The KC Royals are still in the market for starting pitching help. Can they provide the “perfect fit” that former Phillies and Indians ace Cliff Lee wants in order to return to the game?
Otherwise, Cliff Lee couldn’t ask for a better situation for his return to the game. The KC Royals are a dream destination for a 37-year-old starting pitcher looking to score one more multi-year deal. The Kansas City Royals provide:
- a winning team (really, how much better are you going to do than the defending World Series champs?)
- a great defense
- a shut down bullpen that figures to be among the best in the game
- a versatile long reliever in Chris Young that can step into the rotation so that Lee doesn’t have to take the ball while nursing an injury
- an available rotation spot
- a big park that suppresses home runs
Indeed, CBS Sports writer Mike Axisa listed Kansas City as one of five possible fits for Cliff Lee, along with the Detroit Tigers, Washington Nationals, Pittsburgh Pirates, and the Toronto Blue Jays.
More from KC Royals Rumors
- KC Royals Winter Meetings Tracker: Day 2 update
- KC Royals Rumors: Club should pass on this Yankee
- MLB Trade Deadline Rumors: KC Royals at a glance
- KC Royals Rumors: Is club pulling the trade trigger?
- Wainwright deal would create issues for KC Royals
Of the five, I think the Kansas City Royals are the best fit.
The Tigers still have a questionable bullpen despite adding K-Rod (Francisco Rodriguez) and a number of aging defensive players. In short the Tigers look like a team that needs to rebuild, but won’t do so because owner Mike Ilitch is 86 years old and wants to win a title while he still is around to enjoy it.
The Washington Nationals have been hailed by pundits as the most talented team in baseball the last two seasons, but got knocked out in the NLDS in 2014 and didn’t make the playoffs in 2015 despite Bryce Harper breaking through to win the NL MVP. Toronto plays in a bandbox, and lacks the KC Royals’ bullpen. Meanwhile, the Pirates have earned a wild card the last three seasons, but lost in the NLDS in 2013, and lost the wild card game the last two years.
The Kansas City Royals also hold what I think is the most attractive trump card in baseball: they have a roster that has proved they can win big games. Only the Giants can claim to have post-season mojo like Kansas City, and they don’t need rotation help after signing Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto.
Cliff Lee offers ace upside at what figures to be a bargain rate. Lee was an all-star in 2013 with a 14-8 record with a 2.87 ERA in 222.2 innings. He was even effective in 2014 (when he suffered a torn tendon in his forearm) going 4-5, 3.65 ERA. While his ERA looked like a decline, his Fielding Independent Pitching came in right in line with his career numbers at 2.96.
The only way I can see the KC Royals losing out on Cliff Lee (if they decided to go after him) is if the other teams substantially outbid them. Teams probably want a one-year deal, while Lee might favor a multi-year contract with a one-year opt out clause like Scott Kazmir negotiated with the Dodgers.