The KC Royals are well-known to need rotation help in 2016 after losing Johnny Cueto and Jeremy Guthrie to free agency. Should the Kansas City Royals try to land former Indians and Phillies ace Cliff Lee?
Cliff Lee says he intends to pitch in 2016, according to CBS Sports reporter Jon Heyman:
Though he is 37-years-old, what makes the possibility interesting is that he was pretty effective the last time he pitched in 2014. That season, Lee went 4-5 in 81.1 innings, with a 3.65 ERA. While that was only 3% above league average ERA+ (103), his 2.96 Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) suggested Lee should have gotten much better results.
Lee has not pitched since July 31, 2014 due to elbow and forearm problems. He sat out the 2015 season attempting to let his common flexor tendon (forearm) heal without surgical intervention and has now received medical clearance to throw once again.
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The downside is that this latest attempt is the third time Lee has tried to come back from his injury without surgery. The upside is that Cliff Lee might still be a top-of-the-rotation talent. Given his medical history, Lee is likely to be looking for a one-year, “prove it” deal to re-establish his value. A team that takes a chance on him could get a rotation headliner for bottom-of-the-rotation money.
The team that signs Cliff Lee will need significant rotation depth, because it’s simply not reasonable to expect him to hold down a rotation spot for a full season. A strong bullpen would be a big plus, to prevent too much wear and tear on Lee’s arm. Finally, Cliff Lee would probably like a team with a strong defense to put himself in the best display case for a two-year deal next winter.
Add it all up, and the KC Royals look like a good fit.
Last season, the Kansas City Royals showed they could win a lot of games without a true ace. They mixed and matched starters due to both ineffectiveness (Jeremy Guthrie) and injury (Jason Vargas, Yordano Ventura). If KC Royals general manager Dayton Moore brings back swingman Chris Young, the Royals will have the perfect insurance in case Cliff Lee can only pitch part of the season.
Signing Cliff Lee to a bargain contract would be very similar to the deals that Dayton Moore gave to Kris Medlen, Chris Young, and Joe Blanton last winter that helped the Kansas City Royals win the 2015 title.
In fact, given the KC Royals situation, they might not even need Cliff Lee to be a rotation horse. If manager Ned Yost can treat him like Chris Young last season, Lee could prove very useful during the 2016 playoffs.