Home > MLB > Mariners Pitcher Cliff Lee Set for Free Agency?

Mariners Pitcher Cliff Lee Set for Free Agency?

On Friday night, Mariners starting pitcher Cliff Lee dazzled the Seattle fans for the first time since the offseason trade that brought him to the Great Northwest. Lee, making his first start of the season due to a lengthy DL stint, dominated the Texas Rangers over 7 shutout innings, striking out 8 in the process.

On Saturday, however, Lee was grabbing headlines for reasons other than his masterful Mariners debut. That afternoon, Lee’s agent hinted at his client’s future plans, which apparently don’t include signing a long-term deal with Seattle. Lee’s agent told ESPN’s Buster Olney:

“We’re five months away from free agency, so I think that’s the most likely scenario at this point. We’ve not really had any significant discussions with Seattle. I wouldn’t anticipate a deal [with the Mariners].”

It definitely sounds like Mariners fans better come out to watch Lee pitch while they still have a chance. You can’t really blame him (or his agent) for wanting to test the free agent waters, though. The 31 year-old Lee will most certainly be the cream of the pitching crop this Winter. The left-hander is right in the prime of his career, enjoying immense success in recent years. Over the last two seasons, Lee compiled a 36-16 record for the Indians and Phillies, winning the AL Cy Young Award in 2008 with Cleveland.

Also working in Lee’s favor is the relative weakness of the free agent pitching market as a whole. The only other frontline starters destined for free agency come with red flags firmly attached to their million-dollar arms. Diamondbacks’ hurler Brandon Webb, who took home the NL Cy Young in 2006, hasn’t pitched since Opening Day of 2009, due to lingering shoulder issues. Also scheduled to hit the open market is Yankees pitcher Javier Vazquez, who has an ERA of 9.78 through 5 starts this season.

With Lee as the best free agent pitcher available this Winter, teams looking for a potential ace will be lining up for the chance to sign him, which means a big payday is on the horizon. Sorry, Seattle.

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