Miami may have landed LeBron, but we still know a thing or two about building a super-team in this town. Joel Sherman reports that the Yankees are “on the brink” acquiring Cliff Lee for a package that includes catching prospect Jesus Montero. Other teams (including the Mets) remain in the hunt, Sherman says, but Seattle wants to move quickly and the Yankees are “all but certain to obtain” the Mariners’ ace who, incidentally, they’re scheduled to face tonight.
Despite the best record in the majors, Sherman says the Yankees management “looked at its rotation and had some pause.” (If you’re a fan of one of the other 29 Major League Baseball teams, feel free to take a break here while the smoke emerges from your ears. Especially when you realize that their reaction to something less than total satisfaction with the rotation is to acquire one of the best pitchers in all of baseball.)
Sherman doesn’t mention anything about the Yankees working out an extension with Lee as part of the trade, though that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. If it doesn’t, the Yankees would risk losing him (and Montero, who it’s worth noting isn’t having a terribly good season at AAA) after just a few months of Lee’s services. But the Yankees are expected to make a push for Lee anyway after the season, so if they’d hang on to him, they’d essentially be trading Montero for one more year (well, half-year) of Lee’s services, and thus a better shot at one more World Series. (Full disclosure: We’ve already argued against taking that chance.)
Such a move could mean that Phil Hughes, an all-star starter, goes back to the bullpen — which while solving some of their middle-relief woes, seems pretty short-sighted, since it would stunt his growth as a starter and could mean still more restrictions in 2011. It could mean Javier Vazquez goes to the bullpen in case the Yankees need a starter at some point. Or maybe it means that Vazquez, who’s pitched very well of late but is a free agent after the season, becomes trade bait.
With a rotation of Sabathia, Lee, Burnett, Pettitte, and either Hughes or Vazquez, the Yankees shouldn’t have to worry about a assembling a four-man rotation for the playoffs this time around (assuming, of course, they get there). It also means those poor, poor Cleveland sports fans will have to watch Sabathia and Lee pitch in the same rotation for someone other than the Indians. It hasn’t been a very good week for those folks.
By the way, the Yankees won again last night, thanks to a two-run, ninth-inning single by Alex Rodriguez, which earned Andy Pettitte (one run, five hits, and nine strikeouts over eight innings) a much-deserved victory.