According to Bill Ladson of MLB.COM, the Washington Nationals are officially out of the running for left-handed ace Cliff Lee:
“The Nationals are out of the Cliff Lee sweepstakes, a baseball source told MLB.com on Sunday night. No reason was given as to why the left-hander passed on Washington.
Published reports have indicated that Lee will decide on his baseball home sometime this week. The Yankees and Rangers are the top candidates to acquire his services.
The news about Lee passing on the Nationals doesn’t come as a surprise, because general manager Mike Rizzo said all along that his club was a long shot to acquire Lee, while another source said they were not going to give Lee a seven-year contract.”
As Ladson says, this isn’t much of a surprise to Nationals fans, but that doesn’t mean it’s not disappointing. Perhaps it was the fact that the Nationals opened their pocketbooks for the first time for Jayson Werth, or maybe it was the buzz that came when the Winter Meetings blew up with rumors that the Nationals were on the verge of signing Lee. Either way, Nationals fans for once felt that they could be victors when going head-to-head against the big boys, the established old guard, and maybe that was something they needed.
Lee would have meant more to the Nationals than the just an ace at the top of their rotation. He would have been a symbol of progress. A symbol to prove that the Nationals have value, that they have something to offer not just to any free-agent, but also the ability to acquire the best pitcher in baseball. Werth was a great first step that Mike Rizzo helped the franchise take this winter, Lee would have been a giant leap.
The silver lining in all of this though, is that their inability to acquire Lee stopped them from adding their second bad contract of the winter. Yes, Lee is arguably the top pitcher in baseball right now, but at the age of 32 it would be quite a stretch to offer the seven year deal required to land him. It may mean that the Nationals wont be competitive in 2010, but it will probably help them remain competitive when Lee has lost his effectiveness in 2014 and beyond.