File photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Derek Norris homered and drew two walks in his Arizona Fall League debut.
If you're still harboring any pie-in-the-sky hopes that the Nationals might somehow pony up the money to acquire Lee this winter, can we just quash those pipe dreams already? Sorry, but it ain't happening. After two brilliant performances in the ALDS (and the prospect of more to come in the ALCS) Lee's asking price keeps getting higher and higher. Reasoned speculation already has the left-hander getting a five-year contract in the neighborhood of $115 million.
Yeah, that's $23 million a year. For a pitcher. The Nats aren't doing that.
It's fair to question, though, whether any team should be paying out that kind of money for a pitcher. As fantastic as Lee has been, is he really worth $115 million? Is any pitcher?
History suggests the answer is no. Have you ever looked at the list of the biggest contracts ever given to pitchers? Check it out...
$100 MILLION-PLUS PITCHING CONTRACTS
1. CC Sabathia, Yankees (7 years, $161 million)
2. Johan Santana, Mets (6 years, $137.5 million)
3. Barry Zito, Giants (7 years, $126 million)
4. Mike Hampton, Rockies (8 years, $121 million)
5. Kevin Brown, Dodgers (7 years, $105 million)
Honestly, have any of those deals proven to be worth it? Definitely not in the cases of Zito, Hampton and Brown. Probably not in the case of Santana, who has been good but not great and faces an uncertain future now following shoulder surgery. I suppose at this point, Sabathia has been everything the Yankees could have asked for. But he's only two years into that seven-year deal. Are you confident he'll still be worth $23 million in 2013, 2014 and 2015 before that contract expires? I'm not.
So let's say the Nationals somehow found themselves in a situation where they knew Cliff Lee was theirs as long as they were willing to pay $115 million over five years. Even then, would it be a wise investment? I'm not so sure.
Unfortunately, the safer route to building a championship-caliber rotation is to develop several young arms out of your own system, hope a couple of them blossom into Tim Lincecum, Cole Hamels, David Price, Francisco Liriano, Matt Cain or Phil Hughes, then bolster the back end of the rotation with moderately priced free agents. Then, once you're actually in the thick of a pennant race and need that final piece to carry you over the top, trade for Cliff Lee or Roy Oswalt and use them as hired guns to get you to the postseason.
-- Couple of nice performances last night for members of the Nationals in their Arizona Fall League debuts. Derek Norris homered and drew two walks, while Brad Peacock tossed two scoreless innings of relief in helping lead the Scottsdale Scorpions to a 4-3 victory over the Peoria Saguaros.
Norris clubbed his two-run homer in the fifth inning off right-hander Kyle Waldrop (Twins), drew walks in two other plate appearances and struck out in his fourth plate appearance. All in all, a pretty typical performance for the catching prospect, who hit only .235 this season at Class A Potomac but showed his ability to take a pitch or two by posting a .419 on-base percentage. Nats officials say the high OBP is more important at this stage than a high batting average, because it shows Norris already has a good sense of the strike zone.
Peacock, meanwhile, pitched the fourth and fifth innings and allowed only one hit (a two-out double in the fourth). He struck out four Peoria batters (two swinging, two looking) in a solid first outing.
The only other Nationals player to appear in last night's game was right fielder Michael Burgess, who went 0-for-3 with a walk, two flyouts and a groundout.
The Scorpions face the Saguaros again this afternoon in Peoria.
-- Chien-Ming Wang took another positive step in his recovery from shoulder surgery yesterday, tossing two perfect innings in an instructional league game in Viera. Wang, whose fastball topped out at 89 mph, needed only 17 pitches to record six outs.
All encouraging developments for the 30-year-old, who missed the entire season after signing with the Nationals for $2 million. Still too early for the Nats to decide whether to bring Wang back. If they do, they would almost certainly non-tender him, avoid going to arbitration, and then re-sign him to a smaller deal with incentives (similar to what they did last winter with Scott Olsen).
The non-tender deadline is December 2, so the Nats don't have to make a decision until then.