You probably already know by now that after Cliff Lee, there’s a huge drop off in quality of the remaining available starters, whether via free agent or trade. I discussed it in my post on Montero yesterday, and Matt did as well. But what if the new Rangers ownership sells Lee (and his wife) on living in Texas, close to his Arkansas home, and decides to blow Lee away in terms of years? What if the Yanks (with their aging roster) decide that they want don’t half their 2013 payroll tied up in guys over the age of 35? It’s hard to imagine the Yanks ever being outbid for a player they really want, but don’t forget this is a new ownership in place under Hal Steinbrenner, so previous track record doesn’t necessarily apply. Also, they’re nowhere hear as desperate for Lee as they were for Sabathia in 2008. Back then, they were coming off their first year of missing the playoffs since the early 1990′s. This year, they’re coming off a berth in the ALCS.
So what’s their Plan B? ESPN’s Buster Olney provides some clues. In a Friday radio interview with 1050 ESPN’s Michael Kay, he says the Yanks have “a very finite view” of what they plan to spend for the 32 year old pitcher, and that plan B for the Yanks would be to pursue Carl Crawford. This contradicts a recent report by the Daily News’ Mark Feinsand that stated the Yanks have no plans to pursue the former Rays left fielder. Although it’s possible both reports are accurate, where the Feinsand report is in the context of a Lee signing. The idea behind signing Crawford would be that since there’s no high end pitching available, they simply upgrade their offense and move forward for 2011.
Or would it? Could signing Crawford signal a trade opportunity? Signing Crawford would give the Yankees a surplus of outfielders. You could slide Brett Gardner into his natural CF position (and maximize his value defensively) and offer Curtis Granderson or Nick Swisher in a deal for a starter. Or you could simply slide Crawford into LF and deal off Brett Gardner. As I discussed yesterday, the only team with excess starting pitching is the newly minted World Series champion San Francisco Giants. They need a 1B and LF with journeyman Aubrey Huff and Pat Burrell both going free agent. Nate Schierholtz is still under team control, but gave them little as their everyday RF in 2010. CF Aaron Rowand played so poorly in 2010 that the team started Andres Torres in the playoffs. Could signing Crawford could pave the way for a deal where the Yanks build a deal around (any) one of their outfielders for someone like Jonathan Sanchez? Or even better, a blockbuster deal where you add Montero, who most scouts view as a 1B, and pry away someone like Matt Cain? Perhaps, Matt Cain has a balloon payment at the end of his contract extension where he makes 7.5 mil for 2011 and 15 mil for 2012. A mid-market payroll team like the Giants could decide to sell him now and fill some needs rather than have their backs to the wall in 2011 with Lincecum (18 mil) Zito (18.5 mil) and Cain (15 mil) eating up half their payroll. But I’m just speculating, the point I wanted to make is that there would be a good match between the two teams. If the Yanks think the Lee market is going beyond where they want to spend, I wouldn’t panic. There’s always a Plan B with the Yanks, and unlike past years they have the trade chips to make a deal happen.