As we enter the second day of the MLB Free Agency period, teams are beginning to contact the agents of respective free agents and express interest in their clients.The one agent’s phone that is probably buzzing is Darek Braunecker’s. Braunecker is the agent for starting pitcher Cliff Lee, who many consider to be the top free agent on the market. Early indications are that Lee is in line to get a 6 year deal, worth at least $23MM per season. That would put the grand total of the Lee’s next contract at $138MM for six years. I should mention that the Chicago Cubs projected payroll for the 2011 season is $125MM. Which is why you would tend to think that the Chicago Cubs would not financially be able to go after Cliff Lee. However, according to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News, the Cubs are one of seven teams believed to have expressed interest in Cliff Lee in the early stages of the free agent period.
Now, this does not make much sense if you have been listening to the Chicago media and even Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts. Ricketts stated last week on the “Afternoon Saloon” an ESPN 1000 radio show, that he does not envision the Cubs having the flexibility to go after Cliff Lee.
Think about it, the Chicago Cubs still appear to be focused on signing Adam Dunn this winter. Adam Dunn is projected to make $13.3MM per season on 3 or 4 year deal. If the Chicago Cubs are struggling to get the money to sign Adam Dunn, how on earth would they be able to afford $23MM per season for six years for Cliff Lee.
Don’t get me wrong, Cliff Lee would be a perfect for the Chicago Cubs and what they are looking for. The Cubs need a top of the line starter, who can eat innings every time he goes onto the mound. If last season was any indication, Cliff Lee far succeeds each everyone of those skills that the Cubs are looking for. However, considering that the Yankee’s desperately want him, and the Rangers need him back, his value is at an all time high for a starting pitcher. Which, that alone, drives the Cubs out of the derby for Cliff Lee.
Also, there are less expensive options on the market that the Cubs are probably considering. We already know that they are targeting Jon Garland as being one of their front end starters, who can eat innings when he is on the mound. Garland had a very good year with the Padre’s this past season, having over 14 wins with and ERA of 3.46 and going over 200 innings pitched.
While any team would love to have Cliff Lee, for the Cubs, it is just not a logical idea to think they can afford him.