It really hurts that I won’t get to see Cliff Lee as a Ranger next year. At the time of the news, I was devastated that it seemed like he’d spurned my team to play for the city that has the Eagles. As more details come out, though, while I’m still sad Cliff Lee won’t be a Ranger, I’m happy the Rangers made the decision to let him go.
Lee apparently could have been in Texas for seven years and around $161 million. If the market for free agents inflates over the next few years the way it has over the past five by FanGraphs’ estimation, then that’s paying Lee to be worth approximately FIVE wins above replacement per year. He has easily cleared that threshold each of the last three years, but he’s about to be 32. How long do you expect him to keep that up? Eight guys in the AL cleared that mark in 2010, most of them folks within the standard peak years for a baseball player.
Five wins is a lot, it’s better than All-Star. It’s what Joey Matschulat calls “elite,” and I’m stealing that term from him. It’s often guys who have a good argument for appearing on MVP ballots. It is the cream of the crop, the best few handfuls of players in a given year.
Lee has been that, but will he continue? Frankly, I’m going to say no. You’re asking him to be an All-Star-caliber player when he’s close to 40, or to be at least as good in the next couple of years as he has been — if not better — just to make up for the back end. I was torn on expecting him to average that over the next six years. If you have to add a year on top of that, I will sadly say, “thank you, I’ll be taking my draft picks now.”
I like that the front office took a hard stance, didn’t get emotional, and made a touch decision that’s probably in the best interests of the team. I also like that they showed an ability to expand payroll in the future if they have to.
This isn’t fun at all, but it’s most likely for the good of the team, and that’s what’s important.