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Posted at 9:00 AM ET, 12/ 9/2010

The free agent dominoes fall with Carl Crawford, Cliff Lee

By Adam Kilgore

The Nationals' slim chances to sign Cliff Lee after the events that transpired late last night effectively vanished, and the team at fault is ... the Nationals?

Indirectly, yes.

Surely, you know by know that the Red Sox stunned the baseball world last night when they agreed to a seven-year, $142 million contract for left fielder Carl Crawford, as first reported by The Boston Globe. Coming into the winter meetings, the Red Sox' main target was Jayson Werth, since he would presumably be willing to sign for fewer years than Crawford.

The Nationals, of course, exploded the market for outfielders when the signed Werth to his seven-year, $126 million deal. The Red Sox were furious, but they also felt they had no choice but to move on to Crawford.

And when the Red Sox make a move, it practically obligates the Yankees to answer. The only way for them to do that is to make sure they pluck Lee off the market, as a means to handle a Red Sox lineup that now includes left-handed threats Adrian Gonzalez and Crawford. And so, as first reported by, they have upped their offer to Lee to seven years.

It's unknown if the Nationals even made an offer after twice meeting with Lee's agent twice at the winter meetings. But, unless the Nationals' mindset on Lee has drastically changed in the past two days, then the Yankees' seven-year offer knocks them. One Nationals source said they would offer Lee, 32, seven years "if hell freezes over."

And so the Nationals won't be signing Lee, thanks to a chain of events they themselves started. Twists and turns like this are what make following baseball's offseason perhaps the most interesting in sports.

By Adam Kilgore  | December 9, 2010; 9:00 AM ET
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Next: Nationals add Elvin Ramirez, Brian Broderick in Rule 5 draft


As cold as it's been lately, I think hell HAS frozen over. Ergo, Cliff Lee to the Nats!

Posted by: mercedeskk | December 9, 2010 9:13 AM | Report abuse

Not that Lee was ever going to end up here anyway, but it's kind of ironic that the Nats' above-market offer to Werth apparently has indirectly extinguished any chances of them signing the Rangers' lefty.

Posted by: rufus_t_firefly | December 9, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

It was a longshot anyway, but that's probably an ironic truth you point out.

Apropos of nothing, JJ Hardy signed with the O's. I sort of wanted him on the Nats, not for any baseball reasons, but how can the Washington club not have a J Hardy? It would be poetic.

Posted by: natinbeantown | December 9, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

No complaints about Lee not signing here. Time to start packaging all those pitchers in the minors or dangle those 2 power hitting RH OF's on the roster to fill out and strengthen the rotation. So far I've got no problems following Rizzo's lead and plan in building the Nats. Waited 30+ years for baseball to return; can wait a few more for the return of major league ball.

Posted by: McKinley2 | December 9, 2010 9:27 AM | Report abuse

One Nationals source said they would offer Lee, 32, seven years "if hell freezes over."

That doesn't sound like a quote I would expect from any member of Rizzo's team. Are you sure this wasn't from Jim Bowden?

Check your sources Mr. Kilgore.

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | December 9, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Funny, do you think the Mets will say they thought Boston was trying to cut spending in this economic climate? What A-holes. I mean the RedSox just spent close to $300 Mil on two players, but when the lowly Nats spend money it's an uproar. The Yanks and Sox have been doing this for years, I say F-em all, we got the baseball world's attention, now hopefully we can get some more wins.

Posted by: dhartogs | December 9, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse

dhartogs - It is this club mentality. The guys at the top always think they have first dibs on all the top Free Agents and the crumbs on the floor get picked up by teams like the Nationals.

It was a ballzy move by Lerner, and I love it. It has shaken the natural order in the MLB and will prove dividends in the future.

The Mets and Phillies had no money to spend this year so it is a great time for the Nats to load up and try to move up in the NL East standings.

If the Nats get Pavano it also frees up the team to trade a fringe starter to Milwaukee or the Reds for some prospects that can help quickly like Lorenzo Cain CF and Yonder Alonso 1B.

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | December 9, 2010 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Natinbeantown: I appreciate your whimsical longing for "J. Hardy" on the Nats. If it is any consolation, recall that Meg (old Joe's wife) at first mistakenly referred to young Joe Hardy a "Mr. Harper."

Posted by: KenNat | December 9, 2010 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Agree with dhartogs. I don't understand why so much scorn is directed at the Nats for the $126M contract. I'd queue up the Joey Eichen quote right now if I could.

Posted by: blumarble | December 9, 2010 10:28 AM | Report abuse

It's ok if we don't land Lee - But it is nice to see the Nats being aggressive with almost every key free agent

Posted by: Nats1924 | December 9, 2010 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Nobody has mentioned yet that the huge contract to Werth now probably obligates to the Nats to give Zimmerman something better than 7 years/126 when/if he gets extended. Them are some big contracts.

Posted by: GiterDunn | December 9, 2010 10:28 AM | Report abuse

its ok if we don't land CLee - The bright side is that we're in on almost every key free agent

Posted by: Nats1924 | December 9, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

What's the point of this article? The Nats shouldn't have signed Werth because now the Red Sox and the Yankees will spend more? No kidding. Like either team was not going to shell out a ton for Lee? What's your point?

Posted by: Jurgensen9 | December 9, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

A) it's freezing here in DC, so they got a loophole if they want it.

B) Lee was HIGHLY unlikely to sign here anyway (IMHO)

C) The Red Sox furious? Wow, that's really a shame. KMA

D) Yankees forced to go 7 years? GOOD.

E) I'll be sitting right over Werth's shoulder in RF all year. REALLY looking forward to it.

Posted by: natbiscuits | December 9, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

There is no way that a club should give a seven year contract to a pitcher. If that is what it takes to get Lee, I'm glad the Nationals are out of the running. Haven't the Yankees learned with the Burnett fiasco how risky those long term contracts to pitchers are?

Posted by: upperdeck4 | December 9, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

I'm not sure I follow this post's logic. The theory is the Sox wanted to sign Werth, signed Crawford instead, which obligates the Yankees to sign Lee? And somehow that's related to the Nats' signing Werth?? If the Sox had signed Werth, their preferred player, wouldn't the Yankees have been similarly compelled to respond?

Posted by: mvm2 | December 9, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

mvm, it may help to keep in mind the world view of the Sox/Yankees/ESPN trinity:

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | December 9, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Cliff Lee was never going to sign with the Nationals. He has come oh so close to spraying champagne around the clubhouse of a World Series champion, so nothing less will do. The Nationals are going to be drinking a lot a beer for the foreseeable future.

Posted by: redhotCAPSaicin | December 9, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

We never had any remote chance to sign Lee and I'd rather have the Yankees win the AL East than the Red Sox and their insufferable nation.

Posted by: RickFelt | December 9, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse


The uproar is because Werth is a good player but is not worth 126mil. He's solid but mainly a product of an outstanding lineup in Philly.

Gonzalez & Crawford are studs, and are top players on the market. I'm not saying ANY baseball player or athlete is worth such ridiculous cash but it doesn't come as such a surprise when they receive it.

Love to see stupid personnel moves like these--when it's not my team. Unlike the Haynesworth deal.

Go O's!

Posted by: jtorre9 | December 9, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse


At least there will be a nice breeze around Camden Yards with Mark Reynolds swinging the lumber.

Posted by: redhotCAPSaicin | December 9, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Jason Werth is the best RF in the game for the Nats' needs. The only two others I might take over him would be Ichiro, or the kid Heyward in Atlanta only because of his potential. I laughed when I read the Red Sox were furious - like the Nats were messing up their plans and they had the first right to land one of, if not the most coveted free agent (field player) on the market. Good for the Nats for becoming relevant in one bold move.

Posted by: AsstGM | December 9, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

First off Lee has been great but I wouldn't break the bank on him. Anyone watch the World Series??? Lee went 0-2 and got lit up both times by a rag tag line up when it counted...he choked. At 32 he probably does not favor coming to an NL team and having to bat any way. Let the Yankees have him, how good is he going to be half way through that 7 years at 36???

As for the the uproar over Werth that's just the rich teams that out spend everyone getting pissed that the "upstart" Nationals had the nerve to do what those teams do to win. Let them blow steam.

Posted by: russogk | December 9, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

I'm not so sure the Nats are out of the Lee sweepstakes. I think the incident with his wife in the Bronx is a bigger factor than folks are letting on. Clearly, the Werth signing has set a shot across the bow for all to see...the Nats are ready to get serious! I'm excited...just please, no Pavano!!

Posted by: JpJp | December 9, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

"I'm not sure I follow this post's logic. The theory is the Sox wanted to sign Werth, signed Crawford instead, which obligates the Yankees to sign Lee? And somehow that's related to the Nats' signing Werth?? If the Sox had signed Werth, their preferred player, wouldn't the Yankees have been similarly compelled to respond?

Posted by: mvm2 | December 9, 2010 11:48 AM "
The reason the signing of Crawford means the NYY will pursue Lee harder is is that the Red Sox's regular line up will have 5 LHBs and 2 or 3 RHBs. If Pettite retires as reports indicate, the NYY would only have one regular lefty starter, CC, unless they sign Lee. Lee went from a good option to a necessary option in the short term.

Had the Sox signed Werth instead, their line up would have 4 LHBs and 3 -4 RHBs. The NYY might have been more willing to pass on Lee if there was a RHP like Greinke (or another good righty) available in trade.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | December 9, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Boo Hoo, I am sure the Red Sox and the Yankees are really emotionally hurt right now!

Posted by: JohnWWW | December 9, 2010 9:24 PM | Report abuse

The Nats have led to the Yanks signing Lee? What next, the Nats will be blamed for the Red Sox trading the Babe to the Yanks? The Nats helped Bucky Dent homer in 78? The Nats caused Buckners error?

Jeez, I am so sick of this. The Red Sox are about to spend 200 mil on Crawford and Gonzales and the media doesn't say boo about how that effects payrolls around the MLB.

Posted by: cabraman | December 9, 2010 9:39 PM | Report abuse

The assertion that the Nats' offer for Werth makes them somehow responsible for the Yanks signing Lee is way off base. Say the Nats hadn't signed Werth. Conceivably, the Red Sox would have paid him a similar amount to come to Boston.

Petite is still probably going to retire no matter if Werth or Crawford is in the outfield at Fenway, right? So the Yankees were definitely facing a good hitter with speed, etc etc in Boston this season and needed to replace Petite.

The idea that the Yankees weren't willing to go 7 years to close the deal is just not correct considering Cashman KNEW it would likely be either Crawford or Werth in Boston next year.

Posted by: kungpow12 | December 9, 2010 9:45 PM | Report abuse

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