The New York Yankees are in desperate need of a starting pitcher, and while Cliff Lee of the Philadelphia Phillies would be an instant upgrade over what they have now, the Yanks must not part ways with any top prospects in order to land him.
A trade scenario was mentioned by ESPN.com's Jim Bowden in which the Yanks would trade top prospects Luis Severino and Aaron Judge to the Phillies in exchange for Lee's services. On top of that, Bowden believes the Yanks would pick up "most" of the money owed to Lee:
"2. Lee to the New York Yankees in exchange for outfielder Aaron Judge and right-handed starter Luis Severino: The Yankees might be the only team willing to absorb most of Lee’s contract and take the risk of his elbow. The Phillies would get a legitimate impact bat in Judge, who would hit in the middle of their lineup by 2016 and provide an impact with both on-base percentage and power. Severino would give them a powerful arm for either the back of their rotation or in their bullpen."
If the Yankees were to do that deal and pick up Lee's money, it would be a travesty.
Lee, 35, is just returning from an elbow strain that has led to his absence on a major league mound since May 18. Combine that with the fact that Lee is owed another $25 million in 2015 with a vesting option for 2016 at roughly the same price, and you have a player who is nearly untouchable in the eyes of rival general managers.
What saves Lee in this case is his track record. That and his 3.19 ERA this season, which will either go up or down after Lee's first start back off the 60-day disabled list on Monday versus the San Francisco Giants.
There are just too many negative factors about Lee to ignore. Considering this, shipping your best prospects off as Bowden would suggest seems like extreme desperation. Granted, the Yanks have a reason to be desperate, but they aren't going insane because of it.
Bowden's description of what the Phillies get in return for Lee would make any baseball fan stop and think:
"Hmmm… a near-future power bat and a strong, promising arm—who by the way has looked dominant this season and struck out the MVP of the MLB Futures Game, Joey Gallo—in exchange for a 35-year-old pitcher who makes almost as much as A-Rod and has been on the DL most of the season… I'll pass."
Enough risk is inherited in taking on Lee's deal and his potentially bum arm. General manager Brian Cashman should be pushing to take all of Lee's contract in order to lower the price in prospects and not give up guys like Severino and Judge, who both sit on different top-50 prospect lists.
The Yanks have plenty to give in the formerly promising and decent prospect departments, thank you very much. There's no reason to have to go to these lengths for an expensive question mark like Lee. That's exactly why Cashman would go after him in the first place.
Philadelphia benefits from being rid of a big contract weighing it down that not many teams in the league can take and the Yanks would have their pitcher, bought by cash they can get back and not by prospects they can't.
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