Cliff Lee’s seven-year itch

I realize I am in the minority here, but so what. I believe the Yankees caught a big break with Cliff Lee going to the Phillies.

Huh?

OK, hear me out. It would have been terrific to have Cliff Lee paired with CC Sabathia to give the Yankees a 1-2 punch that would be something out of Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens or David Cone and Jimmy Key or Whitey Ford and Bob Turley or Red Ruffing and Lefty Gomez. Yes, for 2011 and 2012 and 2013 and maybe 2014, it may have been a beautiful thing to watch Sabathia and Lee try to outdo each other with every start.

Then again, something could have gone wrong. Sabathia, after all, is coming off knee surgery. Lee is 32 years old, and that is no small thing when you consider the Yankees’ offer was for seven years for money believed guaranteed at $138 million.

Forget about the money for a minute and look at the term – a seven-year contract. That was what the Yankees gave Sabathia after the 2008 season (for 161 large) when the big guy was 28, four years younger than Lee is now. CC’s deal will take him to age 35, but Lee’s would have gone until he was 39. I am uncomfortable signing any pitcher any age to a seven-year contract, but a 32-year-old who had some back issues last year?

Everyone expected Lee to stay in Texas if he decided against coming to New York, but again, the Yankees caught a break. He went to the National League where he can be a major headache for the Mets. Speaking of the Mets; how is that seven-year contract they gave Johann Santana a few years back looking now?

It is now up to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman to be creative in improving the rotation after being rejected by Lee. Cash is skillful enough an executive to do this. It could have been worse. Think of the Rangers having given up a major prospect in first baseman Justin Smoak to get Lee from the Mariners and having nothing now to show for it. The Yankees at least still have Jesus Montero and Eduardo Nunez.

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