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Cliff Lee Signs With the Phillies, Leaves Yankees, Rangers Searching for Answers

Well, it is finally official.

Cliff Lee is signed sealed and delivered to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Including all option years, Lee was offered a total of $148 million by the New York Yankees and $161 million by the Texas Rangers. Surprisingly, the Rangers offered MORE total dollars than the almighty Yankees.

And Ruben Amaro, GM of the Phillies, is a virtual master salesman.

The Rangers brass must be devastated. The Yankees brass is probably hard at work working the phones to try and get a veteran pitcher.

And Ruben Amaro is a genius.

How can he obtain Cliff Lee, then Roy Halladay, then Roy Oswalt and now Cliff Lee again.

And despite making three major trades for three No. 1 type starters, he still has tons of pitching talent in their minor league system with Vance Worley, Jarrod Cosart and Brody Colvin.

Not that they will need these guys any time soon, although Worley did pitch well in a brief callup in 2010. If the Phillies trade Joe Blanton, then Worley has inside tract into the No. 5 spot.

While I said that Amaro is a genius, he does make strange deals, but those deals are always when he attempts to resign his own players. Giving a three year extension to Blanton for $24 million was extremely idiotic.

Also, that extension for Ryan Howard was kind of weird, too.

When it comes to other teams guys he can work wonders.

After trading for Halladay last off season, Amaro signed the 2010 Cy Young winner to a below market extension.

Now he convinced Cliff Lee to take almost $50 million less to sign with the Phillies.

This is also not to say that Lee left all that money on the table. This new deal is supposedly for $120 million over five years with a option with easily attainable incentives.

That deal could be for $135 million or more. Plus, if his back issues hold up, Lee likely will be able to pitch after this current deal is over. That means he can make another $10-15 million.

So Lee really didn’t turn down the Yankees gazillion dollars because the Yankees didn’t even offer the most money and Lee liked what he saw in Philadelphia when he spent half the season there in 2009.

And now Lee gets to keep his scruffy beard.

If you want to blame Yankee GM Brian Cashman, go back to last years deadline when he refused to include Eduardo Nunez in the Cliff Lee deal with the Mariners. If Lee comes to New York last season, maybe Lee feels about his time in New York the way he feels about his time in Philadelphia.

The Phillies now possibly possess the best rotation in the National League, although the San Francisco rotation is pretty good, too. Plus they beat Halladay and Lee twice in the postseason this past year.

But the Phillies are not quite guaranteed to have a parade down Broad Street next fall. Except for the assumed Domonic Brown replacing Jayson Werth, the entire Phillies lineup is over 30 years old for 2011. Cole Hamels is the only starting pitcher under 30.

And injuries have really hit their middle infield with lower body issues to both Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley. Plus Howard and Ibanez have declined.

Plus, the lineup is extremely left handed and there is no Jayson Werth to balance out Howard, Utley and Raul Ibanez.

I am not saying they are not going to be the favorites because they are. Everybody likes big names on paper but conveniently forget about age (except when it comes to Derek Jeter).

But funny things happen over a 162-game schedule where the game is played every day. All players over 30 years old rarely make it through the entire season.

As I said in my piece last week from the Winter Meetings, the Phillies could try and trade Hamels for a right-handed bat and some prospects. He would bring back a boatload (especially with two seasons left of control), but after the Lee trade fiasco last year, I don’t see Amaro making that type of mistake again.

At least until next offseason. Could the Yankees be interested?

The Phillies did not get anything back in the Lee trade last season, and now give up their first round pick to the Rangers in a very deep draft. Not a problem now, but maybe down the road.

While the Phillies shocked the baseball world early Tuesday AM, they still have lots of issues.

Can Ruben Amaro work his genius again before Spring Training?

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MLB Rumors: Left-Handed Trade Options for New York Yankees Instead of Cliff Lee

Quite a few reports are saying that Cliff Lee has looked over the New York Yankees’ seven-year, $161 million offer and the several offers made by the Texas Rangers.

One offer made by Texas is generally a six-year deal with an option, which could easily be construed as a seven-year deal.

It may be for a little less money than the Yankees offer, but the comfort level Lee has with the Rangers must weigh pretty heavily in the small-town Lee’s psyche.

One of Lee’s friends from Benton, Ark., came out and said Lee has pretty much picked Texas over New York. If you feel that money and the years were the overriding factors, then Lee would have already chosen the Yankees offer and moved on.

Lee’s agent, Darek Braunecker, played this one perfectly.

While many people thought Lee would set the market, Braunecker let other “lesser” free agents sign to set the bench mark. Now the Yankees and Rangers are both willing to spend gobs of cash to the 32-year-old left-handed hurler, the only truly impact free agent left on the market.

I have always thought that Lee would stay in Texas.

First, Lee would be near his roots. Second, Lee likes being a mentor to the other young pitchers the Rangers have, especially lefties C.J. Wilson, a virtual Lee clone, and Derek Holland, who I feel will be a star. He will be a star because the Rangers will allow him the opportunity to pitch in the majors.

With the Boston Red Sox trading for Adrian Gonzalez and signing free agent Carl Crawford, the Red Sox lineup is now predominantly left-handed. Now there is more pressure than ever for the Yankees to sign Lee, a left-handed ace.

Another reason why it might be extremely important for the Yankees to sign Lee is that Andy Pettitte has yet to decide whether he wants to return for his 17th major league season.

Pettitte would likely return if he feels the Yankees have a good chance at making the World Series run. If the Yankees do not sign Lee, Pettitte might feel the Yankees chance of getting to the World Series is lessened, and Andy could retire instead.

So getting Lee in the fold could be doubly beneficial with the Yankees going up against the Sox. While you feel the Yankees and Red Sox both will beat up on most of the AL, it is vitally important now how they do head to head.

With several other AL teams (White Sox, Tigers, Orioles) getting better, there is no guarantee that the Yankees make the postseason with Lee and Pettitte, as the wild card battle would be fierce.

But it will be a much tougher road without one or both.  

The Yankees will probably get really nervous Monday and will up their offer, but in the end Lee goes back to Texas.

In case Lee heads south, the Yankees should promote from within with guys already in their system like Ivan Nova, David Phelps and Hector Noesi. Adam Warren and Manuel Banuelos should be major league ready by 2012, too.

But they won’t promote from within, so here are some left-handed arms who they could obtain via trade.

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MLB Rumors: Los Angeles Angels Seem Likely Candidates To Land Carl Crawford

There has been talk and speculation that the New York Yankees and free-agent outfielder Carl Crawford have spoken and that there is interest on the part of the Yankees.

The Yankees were informed by Crawford, however, that he really wants to play in Anaheim, and that he prefers the more laid-back attitude of the West Coast. The California money isn’t bad, either.

The reason why Crawford’s name has come up now might be to drive up the Angels’ price, but the lack of talk here at the meetings over Crawford likely indicates his sole desire to play in California.

Crawford would be making an already decent Los Angeles Angels lineup much better, and adding him along with the return of Kendry Morales gives the Angels a nice middle of Crawford, Torii Hunter and Morales.

The Yankees’ primary concern is Cliff Lee, and I was told that the Yankees do not believe there is any legitimate seven-year offer on the table for Lee—not from the Texas Rangers, not from the Washington Nationals and certainly not yet from the Angels.

It appears like every team is trying to sign its primary focus: the Yankees and Rangers with Lee and the Angels with Crawford. Then each club will worry about the other player later, probably immediately afterward.

Crawford supposedly informed the Yankees that while his desire is to play in Southern California, he would play for the Yankees over the Boston Red Sox if he had to choose between the two.

It’s a small consolation for the Yankees, but at least for now they can concentrate on Lee.

As I said, the Yankees believe there is no seven-year offer, but if push comes to shove, they would be willing to go that seventh year if it meant getting Lee. I have said several times this week I felt the Yankees would do so kicking and screaming. They need Lee very badly.

The Yankees are not worried about reports that Andy Pettitte will retire. Unless they hear those words directly from Pettitte’s mouth, they are assuming Andy is returning for the 2011 season, which will likely be his last.

But while the Yankees feel there is no current seven year offer for Lee, they also believe the Rangers are desperately putting together a big offer. Reports are that Nolan Ryan is pulling together money from other sources to push in Lee’s direction.

The Yankees are worried about Lee going back to Texas more than they are with any other team.

But I still feel the Angels will be players in the Lee sweepstakes, especially if they sign Crawford relatively quickly.

If the Yankees fail to sign Lee, one fallback option is the trade market. Forget about Zack Greinke, as the Yankees are just not interested. But they have indicated interest in a player who is currently being shopped here at the Winter Meetings—Ricky Nolasco of the Florida Marlins.

Nolasco has talent and put up a 14-9 record and 4.51 ERA last year. But the Yankees feel Nolasco is a better pitcher than his 2010 record showed.

Nolasco’s peripherals in 2010 were strong with a 1.9 BB/9 and a K/9 of 8.4. His career rates of 2.1 BB/9 and 8.0 K/9 are similar to his 2010 season, showing tremendous consistency. 

The Yankees would know what they are getting with Nolasco.

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MLB Rumors: Cliff Lee Being Chased By Yanks, Rangers, Nats, Angels and Phillies?

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla.—The new Cliff Lee rumors indicate that there are two teams that have made seven-year offers for the left-handed pitcher.

The New York Yankees, Texas Rangers, Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Angels have all denied they are one of the teams.

No one knows if the reports are true, and they could have just been perpetuated by Lee’s agent, Darek Braunecker, to build up interest for the Rangers and Yankees to offer him a seventh guaranteed year.

As I wrote previously, that is a great move by Braunecker because the key is to get every team thinking seven years. Prior talks were all about a five- or six-year deal.

Now they have been bumped up to where the Yankees are already saying they will not go more than six years, no matter how many teams offer seven. That offer by the Yankees could officially come as early as Wednesday.

Before the Winter Meetings, the talk was that it would be the Yankees and five years.

Braunecker has done a good job, and he is a pretty good agent. He does what is best for his clients, without all the bluster and spreadsheets used by Scott Boras.

Look what Braunecker did for A.J. Burnett, a guy who conveniently has good years right before his arbitration year, his free-agent year and his opt-out season.

However, let’s say there are two teams that have privately offered Lee seven years.

I believe those teams would be the Los Angeles Angels and the Philadelphia Phillies. Those are just my thoughts and my guesses; I have not heard anything definitive.

The Angels have a ton of money to spend, and their owner, Arte Moreno, was not happy about missing out on the playoffs last season. They really have not delved into any big-money free agents since Torii Hunter.

And, at that time, they were never viewed as being in on Hunter. Like the predator after the prey, the Angels like to sit back and observe, then pounce.

It would not surprise me to see the Angels boost their rotation with Lee in their lineup with Carl Crawford. Getting two guys who the division rival Rangers desperately want would severely shift the tide in favor of the Halos.

That would give the Angels six viable starters with Dan Haren, Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana, Joel Piniero and Scot Kazmir. Signing Lee would make one of them expendable, or the Angels could move one of them in a trade.

I don’t believe there would be much of a trade market for Kazmir, but Santana would find a few teams interested. Maybe those who lost out on Lee?

Meanwhile, the Phillies also have available cash. The Phillies saw up close when they lost to the San Francisco Giants what an extremely formidable top three in the rotation can do in a postseason run. I am sure they would love to add Lee back in the fold and provide that alternating left arm between righties Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt.

Also, Major League Baseball is a copycat business. What works well for certain teams is often copied by others hoping to reap the same benefits.

While this goes against what Lee desires in being the true No. 1, the seven-year contract and ability to compete every season would lessen any ego effects of being a No. 2 behind Halladay.

Lee also loved his time in Philadelphia.

Going to Philly would make a strong rotation of Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton. They could also try to save money by making Hamels and Blanton expendable, but that tactic burned them when they dealt Lee last offseason and obtained Halladay.

While it would be tough to deal Blanton and his $8.5 million per year salary for the next two seasons, Hamels would surely command lots of suitors if he were offered on the trade market. He is under control for two more seasons, including an arbitration year, after his current three-year, $20.5 million deal expires. He can be a free agent after 2012.

I am not saying that the Phillies would deal Hamels, but it is always a possibility as they have never been excited about Hamels’ progress. He is also making $9.5 million this year, and his arbitration figure next season would likely approach $12 million.

The Angels and Phillies are just speculation on my part. They could be good fits for Lee based on money available and team histories.

But if there are no teams willing to go to a seventh year and it came down to the Yankees and Rangers, my guess is that Lee would choose Texas because of his comfort level.

The Rangers will eventually go for that sixth year to get the guy they want, just as the Red Sox went a seventh year with Adrian Gonzalez. Whether the Yankees offer Lee his desired seventh year will likely decide if he ends up going to New York. But Yankees GM Brian Cashman has a solid history of convincing free agents to come play in New York, most notably CC Sabathia. 

But it is tough to see Lee heading to New York, especially if the contract offered by Texas is the same.

However, as I have repeatedly said over the last two months, the Los Angeles Angels would like nothing more than to make a big splash and whisk Lee away from their division rivals.

But to the disappointment of many here, with more than a few teams interested in Lee, it does not look as though he will be signed at the Winter Meetings.

It may take a few more days, but it should get done by Christmas.

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MLB Trade Rumors: White Sox, Dodgers, Orioles in Mix to Deal For Prince Fielder?

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — On the floor here at the Winter Meetings, I heard reports that three teams are interested in Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder.

With Jayson Werth signing a seven-year deal for $126 million and the Red Sox’ reported seven-year, $154 million extension for Adrian Gonzalez, the Brewers realize they will never be able to re-sign the pending free agent.

Those teams interested in Fielder appear to be the Chicago White Sox, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Baltimore Orioles. Both the White Sox and Orioles are without first basemen, although the Sox probably will end up re-signing Paul Konerko.

The Dodgers have James Loney at first but appear to be underwhelmed by his play. Loney provides good defense and good hitting ability, but not much power.

I was a little surprised the Chicago Cubs were not on that list of potential trade partners since they were very interested in Adrian Gonzalez. But with the Cubs and Brewers both playing in the NL Central, it might make the Cubbies trading for Fielder a touchy prospect.

One team for which Fielder would make a lot of sense is the Washington Nationals.

They definitely have money to spend and the prospects to trade, plus GM Mike Rizzo and the Lerner ownership group has a great working relationship with Prince’s agent, Scott Boras. Over the last two seasons, the sides have agreed to big deals with first overall picks Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper and also just completed the Werth contract.

The Nationals also now have two, right-handed sluggers in Ryan Zimmerman and Werth back-to-back in that lineup.

Adding the left-handed-hitting Fielder would significantly impact that lineup and break up the two right-handed bats.

While the White Sox and Orioles certainly have the prospects to trade with Milwaukee, what they’d have to give up might hurt them in the long run.

The Sox would certainly have to trade away Gordon Beckham and the Orioles would likely have to give up some of their vaunted young pitchers.

The Dodgers have the players to make a deal, but while they have spent much more recently than everyone has anticipated, those numbers pale in comparison to what Boras would want for an extension.

There are not many teams with the prospects and financial wherewithal to obtain Fielder and get him to sign a Gonzalez-type extension.

The Nationals are a team to watch as the negotiations for Fielder build, especially if the Nationals fail to add another bat.

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MLB Trade Rumors: Prince Fielder, Carl Crawford, Zack Greinke and Latest News

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla.  With the Jayson Werth deal signed, sealed and delivered, and the Adrian Gonzalez trade done (with the extension to be announced later), the entire baseball world is wondering where Cliff Lee will sign.

Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker today met with the various teams interested in Lee. Braunecker met with New York Yankee and Texas Ranger officials. There was even talk the Boston Red Sox met briefly with Lee’s agent, probably just to keep tabs on what the Yankees are up to.

Anyway, the domino theory is very much in play. Unless guys are offered what is now called “Jayson Werth-type” deals (that means out of their mind contracts in terms of years and money), lots of people are going to wait to decide until after Lee signs.

I have spoken with various people on the floor—including Ken Rosenthal, Jon Heyman, Bill Madden and countless others. I do not like to deal in rumors, but I generally like to ask opinions and then offer my own thoughts.

Some thoughts are met with a “that’s interesting” or “that’s possible,” while a few were met with a quick “never happen.”

Everybody has a story and an idea, but here is what is being discussed now.

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MLB Trade Rumors: New York Yankees in a Fight To Sign Free Agent Cliff Lee

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — With the Jayson Werth deal signed, sealed and delivered, and the Adrian Gonzalez trade done with the extension to be announced later, the entire baseball world is wondering where Cliff Lee will sign.

On Monday, Lee’s agent, Derek Braunecker, met with the various teams interested in his free-agent left-hander. Braunecker met with New York Yankees and Texas Rangers officials. There was even talk the Boston Red Sox met briefly with Lee’s agent, probably just to keep tabs on what the Yankees are up to.

Anyway, the domino theory is very much in play. Unless guys are being given what are now called “Jayson Werth”-type deals (that means out-of-their-mind contracts in terms of years and money), lots of people are going to decide after Lee signs.

Lee has a guaranteed deal with the Texas Rangers, on the financial side only. The years have not been determined. There are reports that Lee wants seven years and the Rangers have offered four, then five years guaranteed.

That is where it stands now. Lee has a five-year offer from the Rangers (presumably $23-25 million per season) to continue pitching in the Lone Star State.

Word is that if the Rangers move up to a sixth year guaranteed, and then Lee would be 80-90 percent sure he would go to Texas.

I believe that Cliff Lee WANTS to go back and pitch for the Texas Rangers, and that he is trying to find a way to do that. Lee likes the fact he is THE MAN in Texas and relishes the role of mentoring young pitchers C.J. Wilson and Derek Holland.

What can bring Lee to New York is if the Yankees top the Rangers and go for a seventh year guaranteed. If that’s the case, Lee may essentially have no other option but to take the money and come to New York.

I believe the Yankees don’t want to go for that seventh year, but they will do it kicking and screaming.

The Yankees are secondary for Lee, and he would only come for the money, as he feels he can win a title with either club. The Lee camp could be putting out that “will go to Texas for a sixth year” talk just to get the Yankees to also go a guaranteed sixth year.

Then if two teams are guaranteeing six years, it is only a matter of time before one goes that seventh year. The key in his camp is to get both teams already committing to six.

Braunecker putting out the word that Lee is a lock for Texas at six years is a good play on his part. The agent is doing everything he can to get the most money from a World Series-contending team.

However, an unexpected suitor for Lee has emerged—the Washington Nationals.

Talks were rampant early this morning that the Nats were going to offer Lee a seven-year deal, the amount of years Lee desires, but for less money per season.

No one here at the meetings thinks that the Nationals will land Lee, but the Lerner ownership group, likely the richest in the majors, is tired of all the losing.

Majority owner Ted Lerner is 85 years old and “desperately” would like to see a winner in Washington. This scenario is similar to how Detroit Tigers owner Mike Ilitch is trying to buy a World Series winner in the Motor City by signing free agents Victor Martinez and Joaquin Benoit.

But there is absolutely no way Cliff Lee ends up in Washington. The Nationals will throw a whole lot of money at Lee, but like Mark Teixeira did two years ago, Lee will reject the most money and sign with one of the contending teams.

My guess is Texas.

The Rangers will eventually go for that sixth year to get the guy they want, just like the Red Sox went a seventh year with Adrian Gonzalez. Whether the Yankees offer Lee his desired seventh year will decide whether or not he goes to New York. But Yankees GM Brian Cashman has a solid history of convincing free agents to come play in New York, most notably CC Sabathia. 

But it is tough to see that happening right now for Cliff Lee, especially if the contract offered by Texas is the same.

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MLB Rumors: Jayson Werth to Washington Nationals, Adrian Gonzalez Deal Dead?

On the ground at the winter meetings in unseasonably cold Orlando, Fla., there has been quite a bit of action already.

Actually, in much colder Boston, the Adrian Gonzalez trade is currently off, as the slugging first baseman and the Boston Red Sox could not agree on an extension. They had a window until 2 p.m. today, and while the Red Sox were willing to given Gonzalez a six-year extension, the player wanted eight years and “Mark Teixeira money.”

Many people here believe that if Gonzalez tests the free-agent waters after this season, there would be up to six potential suitors for the type of money (eight years/$180 million) Teixeira signed for two winters ago. Those teams include the Dodgers, Angels, Nationals, Cubs and, of course, the Red Sox.

The Cubs were the other teams heavily involved in trying to trade for Gonzalez last week. Could talks with the Cubbies begin anew?

While the deadline for an extension has passed and the trade is now dead, it does not mean it is completely done. The teams could talk trade again (same players involved), and the Red Sox could up their offer.

I believe the Red Sox need Gonzalez so bad that they at least go to a seventh year (he would only be 35 in that last season), and this trade eventually gets done.

It gets done because of the major news today from the meetings that former Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth, he of the 120 career home runs at the age of 31, signed a big-money contract with the Washington Nationals.

That deal is for seven years and $126 million. Are you kidding? This deal will turn out just as bad as the deal Jason Bay signed with the New York Mets. Maybe it’s the name.

Well, Scott Boras did his work here and earned every penny of what he is getting paid by Werth.

But the right-hand hitting Werth was also on the Red Sox radar, to complement the trade for the left-hand hitting Gonzalez.

Now Werth is out, and the Gonzalez deal is done, for the time being. Even if the Red Sox do eventually get Gonzalez, they need another bat.

And that means going after Carl Crawford. The Sox can put a dent in the Yankees and Angels’ pursuit for CC No. 2 and improve their own lineup, too.

Let’s say the Red Sox then do sign Crawford. That means the Angels are needing to improve their team. They would like to get lineup help and want Crawford to be their No. 3 hitter.

But if Crawford signs elsewhere, the Angels can improve their team by getting better starting pitching.

And that means going heavy for Cliff Lee. What better way to crush the rival Texas Rangers, hurt the Yankees and improve your own team?

I have always thought the Angels were going to be a dark horse for Lee. However, many people here believe that Lee does not want to go back to the west coast. Valid point.

Also, the Angles aren’t hurting for starting pitching, with five starters already in the fold, including Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana, Joel Piniero, Dan Haren and Scott Kazmir. But Kazmir is mostly ineffective and could be moved, as he only has one year left before free agency. They could also move the more desirable Santana to make room.

However, money does talk (ask Werth), and the Angels will certainly be able to go $150 million for six years for Lee. That might get it done. Angels owner Arte Moreno has never been shy about spending his hard-earned cash.

Plus, I have always believed the Angels don’t really need Crawford with speedy youngsters Peter Bourjos (ready now) and Mike Trout probably ready in 2013 or sooner. Trout could be the best overall prospect in the major leagues.

Going after and signing Lee would make the Angels the leading contender in the AL West and would severely alter the Yankees pitching plans for their rotation.

If Lee signs elsewhere, what do the Bombers do then? I have several thoughts on what they could do,  but they will be held for another piece.

These possible moves are the domino effects of the Gonzalez trade being called off (for now) and Werth strictly showing us money was the only factor in signing with the Nationals.

So much has gone on here at the winter meetings, and they haven’t even officially begun.


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Red Sox Trade for Adrian Gonzalez: Keeping Up With The Yankees Could Prove Fatal

One of the most often said phrases is “Keeping up with the Joneses,” a catchphrase referring to the comparison to one’s neighbor as a benchmark for social status or the accumulation of material goods. To fail to “keep up with the Joneses” is perceived as demonstrating socio-economic or cultural inferiority.

In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan built up the Star Wars defense initiative and the Soviet Union tried to keep up but went bankrupt. Not until the Russians privatized their state industries did the Russian Mafia become the wealthy capitalists they are now.

In the case of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, it would be baseball inferiority, with the Yankees leading the way and Red Sox trying to keep up. Yanks get Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett, the Red Sox get scared and re-sign Josh Beckett and go out and sign John Lackey.

So when the Red Sox did not advance past the first round of the playoffs in 2009, getting swept by the Los Angeles Angels, and then FAILED to make the post season last year, they have to do something else now, right?

The Red Sox must be thinking, “We can’t let the Evil Empire go out and get Cliff Lee. And now they are talking about getting Carl Crawford?”

We must do something!

Theo Epstein had to move quickly to get the guy he has always desired, Adrian Gonzalez. Reports have Gonzalez already in Boston for a physical to complete the deal.

Confirmed reports say it definitely includes RHP Casey Kelly, 1B Anthony Rizzo and OF Reymond Fuentes. The Sox are giving up their top pitching and positional prospect available to trade (Anthony Renaudo can not be traded yet) and what potential studs they had at the higher levels of their farm system are now gone.

*I feel the Padres got rooked in this deal, and that the deal was basically a give back to Theo from his former assistants Jed Hoyer and Josh Byrnes. Rizzo is two years away, as is Kelly, while Fuentes, an outstanding defensive outfielder, might be four years away. None of these guys are major league ready talent.

Most of their next wave of Red Sox positional talent is down in the lower levels.

But the Red Sox do have a set pitching staff entering 2011 with Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Beckett, Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Felix Doubront, who the Padres did not receive, is a very capable reserve starter.

That is it, though. There are no other starting pitchers in their higher up system who is any good. So the Red Sox have a top six with no others to complement them if there is an injury.

Also, while their lineup will be better with Gonzalez, a lineup of Ellsbury, Pedroia, Gonzalez, Youkilis, Ortiz, Drew, Varitek, Scutaro is top heavy. While it is not easy to navigate, many of the guys can be pitched to.

It is not nearly as good as the names suggest.

Pedroia, Ellsbury and Youkilis are coming off injuries and Ortiz will get off to his usual slow start. What if one of the aging guys gets hurt? Where do they go for help? Will Drew continue to decline in his final year? Varitek getting another 400 plate appearances like he did in 2009 is enough for any Red Sox fan to groan. 

Is Jed Lowrie (always injured) or Ryan Kalish the answer? Darnell McDonald? C’mon. Since no one of very high talent is coming through the system now, the Red Sox will be required to dig deep again into their pocketbooks and sign Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth.

The reason for going and getting Gonzalez and needing Crawford/Werth is that the Sox missed out on Mark Teixeira two years ago. They put all their eggs in the Tex basket, but when Mark decided on the Yankees, Theo needed to go to Plan B.

They traded for Victor Martinez last season (even though they gave up nothing) but V-Mart left and created a huge hole the Sox could not fill internally. Now the trade of more young players for Gonzalez. 

The Red Sox are trying to keep up with what the Yankees are projecting by boosting their lineup with Gonzalez and possibly Crawford/Werth.

But the A.L. East is based upon pitching to these stacked lineups and the Red Sox are treading on thin ice with their starting staff and bullpen.

The Red Sox staff of Clay Buchholz and John Lester were good, while Beckett, Lackey and Dice-K were basically ineffective.

Victor Martinez gave them a pretty good hitter in the middle of their lineup last season, a switch hitter with some power. Gonzalez gives them Gold Glove defense (although Youk was pretty good over there, too) and will probably hit 35-40 HRs.

Is A-Gon’s productivity enough of a difference over what they got with Martinez last season to justify trading away their top pitching and positional prospects? AGon’s WAR last year was 6.3 while VMart, in 154 less plate appearances was 3.8.

Will Youkilis be a good enough defender at third base for an entire season?

Trying to keep up with the Yankees is tough to do as the Yankees have many more pieces in their farm system they can trade off. Plus, if the organization allows them to, more who will be able to contribute within two years.

Keeping up with the Yankees via outside, high-priced talent is going to eventually bankrupt the Red Sox, both in the terms of money and a farm system to replace their senior citizen players with internal talent.

You can’t keep up with the Joneses, let alone the “Evil Empire” in the Bronx.

The other Evil Empire learned that 30 years ago

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New York Yankees Looking At Cliff Lee & Carl Crawford; Pujols and Fielder Next?

Well, they are not really looking at Albert Pujols yet, as he is not a free agent until after this season.

But the Yankees have said all along their priority is Cliff Lee with GM Brian Cashman already meeting with the Lee family at their home in Arkansas. And yesterday Hank Steinbrenner said, “It’s no secret we want Cliff and we will do whatever it takes to get him. That’s the bottom line.”

That kind of statement doesn’t sound like the Yankees are trying to drive up the price for the Texas Rangers or Los Angeles Angels for the right to the left-handed hurler.

Lee, who lost his last two starts of the season during the 2010 World Series to the aggressive San Francisco Giants, appears to be guaranteed at least $23 million per season for six or seven years. Hank’s statement above indicates they are willing to go longer.

This has been quite the week for the Yankees.

They have re-signed Mariano Rivera to a two-year deal for $30 million. Talks with Derek Jeter’s agent Casey Close began again on Tuesday with the Yankees supposedly upping their offer. Both sides met again on Friday, and things appear even better.

As I have said many times, Jeter will be re-signed by the Yankees before the Winter Meetings. Cashman wants to concentrate solely on the free agent possibilities without hordes of Jeter questions.

And the Yankees almost pulled off a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers in a swap of catchers. Francisco Cervelli was headed to LA-LA land for the overrated Russell Martin, a guy who can’t receive the ball cleanly and whose OPS has rapidly declined.

All for the privilege of paying Martin a few million bucks while playing bad baseball. Now that Martin is essentially a free agent after being non-tendered, they maybe can get him much cheaper, maybe Sergio Mitre money—double what Cervelli earns.

Did you even know that while Cervelli will be cheaper for the Yankees this season and the pitchers like working with him, the Kid had an even higher OPS than Martin each of the last two seasons? Cervelli even slugged higher than Martin did each season.

Look it up, I’ll wait.

Now the Yankees have inquired with OF Carl Crawford’s representatives and both sides could meet at the Winter Meetings next week.

Why not? The expensive seats in the New-New Yankees Stadium were almost full for the playoffs. They have the cash.

But even if you have the cash, why is there a hole burning in the Yankees pocket to spend it on other teams players?

They don’t need Carl Crawford, especially at about $17-20 million per year. Brett Gardner is fine out in LF; he gets on base, plays great defense and will probably be the full time lead off hitter in 2011.

Yankees don’t need Crawford, but it sure looks like they want him.

I drive a Toyota Avalon. It is a nice car and gets me around the block and to the ball fields in Scranton, Trenton and Staten Island. It is not what I want. I want a Ferrari (black by the way), but I can’t afford a Ferrari.

And the Yankees can’t afford Crawford and Lee after signing Mariano for $15 million per year and Jeter for a minimum of $17 million per year. After the two first ballot HOFers are in the stable, that would give the Yankees an existing payroll of $176 million, not including Andy Pettitte, not including the arbitration-eligible guys.

After the Mitre deal, arb-eligible players includes Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Boone Logan. Predictions run as high as $8 million for those three.

If the Yankees sign both Lee and Crawford, it would add around $40 million per season, probably a few dollars more. That gives the Yankees $224 million before Pettitte.

That is $224 million plus about $20-$30 million in luxury tax.

In 2012, the Yankees would have eliminated Jorge Posada from the payroll but will still have $107 million plus Jeter, Mo, Lee and Crawford and raises for Granderson and a Swisher option for 2012.  

Trade somebody? Who? Swisher? What are you going to get for him? Well, maybe the Yanks can buyout Swisher’s contract for the million bucks after 2012. They could waive AJ and hope someone takes him, saving a zillion dollars and a bunch of future blow ups.

Then what about when Cano’s deal comes up in his age 30 year after his 2013 option? How much will he deserve when he has a few more seasons like 2010?

Maybe $20 million, how about $25 million per? Then after Hughes has another 18-win season, what is he going to earn?

Isn’t this getting out of hand? When does this end for the Yankees? Does every player on their starting nine have to have eight figure salaries?

Why not sign Pujols next season for a 1B/3B/DH guy as a rover? They can trade all their young prospects for Prince Fielder to be a power lefty off the bench. The team doesn’t need all the prospects since they are not promoting their own but signing other teams best players.

I know all these free agent signings (and highly unlikely trades mentioned above) will get Doug Rush’s tighty-whities at half staff, but signing Lee and Crawford would force the Yankees into a terrible financial bind through the next decade.  

And, in a young man’s game, more than half their roster will be in their mid-30s.

Yeah, I am sure that Lee’s couple of back issues over the last few years are nothing. And Crawford running and playing all those games on the carpeted concrete in the Trop in Tampa won’t affect his speed or quality of play in 2013 and beyond.

I find it very hard to root against guys like Crawford and Lee, then have to turn around and have to root for them (for the benefit of my favorite team) over the next half decade.

I appreciate the work that CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira put in as Yankee players, but they are not nearly as big fans of theirs as I am for Jeter, Cano, Pettitte, Posada, Gardner, Hughes and Mariano.

AJ Burnett I could care less about and actually root against him.  

I frankly don’t want the Yankees to sign Lee or Crawford, the Yankees do not need them. They won 95 games last season without either one and will not have to go up against Crawford 19 times a year when the Angels sign him.

I believe (hope?) the Yankees are just blowing smoke on Crawford. They like to play the cloak and dagger stuff to the hilt and it seems are trying to bankrupt the Boston Red Sox.

The idea in spending big money on contracts is to re-sign your own players you want to keep (Rivera and Jeter). Or you extend even younger guys beyond their arbitration seasons and perhaps a few free agent years (Cano, Hughes?). It is not to sign other teams best players every other season.

Except if Albert Pujols becomes available, then the Yanks can move Alex to DH, Tex to third and leave Pujols at first or maybe let Albert play 3B.

Until Evan Longoria becomes available in 2017.

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