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Are the Rays in on Cliff Lee?

Columns, Featured — By Scott Ham on July 7, 2010 8:51 am

Will the Rays break the bank and possibly the future to get Cliff Lee? Marc Topkin reports:

Rays prinicipal owner Stuart Sternberg just said “money won’t be an object” in making in-season additions to bolster the team’s bid to make the playoffs.

Sternberg didn’t quite fully open the team checkbook, saying money would “be an impediment” and that the cost of any moves now would still have to weighed against future cost, but he was open to improving the team.

“We’re well beyond stretched (payroll-wise), but for me, personally, this is a very special year, it’s a special team, can be a special team, and we’re going to do whatever we can, whatever’s necessary, to try to give us the best opportunity to win this year,” he said.

While the news seems groundbreaking, Sternberg said it was merely an extenstion of the committment they made during the off-season “to completely obliterate our budget” to do what they can to win as they raised their payroll to a franchise-high $72-million after the unexpected high-priced acquistion of closer Rafael Soriano.

 “Our eye is really about making the post-season,” Sternberg said about 90 minutes before Tuesday’s game.

Asked if the Rays could make a “significant” addition, Sternberg replied: “By any means necessary. We’ll do whatever — money won’t be an object. Players are always an object for us. And the money will be an impediment, but we’ll figure it out if it makes all the sense in the world for this team.”

As Bob Harkin notes, Lee would only cost the Rays about $4 million for the remainder of the season and would likely return some draft picks in the off-season as a type A free agent.

But at what cost? The strength of the Rays at the moment is their pitching. The hitting has been what’s escaped them after their tremendous start to the season.

If the Rays need offense, does it make a lot of sense to get into the Lee sweepstakes where the cost could be driven up by the possibly large number of suitors (and a possibly large suitor in the Yankees, whether serious or not)?

The Rays budget is certainly higher than in the past, coming in around the mid $70 million range, with a chunk of that going to Pat the Bat over in San Fran. You have to wonder how easily they can give up close to major league ready talent for a rent-a-pitcher and still be relevant over the next three seasons.

Is it worth mortgaging four years of cheap talent for a possible playoff run? Can one pitcher really change the outcome that greatly when it’s your offense that’s holding you back?

If I’m the Rays, I’m exploring offense before I’m adding pitching. And unfortunately for the Tamps faithful, offense isn’t going to be cheap.

Tags: Bob Harkin, Cliff Lee, Marc Topkin, Rafael Soriano, Stuart Sternberg, Tampa Bay Rays

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