Jeff Samardzija is gone and took Jason Hammel with him. Brandon McCarthy is in and Vidal Nuno is out. However, the New York Yankees are still in desperate need of pitching with C.C. Sabathia out for the year, and possibly longer, and Michael Pineda out until at least August and possibly longer. The trade market is already swinging and there is heavy indication the Tampa Bay Rays will trade David Price. The only issue is the Rays are unlikely to deal him within the division and the Yankees might lack what the Rays would want in return.
That leaves few trade candidates for GM Brian Cashman to choose from. One that sticks out is a name Yankees’ fans are familiar with, Cliff Lee. Lee has been on the Philadelphia Phillies’ disabled list since May 20th with an elbow strain and is currently making rehab starts as he works his way back.
The 35-year-old Lee was 4-4 with a 3.18 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 68 innings this season. His walk per nine was a pleasant 1.2 and despite allowing what would be a career high 10.3 hits per nine he still owned a respectable 1.27 WHIP. His K/9 was 8.1 which is above his career line of 7.6 per nine. Last season, Lee averaged a strikeout per inning.
The Phillies might be looking to dump salary as they rebuild. That doesn’t mean Lee would come free. The Yankees, however, should have the kind of prospects that would get a deal done. Lee was signed through 2015 to a five-year, $120 million deal with a vesting option for 2016. He is still owed between $50 and $60 million on that contract but the Yankees can afford to absorb that. In fact, they might have no choice but to absorb that.
With Sabathia’s career very much in question, the Yankees need to add another arm and the left-handed Lee would be an ideal fit to slide into the rotation between Masahiro Tanaka and Hiroki Kuroda. As soon as Lee shows he is healthy, the Yankees must burn the phone lines until the Phillies cave. Lee is exactly the arm the Yankees need to challenge for the playoffs in Derek Jeter’s last season.