With nearly $50 million coming off the books in 2010, the Brewers have made it pretty apparent they plan on focusing on starting pitching. I know, what's new? Although they have been burned in the past, the Brewers have some options on the free agent market, including Cliff Lee.
In all honesty, the Brewers are not that far away from being a major force in 2011. Brewers owner Mark Attanasio has expressed hesitation to give big money to another pitcher. This has led many to believe the Brewers will ship first baseman Prince Fielder for a front line starter. My question is why?
I completely agree trading Fielder is in the best interest of the team, but not for a soon-to-be free agent starter. The maximum value for Prince would come in the form of a couple of top prospects; one of which being a starter. By doing this, the Brewers will have six full seasons of control over that player. By trading Fielder for a pitcher like Matt Garza (I heard some rumors of this), the Brewers would still be on the hook for a large contract and have limited control before Garza leaves for free agency.
Say the Brewers ship Fielder for a top pitching prospect. They know will also have Fielder's contract off the books, which could immediately be used to throw at Cliff Lee. This would give the Brewers both a young starter to build around and the bets left hander on the planet.
If there was any debate who the best lefty in the game was coming into this year, Lee has silenced it.
Lee, 31, has always been an incredible pitcher, but has been unreal this year. After missing a full month, Lee still ranks 6th in the American League in innings pitched with 179.2. How is that possible? Well, Lee has averaged nearly eight innings a start. Considering how overworked the Brewers bullpen has been in recent years, that's a huge addition.
It's one thing to throw innings, but it's another to dominate during those frames. That's exactly what Lee has done. This season Lee has struck out 156 batters. That's very good, but what makes it incredible is his control. He leads MLB with a gaudy 13:1 K:BB ratio, issuing only 12 walks. According to FanGraphs, Lee has racked up a WAR of 19.8 over the past 2.5 seasons. Like I said, he's the best southpaw baseball has seen in a while.
The real question is the price tag that comes along with Lee. Seeing as he is the best pitcher on the market, he won't come cheap. I'd venture to guess Lee wants something around five years somewhere in the range of $80 million. Even that might be a little light. I agree that's huge money, but Lee could really put the Brewers over the top. Ryan Braun and likely Rickie Weeks will be locked up over the next five seasons at reasonable prices. In Lee, the Brewers would then have a solid starter to put alongside Yovani Gallardo. A 1-2 of Lee and Gallardo could reek havoc for the next couple of seasons in the Brew city.