Cy Young winner Cliff Lee open to extension. Paul Hoynes, PD.
I know, CC Sabathia was also open to staying with the Indians, but extending Lee is a more realistic possibility, albeit with some hurdles.
When asked about signing an extension, Lee said, "Why not? It's something that interests me. No one has talked to me about it. Yeah, I'm open to it."
Lee has two years left on his current contract, a juncture when player and management are usually both motivated to negotiate. The problem is valuation: Lee's coming off one of the best seasons in franchise history, but that followed an awful 2007 season. He's been good in the past (2003, 2005), but nothing foreshadowed what he did in 2008.
Would CC Sabathia's contract with the Yankees - seven years for $161 million - interest him?
"I wouldn't mind that," said Lee, with a big smile. "I wouldn't mind having that. I don't think that's reality, but I'd take that."
The Sabathia contract was a perfect storm, a confluence of Sabathia's ability and career stage, the means of the richest sports franchise in North America, and the pressing need the Yankees had for starting pitching. Lee's a couple years older than Sabathia, obviously won't be a free agent for another couple years, and hasn't pitched as consistently as CC. With Jake Westbrook coming off the books after 2010, the money should be there to get Lee locked up...if the Indians think that they'll be getting a reasonable facsimile of the 2008 Lee over the next four seasons.
Of course, if the Indians wait a season to see if he's for real, there's a good chance Lee won't be receptive to an extension this time next year, regardless of what happens, for by then free agency would be in sight. Lee wouldn't have much to gain signing a contract extension the season before free agency.
This brought back memories:
Lee, an avid hunter, spent time this winter hunting deer and ducks with former Indians teammates Brian Tallet, Billy Traber, Joe Inglett, Ben Broussard, Matt Miller and Jason Davis.
It's amazing what five years can do to a baseball career. In 2003 all of those players were either major-league rookies or at least decent prospects.
With the exception of Matt Miller, everyone on that list played in the majors somewhere in 2008, but several of them seem to be playing their way out of baseball. Tallet and Inglett both have carved nice careers out for themselves, but Broussard's career looks to have cratered.