Longtime Cleveland Indians pitcher Cliff Lee is reportedly only looking for a one-year deal in free agency after missing all of 2015, according to Jon Heyman. Could his former team in Cleveland be a fit?
Lee spent the first seven-and-a-half seasons of his Major League career with the Indians, winning the Cy Young in his final year (2008), with a 2.54 ERA, 2.83 FIP, 6.7 fWAR season. He was traded in a deal to the Philadelphia Phillies halfway through the 2009 season that netted Carlos Carrasco, among other prospects that did not pan out for the Indians.
Not only would bringing him back be a nice rush of nostalgia for Tribe fans, but more importantly, he could further solidify an already deep pitching rotation, and potentially make it easier for the front office to trade one of their current "second tier" pitchers, such as Cody Anderson or Josh Tomlin. However, there is always a drawback with signing a 37-year-old starting pitcher, and Cliff Lee’s, in particular, could be pretty severe.
Lee has not seen action since July of 2014, when he left a contest against the Washington Nationals after only 2.2 innings. The southpaw was diagnosed with a strained flexor tendon and his season ended after only 13 starts. The following March, then 36-year-old Lee was facing potentially a career-ending elbow injury which lingered through and ended up costing him, the entire 2015 season.
Baseball has seemingly not balked on Lee’s potential to make a full recovery at all. At least half the teams in the league (literally) are said to be interested in Lee, and there is reason to believe one of them could be the Indians. If the Indians plan to address their offensive issues through a trade, acquiring Lee via free agency could open that door. Or, if they are done making any kind of expensive moves, Lee makes the pitching staff that much more potent for the Tribe in 2016.
While he would come slightly more expensive than the Indians other moves, Lee fits right into the team's ideas for this offseason: Make a bunch of moves and hope one pans out. This one comes with a much higher risk, but a much higher reward than claiming someone like Joey Butler off waivers. But a rotation of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Cliff Lee, and Trevor Bauer/Cody Anderson/Josh Tomlin/T.J. House could be too much to pass up. The fact that Cliff is not looking to be signed on for several years is also a big plus for the Indians.
But even with the injury, Lee is expected to get a large sum of money for one year of his services. He is also looking to join a winning team, so if he does not see that in Cleveland this year he may not be interested in signing on, but that should not stop the Indians from at least taking a look.