Those words this morning from Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. The language is a little stronger than prior reports, which suggested that the Indians were willing to listen to offers but would have to be overwhelmed. Of course, the Indians are always wiling to listen to offers — literally on any player — and of course, they will still need to be overwhelmed in order to trade Cliff Lee.
So what's different about this report? The suggestion that the Indians essentially have put the other 29 clubs "on notice" — we really might trade this guy, so if you were thinking about trying to overwhelm us, better get on it right now before some other club does.
The Colon/Sabathia bonus: Act now, and you can have him for three months in this year's pennant race, not just two. And the only-Colon bonus: You also get a very reasonable 2010 option, which means (best case) he can be part of your pennant race next year as well, or (worst case) you can re-flip him a year from now if you're out of it.
Rosenthal reports that the Rangers potentially make a good fit, if they can figure out a way to fit in his salary, and if they're willing to let go of an advanced prospect who's a potential ace. Rosenthal reported just four days ago that the Dodger have an interest, and that the Phillies inquired but weren't yet prepared to overwhelm.
In today's report, Rosenthal quotes a source as saying that Lee is set on becoming a free agent after 2010. This is not entirely news, and the then-age-32 pitcher is unlikely to be a good value signing for any club. It does reflect the reality that with another disappointing season under our belts, we're losing whatever shine we had with respect to signing or re-signing veterans who want to win.
Lee's sentiment may be giving the Indians a little push here, although they certainly are in a position to do nothing and not feel stupid about it. Much moreso than in prior years, however, money may be a real factor — not for 2009, but for 2010. The economic situation combined with a disappointing season could lead to truly massive shortfalls in ticket revenue, both for 2009 walkups and 2010 season tickets. A highly touted rookie may not be able to match Lee's performance in 2010, but he might not be that far off, and he'll definitely be $8 million cheaper.
Even beyond all that, the simple reality is that there likely will never be a better time to sell high on Cliff Lee. He is the reigning AL Cy Young winner, and he's got a 2.23 ERA over his last 14 starts. Over his last 47 starts, he has a 2.67 ERA, and he's allowed only 19 home runs in that span while averaging more than 7 IP per start.