Cliff Lee Likely Headed To Free Agency

Cliff Lee made his 2010 season debut last night, but at this point his agent appears to be looking ahead to the offseason. ESPN's Buster Olney spoke to Lee's agent Darek Braunecker, who indicated that his client is likely going to test the free agent waters after the season.

"We're five months away from free agency," said Braunecker, "so I think that's the most likely scenario at this point."

"We've not really had any significant discussions with Seattle. I wouldn't anticipate a deal [with the Mariners]."

With Josh Beckett signing an extension with the Red Sox, Lee is inarguably the top starter available on the free agent market next year. Back in March we heard that the lefty was likely to wait until after the season to discuss any kind of long-term deal with Seattle, so this latest news isn't really anything new. 

If he repeats his 2008 and 2009 effort this season (2.89 ERA, 6.9 K/9, 1.5 BB/9), Lee would have a good chance of eclipsing the five year, $82.5MM contracts signed by A.J. Burnett and John Lackey in the last two offseasons, but it's unlikely he'll match CC Sabathia's seven year, $161MM pact.

56 Responses to Cliff Lee Likely Headed To Free Agency Leave a Reply

  1. Ferrariman 5 years ago

    he’s gonna get some big money. probably 6/115 or so.

  2. Teacherhst 5 years ago

    Would love the Mets to trade for him this season and then use him to beat the hell out of the Phillies. That was the dumbest move of the offseason.

    • Completely disagree. They ditched a guy who was going to walk to the FA regardless, and then replaced him with Halladay who is crushing the NL and the amount and length of his contract are half of what Lee will try to command. They are only 1 year different in age. Smart move by the Phils at this point regarding the changing of pitchers and going with Halladay instead of Lee.

      • duzin 5 years ago

        Who knows? Quite possibly if the Phillies starting lineup doesnt straighten out and the DL keeps posing a problem for the pitching, maybe they will offer a trade to Seattle and then offer Lee a contract that matches Halladays. Not too insulting to offer a contract to a guy who is considered one of the best pitchers in baseball. Not to mention the fact that the Phillies have a decent chance of repeating the penant.

  3. redsox4120 5 years ago

    How sick would the Sox rotation be if they signed cliff lee


    • Lee would be the ace, he is better then any of the Red Sox current SP

      • Yankees420 5 years ago

        Yeah they’d be better off with something like:

        You could arguably put Lester in at the 2, but I think the veteran Beckett would be slotted there.

    • fitz 5 years ago

      Not a chance.

      • redsox4120 5 years ago

        A man can dream, can’t he?

        • Ferrariman 5 years ago

          redsox fans aren’t men!!

        • If you say a man can dream, don’t get upset when yankee fans say they want to trade pujols carpenter wainwright for nick johnson and vazquez.

          • Ferrariman 5 years ago

            that is so lopsided. you gotta throw in matt holliday for marcus thames as well. DUH

          • you’re so right, my mistake, maybe a three way trade to get Lincecum too

      • Yankees420 5 years ago

        Is the reason the Sox won’t be in contention for Lee, plus the fact that they already have 2 already high paid pitchers under contract for the next 5 years.

  4. bucs_lose_again 5 years ago

    How sick would the Sox be if the traded for Felix and Lincecum too?! Man…

    • I bet they could center a deal around Hermida to get Lincecum and a deal around Jed Lowrie to get Felix

  5. j6takish 5 years ago

    Minnesota has always been an ace away from a championship. They have a new ballpark and a big new payroll. I could see them gunning for Lee

    • Yankees10 5 years ago

      I doubt it. They just gave Mauer that huge deal I doubt they would want two like that.

  6. Ferrariman 5 years ago

    if i were to make a guess as the team that will land him, its the mets.

  7. Ah, pirates fans. Do you remember the trade Neil Huntington almost made in his first offseason? Pirates send Jason Bay and Ronny Paulino to Cleveland for Cliff Lee, Franklin Guitterez, and Kelly Shoppach. What could have been.

    The Pirates need to sign him this offseason. He is perfect for PNC Park. He is connected to NH from their Cleveland days. The pirates need an ace more then any team in baseball. That will not happen though.

  8. bigpat 5 years ago

    I think the Mets are the logical choice if they have the money, I don’t know who will be off the books for them next year though. It’s tough to predict where all the big free agents will go because the Yanks and Red Sox usually sign most of them and they’ve locked up so many guys already, it would just be overkill to sign a guy like Lee.

    It would be nice to see the Twins or Rangers get him, Texas should have the money once Harden leaves and if their ownership is finally straightened out. They have so many talented young arms though, they may be better served spending money elsewhere.

    What would be really funny would be if the Nats signed him. They are looking better and have been willing to spend money, can you imagine a rotation headlined by Strasburg and Lee for the next 5 years? Don’t count out the Mariners either if they like each other. They have money and plenty of rotation spots open behind King Felix.

    • I could actually see the yankees go after him, after this season, Pettite will most likely retire, then lets say don’t resign vazquez because at this point he’s obviously not impressing anyone. Then you have CC, Aj, and Hughes. I could deffinately see them going hard after Lee.

      • Yankees420 5 years ago

        I agree, I bet Lee is their number one target on the FA market (not counting Jeter and Mo, because we all know those two will be resigned) because while LF might be an area they would like to upgrade and Crawford would look nice out there, they won’t hurt as bad if they have to go with their number 2 or 3 OF option (Werth or I personally wouldn’t mind keeping Gardner if he is productive and go after someone in the 2012 class) versus going with their number 2 option on SP which would be either huge injury risks (i.e. Webb, Sheets) or not as talented (De La Rosa, Lilly, Arroyo) and with Joba probably being in the rotation with Hughes in ’11 they’ll go after Lee harder than any OF.

  9. dshires4 5 years ago

    You people are counting out the Mariners too fast. “Heading to free agency” doesn’t mean that the Mariners still can’t negotiate. In fact, they have exclusive negotiating rights right now before the other 29 teams.

    On top of that, we still have to see how the season plays out. I doubt he even breaks 100M in his next shiny contract. He’s on the wrong side of 30 to justify 100M.

    The Mariners still have a legitimate chance at resigning him to a Lackey-esque deal.

  10. i don’t see any team other team than the mets. They might be the only team that can afford him unless the yankees get involve

  11. Cliff Lee has to prove himself worthy of the money so he’d better perform well for Seattle. Considering he’s only had two solid years in his entire career, less than 100 wins by age 32, and was injured for the first month of the season, I’d say his value isn’t as high as he thinks. But some idiot like the Red Sox or Yankees will be tempted to overpay him just so they can say they did something. Unless he lights it up in Seattle this year, I’d say he could just as easily look more like Mark Mulder than Steve Carlton!

  12. dodgers1 5 years ago

    do the dodgers have a chance to trade for lee kind of as a rental player at the deadline he would make us a very scary team. since we are lacking pitching!

  13. Trious 5 years ago

    I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Yanks lock him up for $150M

  14. Anyone else wonder why both the Indians and Phillies sold so low on this guy?

    For instance, the Phillies gave up a guy currently hitting .081 as a starting MLB catcher, a former top pitching prospect who has a career ERA over 8 in the Majors with time not on his side, an infielder who projects as a fourth infielder who has not had an at bat in the MLB who is on the wrong side of the age clock, and a guy who is 19 and had surgery to remove “loose bodies” in his throwing shoulder two weeks after being traded. The Phillies got Lee and Francisco, who is a very nice bench piece and could start for a few teams.

    They got a decent regular season and a very good post season out of him and traded him for a former first round pick that the Mariners weren’t high on, a speedy outfielder with little pop, and a pitcher that scouts are completely torn on. On top of that, they got to keep Francisco, too.

    What’s the rap on this guy? I understand that, at age 32, he’s actually kind of an unknown commodity. His disastrous 2007, which culminated in him being left off of the playoff roster on a very good Indians team, was followed up by a stellar 2008. His 2009 was also very good, but his track record seems to be a mystery, even as a veteran. He provided a few incredible starts with some downright stinkers for the Phils, including a game where he was pulled very early for giving up 6 to the Nats. But was nearly un-hittable the first time around against the WS champs.

    Is he a good “club-house” guy? Do his teammates like him? One thing that rubs me raw is that he seems to have an overinflated value of himself. He wants “C.C. money”, but he’s had a really inconsistent career, with last season being a microcosm of just that. But something has to be “up”, right? Teams were able to trade “meh” packages to pick him up twice in the span of 6 months or so. What’s the deal?

    • Guest 5 years ago

      Nice Comment.
      I’ve been wondering many things about Lee as well.
      I’ve got a feeling it might be a club house issue due to his seemingly inflated ego, well inflated compared to other sports stars. Your mention of him wanting C.C money is certainly telling of his inflated self worth. I personally see him as being worth Lackey or Beckett money, he is certainly getting on in years so that reduces his value in my eyes, he’s made some phenomenal starts yet also been atrocious at times like you said. At the money and years he’s looking for, I certainly wouldn’t want my team picking him up.

  15. Yankees420 5 years ago

    Yeah they’d be better off with something like:

  16. How come everyone is thinking he’ll be a Met? I’m a Met fan but I don’t see any evidence pointing towards us signing him. I’d love him (as long as we don’t overpay in terms of years) but still, we don’t have any big contracts coming off, the Wilpons are cheap terrible owners and will not increase the payroll. I don’t see it. Unless Beltran comes back after the ASB, does well and in the offseason the Mets trade him for nothing as long as the other team picks up his final year and $17M owed to him, I can’t see it. But oh man would that look great…

    (Perez mop up man/situational lefty)

  17. Dylan 5 years ago

    If the Phillies don’t sign Werth, they may still go after Lee or try and trade Hamels for some more picks and sign Lee….It’s a long shot, but he did love Philly.

    • And was also pissed at the fact Philly traded him. He loved it cause they were winning. He’d love any contender, as would any big leaguer.

      Also, you cant trade Hamels for draft picks, I’m assuming you mean prospects.

      • Dylan 5 years ago

        yes, you are correct, by picks I did mean prospects…

  18. Nicolas_C 5 years ago

    He used to be an excellent defender, but isn’t anymore. At least according to UZR, but you probably have your gripes with that too. But there isn’t another decent stat to use for fielding anyway, as fielding percentage isn’t at all helpful. His lack of speed (base clogging, and lack of worrying by pitchers about him stealing), probably negates his pitch seeing. The gamer thing is in your point of view. I’d have to admit his clubhouse influences seems like it’s better than Vazquez’s, but no one can know for sure. Vazquez clearly must have played through quite a few injuries and fatigue to start over 30 games so many years in a row. That’s gotta be worth something. (from above)

  19. Teacherhst 5 years ago

    Agreed. Would love a four year deal but I can’t imagine anyone would give him 6 except a team like the Orioles or a team starving for SP

  20. basemonkey 5 years ago

    I think the only player the Os signed for 5+ yrs, at any position, this decade has been Miguel Tejada. That’s it. The Os also have a longstanding policy against signing pitchers for more than 3 years. For example, that approach notoriously resulted in Mussina leaving Bmore.

  21. basemonkey 5 years ago

    NOt saying I, as an Os fan, wouldn’t LOVE seeing Lee in an Os uniform (or any good veteran pitcher for that matter). Just pointing out the facts, not the wisdom, around such a move.

    If they were to make an offer to Lee, it would be a major reversal of direction though. They’re committed to a young core, and, there’s literally only two current players with more than 1 yr on their contract. Lee is good but he’s too old to still be peaking when this team really matures together.

  22. i 1000% see cliff lee in a mets jersey next year

  23. duzin 5 years ago

    The Yanks might just cause they have the money to pay if they need to cut him after 4

  24. Nicolas_C 5 years ago

    And Javy Vazquez isn’t a good player off to a bad start? Look at his 2009 season!

  25. Nicolas_C 5 years ago

    He’s had a sub 4 ERA FOUR other times…

    He’s also started 32 or more games every season since 2000, throwing over 200 innings in all but one

  26. Nicolas_C 5 years ago

    I don’t know what you’re talking about with putting two solid seasons together in a row. He posted three consecutive solid seasons from 2001-2003, then had 3 bad years, then a good year, then a pretty bad year, and then a great year. There’s only one time that he followed one good year with a bad year. Also, innings eaters are very valuable these days with the excessive uses of bullpens. And speaking of inconsistency, look no further than the man you didn’t want to lump with Javy, Nick Johnson. He gets hurt pretty much every other year, and only played 100 games two seasons in a row once.

    What was Cashman smoking? I think the fact that he only had to give up a young outfielder that never posted above average hitting stats, a fringe prospect in Dunn, and a very young pitcher in Vizcaino that hasn’t proven all that much.

  27. Nicolas_C 5 years ago

    That was weak…

    Also, due to his constant injury, Johnson has only posted a WAR better than 4 twice in his career, (2002-2009), while Vazquez has done it 5 times in that span.

  28. Nicolas_C 5 years ago

    Explain yourself then…it’s actually a pretty good advanced stat, I’ve never heard anyone say something like that.

  29. Games top pitchers? The one stat that he has is BB/9IP. He rarely walks anyone, I’ll give you that.

    He has a nice win loss/record in a few of his seasons. But he also had a 2007 where he was 5-8 in sixteen starts with a 6.29 ERA. He gives up quite a few home runs over his career as well; while with the Indians, he averaged just under 1 HR per start and over 1 HR/9 IP. Until 2008, he averaged a pedestrian 6.7 Ks/9 IP and 3.1 BB/9 IP. His outlier seasons, 2008 and 2005 really help drive those numbers in different directions.

    And those seasons are outliers. If you want to look at a career of a guy who has been inconsistent, look at Cliff Lee. His stats literally Yo-Yo from worst to better to worse etc. in every year of his career. The guy is pitching for a contract this season, yes and players in contract years have statistically pitched well. But it wouldn’t surprise me to see weak offensive teams get their licks in against this guy because he has shown to lack focus and preparation skills.

    Take, for example, his starts against some of the weaker hitting teams in the NL. His last start he pitched 5.2 innings, gave up 3 earned against the Astros. Now, it doesn’t seem that bad of a start. But then take a look at the start before that. Against Milwaukee, he gave up 7 ER in 6 IP against 2 HRs. From August 29 to September 9, he had a three start stretch where he faced the Braves, Astros, and Nationals. He gave up 29 hits, 16 ER, 4 HRs in 15 IP. Sure he didn’t walk anyone and he only struck out 12, but how can you put the ball into someone’s hands who in September had a 5.59 ERA but had a postseason ERA under 2.00 with any confidence? Which Cliff Lee are you going to get? The one that has the drive to beat the top teams or the one that isn’t prepared to dominate the lesser ones?

    This talk of being under prepared is especially troubling with the whispers of him giving up on his winter training regiment because he wasn’t satisfied that he was traded to Seattle. Yeah, I want THAT guy on my team for a long period of time, one who can focus enough to pitch brilliantly against the Yankees, Dodgers, Mets, Cubs, and Rockies, but can’t put it together against the Nats, Astros, and Braves. That spells weak mental make-up to me.

  30. dshires4 5 years ago

    Man, you need to post something far less subjective and riddled with errors.

    1) Lee has never said he “wants out of Seattle.”
    2) Seattle is in rebuilding mode? Really? Because I follow this team every day of the year, and I read the quotes from the GM, and I see the roster construction. It’s not rebuilding mode. Look at the Blue Jays if you want to see a rebuild.
    3) 2 or 3 years out? Based on what? The AL West is absolutely wide open and weak.
    4) Seattle can’t shell out big bucks? What are you talking about? We rake in considerable amounts of money despite fielding bad Bavasi-era teams. We’ve ran $100M payrolls under the Bavasi era, and the ownership had no problem shelling money. Now that we have a good GM, the money will be correctly spent.
    5) Really? They want nothing to do with Seattle? Felix had no problem signing his extension. Neither did Ichiro. Beltre was cool with coming up here for 5 years.

    Get your facts straight before posting.

  31. Nicolas_C 5 years ago

    “Nick Johnson has a career OBP above .400. Javier Vazquez has a career ERA above 4. End of story.”

    “You compared a pitcher and a first baseman. The positions are not equal, so judging them by equal measures makes no sense.”

    Excuse me? Saying a .400 OBP is better than an ERA around 4? Doesn’t that get into, well, i dont know, AN INDIVIDUAL PERSON’S OPINION ON VALUE? Once again, you contradict yourself

    Also, fangraphs WAR is generally considered reliable, but since you want to deny that simply because it works against you, there’s nothing I can do about that.

  32. Nicolas_C 5 years ago

    Yea, because OBP is the only stat the matters for batters, and ERA the only stat that matters for pitchers. Johnson’s 90 homers in nearly 2600 ABs is well below the average position player (not to mention his games played per season). Vazquez’s 8.14 K/9 and roughly 6.5 innings per start are well above average for a pitcher. We could go on all day. WAR is a stat that groups a ton of these statistics together and determines value, which is why I used it as a comparing stick. You can argue about comparing 2 players with different jobs with the stat, but it’s better than comparing a .400 OBP to an ERA above 4, since that’s just one stat. I would’ve gotten into xFIP, which shows Vazquez is a well above average pitcher, but I know you’d complain about the objectivity of it.

  33. Nicolas_C 5 years ago

    Notice how I listed the number of At Bats. One homer per 29 at bats IS below average, if you don’t believe that you can check for yourself. And I don’t count guys who have had like 8 major league at bats. Also, Johnson plays DH. DHs are expected to be well above average hitters. Maybe he is one, but even then he is only doing what he is expected to. It’s similar for 1st baseman. If he put up these kinds of numbers at shortstop, then I’d be impressed, but he doesn’t. Vazquez has been a #1 starter a couple times, but on average he’s been a 2 or 3. 2s and 3s are expected to have an ERA around his what his career mark is. So just based on Vazquez’s ERA, he’s been an average player in his role, but so has Johnson. On a side note, Johnson’s slugging percentage is below average for a 1B/DH. Not all people agree that OBP is the most important stat for a hitter. Luis Castillo had .387 OBP last year, well above average, but he was an average hitter at best.

  34. Nicolas_C 5 years ago

    He used to be an excellent defender, but isn’t anymore. At least according to UZR, but you probably have your gripes with that too. But there isn’t another decent stat to use for fielding anyway, as fielding percentage isn’t at all helpful. His lack of speed (base clogging, and lack of worrying by pitchers about him stealing), probably negates his pitch seeing. The gamer thing is in your point of view. I’d have to admit his clubhouse influences seems like it’s better than Vazquez’s, but no one can know for sure. Vazquez clearly must have played through quite a few injuries and fatigue to start over 30 games so many years in a row. That’s gotta be worth something. The text is becoming impossible to read so I’m going to make another post so you can reply to that next time.

  35. Nicolas_C 5 years ago

    I’ve heard the same about 1st baseman UZR, but the truth is we don’t have a better statistic to grade his defense. So we could argue forever about whether it’s good or not, but it would just be opinion. I’m a White Sox fan. I watched Dye-Konerko-Thome as 3-4-5. Trust me, I know how much base clogging can hurt a team. Going first to third or scoring on a hard hit ball to the outfield could make all the difference in a game. Seeing many pitches is very important but I know there’s other non-statistical areas he lacks in as well.

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