It Was All Worth It

Cliff Lee went 2-0 in the Rangers' ALDS matchup against the Tampa Bay Rays

By: Chris Ross

When you go to the casino to play the slots do you expect to win? Do you go to a casino expecting to win when you put all your money on double zero? The odds aren’t terrible, but they aren’t in your favour either.

In professional sports, general managers constantly flirt with the odds when they decide to pick up rental players.

Rental players are generally players who are picked up by a team for the last portion of the season in hopes of helping the team win its respective league championship in exchange for that player’s market value. Obviously, the better the player, the steeper the price. A big risk to take for one shot at glory if you ask me. The chances of a rental player being worth the value given up to get him are very low and past situations have demonstrated this fact many times. However, for the Texas Rangers, ‘renting’ Cliff Lee from the Seattle Mariners has already proven to be worth it.

The Texas Rangers earned their shot at taking on the New York Yankees in the ALCS by knocking off the Tampa Bay Rays tonight on the backs of another stellar Cliff Lee postseason performance. Lee went the distance, giving up 6 hits, an earned run, while fanning 11 in the 5-1 victory.

Wait, so then why does one playoff round make the Cliff Lee rental a worthwhile endeavour?

Under most circumstances I would say it doesn’t, but with the Texas Rangers you have to look at where they would be without their ace and where they are now.

In general, I am an advocate against the acquisition of rental players. Teams are forced to give up their potential future, prospects and draft picks, for a player that can hardly guarantee even a real shot at a title. There are too many examples of teams falling short of the mark after acquiring a soon-to-be marquee free agent. In the NHL you look to an example like Nashville and Peter Forsberg, where the Predators gave up a 1st and 3rd round pick along with Scottie Upshall and Ryan Parent, only to be knocked out in the first round of the playoffs

How about just reminiscing to last year’s World Series where the Phillies fell short of a title despite the acquisition of, wouldn’t ya know it, Cliff Lee.

The difference here is that the Texas Rangers franchise is currently navigating through uncharted waters all thanks to one Mr. Lee. The Texas Rangers had never won a playoff series prior to last night’s ALDS victory and for a franchise that had never reached the second round of the postseason it seems like it is already a success to have overcome a team that was considered by some to be Major League Baseball’s elite.

I don’t think that anyone can logically argue that without Cliff Lee the Rangers would have beaten the Rays.

There is almost no doubt that the Rangers would have still taken NFC West-like AL West, but they got Cliff Lee for one thing only and that thing is the playoffs. Lee did not have the best win-loss record, nor did he pitch his best ball with the Rangers during the regular season. He went a mediocre 4-6 with a 3.98 ERA, but seriously it didn’t matter.

Cliff Lee pitched two marvellous games against the Rays. As I mentioned earlier, he pitched a complete game tonight in the biggest game of the season and pitched 7 great innings in game 1. Oh yeah, in 16 playoff innings he didn’t walk a batter.

The Rangers did go on to win game 2 but then at home they lost game’s 3 and 4. Now imagine them having C.J. Wilson instead of Cliff Lee at the front end of their rotation, everyone moves one spot up and who knows what happens in the series. My best guess is that they lose, but that’s just me.

Think about it, what if the Mariners had decided to keep Cliff Lee? Maybe the Rangers decided they didn’t want to give away their future in first-basemen Justin Smoak to seal the deal?

Well that didn’t happen. The Mariners decided to get something back for their key off-season purchase and the Rangers felt that Lee was worth Justin Smoak, Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke and Matt Lawson.

It will be a few years before we can truly decide who got the better end of the deal, but right now it looks like a win-win situation with the only possible losers being the Seattle Mariners. Justin Smoak, the key piece in the deal, disappointed in his time with the Mariners. He hit a brutal .209 with 8 homers and 34 runs batted in. However, don’t be too quick to judge. Smoak isn’t even 24 years of age yet so there is lots of time for him to develop.

In the end what does it all mean?

The franchise’s first playoff series victory, a legitimate chance at playing for the World Series, and a team that might not be in the place where they are right now without a certain someone. I’d say that Cliff Lee is already well worth the price.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I’m now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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About Chris Ross
Questions, comments, suggestions? Send yours to cross_can15@hotmail.com. Follow me on twitter @paintstheblack

17 Responses to It Was All Worth It

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  2. unclemonkey says:

    I think pitcher is the one position, especially when it is an ace where a difference is made by aquiring a rental player for the playoffs. What do you think of the next series where Lee is going to be pitching the 3rd game? If it goes the distance of 7 games, it could work out for them as Lee would be the game 7 starter too.

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  4. Christian says:

    I think the “rental” was certainly worth it for getting over the hump of finally winning a playoff series. BUT… it would have been worth so much more if Texas had been able to finish the Rays off in three. Yes, Lee can start Game 7 against the Yankees, if it gets that far, but if the Rangers can’t hold the Yankees down in Games 1 and 2, it may not matter.

  5. tophatal says:

    Chris

    I’d like to thank the Rays for not turning up last night as they simply proved to me once again that when it comes to dealing with pressure the team simply doesn’t have what it takes .

    The Rays’ offense was pitiful as they simply chose not try and make an effort at getting a hit other than the effort of Bartlett.

    tophatal :)

  6. Nick Poust says:

    As I said in my reply to your comment, I do think the Rays would have been beatable without Lee, considering their many holes on offense, but he certainly made it look easy in his two starts.

    A good article Chris. I like how you incorporate Lee’s past and the trade that sent him to the Rangers in your piece, incorporating those pieces of information with his latest dominance.

    Well done, and I hope to hear from you again soon. I’ll be reading your articles as well!

  7. mattmclear says:

    Another good article. Without Cliff Lee Rays have a much better chance to win the series and I think would match up better vs the Yankees. Rangers have a shot don’t get me wrong but not having Lee until a game 3, that will hurt. I mean look at Lee’s career playoff stats he is a beast. 6-0 1.44 ERA 3 CG 56.1 IP 38 hits 12 R 9 ER 1 HR 6 BB 54 K’s. Only having him pitch 1 game MAYBE 2 I think hurts their chance of beating a strong Yankees line up. If only they could play their home games at Tropicana Field. I tell you what though, Lee vs Yankees in game 7 if it happens, watch out Bronx.

    Go Pirates.

    http://www.mattmclear.wordpress.com

  8. Ricky Keeler says:

    Cliff Lee has already been worth it for the Rangers, but I don’t see it happening in the ALCS for this Rangers team. If he is only pitching Game 3, the Yankees I have heard would maybe go Hughes in Game 2 against an inconsistent Colby Lewis and throw one of the top postseason pitchers of all-time in Andy Pettitte on the mound and the same would hold true for a Game 7. Lee is great, one of the top postseason pitchers of all-time as well, but I could never go against Andy Pettitte with the way he grinds out a baseball game to get out of key jams the way Price could not last night.

    Texas made a huge move at the deadline and it paid off for this season, but long haul, Lee will be in Pinstripes before Christmas when it is all set and done. NY also is 3-0 against Texas in Yankee Stadium this year. I know that was in April but playing a postseason matchup in Yankee Stadium for a young team is going to be tough to handle the emotions early on.

  9. falcon7204 says:

    Nicely written. I tend to agree on the value of “rent-a-players,” but I disagree that the Rangers couldn’t have won the series without him. Granted, all of the pitchers would have had to step up their game, but look at where the Rangers were when they acquired Lee. They were already in first place in the West, C. J. and Tommy Hunter were pitching lights out, and even Derek Holland had flashes of greatness. So getting someone like Lee was beneficial, but not crucial, IMO. Also, I believe Greenberg and Ryan are serious when they say they want Lee to stick around after the playoffs – they desperately need a #1 starter (look at the Feldman debacle to start the season), and having that plus some playoff experience makes the team more attractive to other free agents, such as, oh, an 8th-inning setup man, or a power-hitting first baseman, or a catcher with some offense. Those are the needs the Rangers will have to address before spring training, and holding on to Lee makes it easier for them to do it, whether or not they beat the Yankees in the ALCS. BTW, my prediction: Rangers in 6, closing it out at Arlington.

  10. blake0809 says:

    Good read. I think that in the Rangers case this was a no brainer to grab Lee if for no other reason to lose the distinction of being the longest running franchise to never advance in a postseason series. The Rangers with Nolan Ryan in the front office will make a run at signing Lee to a deal but I would be surprised if he signs with them as the checkbooks will be wide open.

    http://blake0809.wordpress.com/

  11. Benti says:

    There is a bigger reason that this rental is important for the Rangers. Cliff Lee puts the fear of GOD in the New York Yankees and their fans. If the Rangers can get to a 7th game against the Yankees, which is not an impossibility with their offense, Cliff Lee can take them to the World Series.

    The worst thing to happen to the Rangers was losing Game 4 at home in the ALDS. Now, the Rangers can’t throw Lee in Games 1, 4 and 7 which you know they would love to do. Instead, it would be Games 3 and 7 unless the Rangers need a win in Game 6. The Rangers could still win one or both games at home. Their offense is nas-tee and suddenly they also learned to play smallball. Also, outside of CC, no Yankees starter is really that scary. CJ Wilson, the Rangers #2 is better than anything else the Yankees have. I think we have a series here ladies and gentleman.

    ~Benti, bostonsbettah.com

  12. Take one look at the Rangers and you see one of the biggest ‘rental failures,’ if you will of all. When Texas traded away stud first baseman Mark Teixiera to Atlanta, they got back Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. I don’t recall the Braves making the World Series that year and Teixiera was traded to Anaheim the following season, again as a ‘rental’ and again without a significant impact. Nelson Cruz was acquired by Texas in 2006 along with Carlos Lee in a trade with the Brewers for Kevin Mench, Francisco Cordero, Laynce Nix, and Julian Cordero. Amazing, isn’t it that Cruz has by far made a bigger impact with Texas long term. Two years later the Brewers ‘rented’ CC Sabathia and he steamrolled National League lineups for the remainder of the regular season, leading them to a playoff birth. His lone postseason appearance was a huge disappointment–considering he went 11-2 with Milwaukee down the stretch–as he failed to get out of the 4th inning and the Brewers were eliminated by eventual champion Philadelphia.

  13. Hey Chris, thanks for checking out my blog and the comment. Good read for you as well! I agree with you, many times rentals don’t work out in the end. But the move for Lee was right for a number of reasons: (1) Good timing. The Rangers minor league system has been ranked towards the top for the last 2-3 years. In other words, we’re not “going for broke” when we’re giving up prospects for Lee. (2) An ace is something Texas has lacked since I can remember. Kevin Millwood last year, supposed to be Rich Harden this year which was a huge flop. True, C.J. Wilson surprised many and stepped up this year (15-8, 3.35 ERA), but Cliff Lee is even better than C.J. (3) The main piece of that trade that Texas gave up was Smoak, a 1B prospect, and first base is definitely a premium position. Smoak had been tearing it up at AAA. But it’s a good point to remember there’s a HUGE difference between someone who has established themselves in the majors and someone who hasn’t.

  14. lott5 says:

    Hey Chris, thank you for looking at my blog and for the comment. Your article hits the nail on the head. Cliff Lee has set up the Rangers for possible history. I’ll definitely check out more of your posts. I’m also glad to hear that you’re a Yankee hater like me. On a side note about Cliff Lee, I am from Arkansas and was a Cliff Lee fan when he played for my Hogs, just thought you might like that. And by the way, my college roommate is from Benton, Arkansas, Cliff Lee’s hometown. So in other words this whole situation is pretty sweet. Keep posting!

  15. Xander says:

    Chris, thanks for the visit on Caught Looking. You’re right on this post…the Cliff Lee acquisition was definitely worth it, and it actually could end up being one of the best midseason pickups in MLB history. Lee is in so much of a zone right now in the playoffs that I already have him penciled in for two wins in his starts in the ALCS. If Texas just find two more wins, this move will lead them to the World Series. Not a bad move at all for Smoak, who like “fanofbaseball24″ says, there’s a huge difference between a minor league prospect and an established major leaguer…especially a pitcher.

  16. Thanks for the comment. I like your angle on rentals and have to agree almost to a word. Have to say I’ll be checking back regularly to see how this is doing. Hope you’ll do the same.

  17. disruptor32 says:

    “I don’t think that anyone can logically argue that without Cliff Lee the Rangers would have beaten the Rays.”

    Chris, that was right on the money. Any argument to the contrary would be, ahem, highly illogical. Wilson is good, and Hunter ain’t terrible, but Lee won that series. 2 games, a couple runs, NO WALKS. If the ALDS had an MVP it would be Cliff Lee. I would imagine it’s worth it for Texas to rent him just because they popped their playoff cherry and finally got a postseason series win. I think it’s one and done, though, and Lee is not going to be able to help them beyond game 3 because the ALCS will be over in 5 or 6. It’s not going to 7, especially after the brutal Rangers loss last night.

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