-round draft pick in the process.
• The ability to keep the pick, plus a trade of right-hander Javier Vazquez, would help the Yankees recoup some of the young talent they would lose in the Lee deal.
They likely would not offer Vazquez arbitration this offseason, forfeiting their right to receive two high draft picks when he left as a free agent. The Yankees also could trade Vazquez for another potential free agent such as Phillies right fielder Jayson Werth and end up with two picks if they allow Werth to depart. But one source describes the chances of such a deal as a “50-to-1 shot.”
The Phillies want younger players who are closer to the majors for Werth, major-league sources say. The Rays and Red Sox also are pursuing Werth, according to the New York Post.
• Triple-A catcher Jesus Montero, the headliner in the package that would go the Mariners, is a player the Yankees have offered in previous trades for Lee and Roy Halladay, and essentially has no future with the team.
Rival executives strongly doubt that Montero will end up a catcher. He could not play first base with the Yankees when Mark Teixeira is signed through 2016. And the Yankees do not want to make him a young DH with a older, $200 million roster.
Finally, there would be one last advantage for the Yankees if they could complete this trade later today.
They would not need to face Lee Friday night in Seattle.