Lee bidding to be latest player to boost value with big postseason

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Players can make tens of millions of dollars for themselves with one big postseason, and Cliff Lee, Jayson Werth, Carl Crawford and Rafael Soriano -- four monster players on the cusp of free agency -- are all well aware of this.

It's been done before, and it will be done again.

"The poster child is probably Carlos Beltran,'' Darek Braunecker, the agent for Lee, said about players who capitalize on a big October.

Beltran hit eight home runs in the 2004 postseason and wound up with a $119-million, seven-year contract. Before his gigantic postseason, folks were estimating he'd get somewhere between $60 million and $70 million. Those estimates might have been slightly light. But he surely wasn't getting anywhere near $100 million had he not dominated that October.

"There's certainly been a history of guys enhancing their value based on how they performed in the postseason,'' Braunecker said. "Every team is trying to add players who are battle-tested and have the ability to perform on the big stage.''

Rangers ace Lee is an interesting case, as he looks to be on the verge of becoming a double postseason winner. He made himself tens of millions already with last year's ridiculous postseason performance (4-0, 1.56 ERA) for the Phillies. And he could make himself even more this time around after shutting down the Rays 5-1 with seven innings of five-hit, no-walk, 10-strikeout ball in Game 1 of the ALDS.

Roy Halladay, who displaced Lee in the Phillies rotation, gave up a chance to make tens of millions extra when he agreed to sign long-term to ensure he'd complete an offseason trade from Toronto to Philadelphia, which is the place he wanted to be, rather than become a free agent after this season. Can't blame him for that.

But can you imagine what his market would be after the postseason Halladay is already having with his historic no-hitter in Game 1 against the Reds?

Before Halladay took a $60-million, three-year extension with Philly, Lee turned down a similar offer, believed to be for three years and somewhere in the mid-$50-millions from Philadelphia, who eventually traded him to Seattle. Word was, he was thinking about more than double that, maybe something close to Johan Santana's $138-million, six-year Mets contract.

Now, word going around the game is that Lee might seek three times what Philly offered. In other words, Lee might try to match his old Indians teammate CC Sabathia's deal, which is for seven years and $161 million. "Why not?'' one club executive said. "He's as good as Sabathia.''

Braunecker won't start negotiating now, but said, "Cliff Lee clearly established the basis of his value with his body of work. You look at the entire body of work, and he's a guy who showed improvement over the course of his career.''

But dominating postseasons don't hurt, either. "It would be hard to improve on his postseason performance last year. But couple that with any success this postseason, and it can certainly improve his value,'' Braunecker said.

While Braunecker won't talk about any early asking price, if Lee goes for Sabathia money, he will have to overcome the fact that Lee is three years older as a 31-year-old free agent. But Lee has a couple things going for him. For one, he's in better shape. For another, he's a craftier pitcher who doesn't rely on a high-90s fastball like Sabathia, so a bit of loss of velocity with age may not affect him as much.

Like Sabathia, Lee will benefit from the expected involvement of the Yankees. Sabathia used the fact that the perception was that he wanted to play in California to his advantage in negotiations with the Yankees. With Lee, there's no preference known, though there was a belief by some that he preferred to go to the Yankees at the trade deadline before the Mariners decided to send him to the Rangers instead.

The Yankees are probably the favorite for Lee going into the winter. They are known to love Lee (they offered Jesus Montero, one of their top prospects, in a three-prospect package for him), and will have recommendations from Sabathia, a friend of Lee's from their Indians days together, and Burnett, a friend and another client of Braunecker (though the Yankees might not be listening as closely to Burnett as Sabathia at the moment).

Here are some other teams that may make a play for Lee:

1. Rangers. There was a perception that Lee preferred not to go there at the deadline, and whether that's because they play in a tough pitchers park or it's too close to Lee's Arkansas home isn't known (truthfully, it isn't known for certain that he wanted to go elsewhere). Anyway, they have an aggressive new ownership group who just signed a TV contract for more than $2 billion in the No. 4 market. They're a sleeping giant. Would definitely help their chances if they got to the World Series or won it.

2. Red Sox. They have quite a lot of dollars committed to starting pitching already, but with rare year out of the playoffs and the Yankees interested, they can't be counted out.

3. Angels. Owner Arte Moreno badly wants to make amends for their rare off year, and they've always emphasized pitching. A big outfielder like Crawford or Werth makes sense, too, but they shouldn't be ruled out just because they have Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana.

4. Cubs. Their new ownership makes them a wild card. They have the resources.

5. Tigers. They are big spenders who have $50 million coming off the books.

6. Nationals. They have the wherewithal and could drive the market, as they did with Mark Teixeira.

7. Mets. Folks are expecting them to target their resources on a new GM rather than a big-time player, but with Johan Santana possibly out for a decent chunk of 2011, they shouldn't be ruled out entirely.

8. Brewers. They're more likely to try to spend the money on Prince Fielder. But if he isn't biting, who knows? They once made a nine-figure offer to Sabathia.

Tony La Russa is expected by friends to decide to return to the Cardinals for one more year. La Russa hasn't made it official, and he's unpredictable, so there are no guarantees.

But with Albert Pujols and Chris Carpenter committed to one more year in St. Louis, folks who know La Russa say they would be surprised to see him leave. La Russa was said by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to be mulling an offer to return by the Cardinals while on a cross-country drive to his home in California.

Pujols' $16-million option for 2011 was officially picked up by the Cardinals, not that anyone expected otherwise. But it is just a big reminder for La Russa that the Cardinals will be a threat again next year.

The Reds looked lost and beaten against Halladay in Game 1. It's only one game, yes, but it's demoralizing to know there's another one ahead against Halladay in this series assuming it isn't a sweep. That puts huge pressure on the Reds to beat Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, two more of the game's best pitchers.

So before it's too late to pay a little tribute to the Reds and what they accomplished this year, it's time to commend them for a job well done. The Reds, let's not forget, beat out a stacked Cardinals team to win the NL Central.

Credit should go to GM Walt Jocketty and his fine front-office staff. The trade for Scott Rolen, who Jocketty also acquired in St. Louis, was a key to pull the team together midway through the 2009 season. Rolen had a full no-trade clause but immediately agreed to come to Cincinnati because it's close to his native Indiana, and also because of his relationship with Jocketty.

The move to acquire Arthur Rhodes, who had a terrific year in the bullpen was exactly right. They needed a lefty who was more than a situational lefty, and assistant GM Bill Bavasi had Rhodes when Bavasi was GM in Seattle.

Jonny Gomes was another nice pickup for the lineup and clubhouse. They wanted someone with intensity, and that's him.

Halladay made the Reds look like Little Leaguers while throwing his second no-hitter of the year. And one scout sees Halladay has a chance to do something many believe will never been done a again.

"If you ask me what pitcher has a chance to win 300 games, I'd say Halladay,'' that scout said.

The reasons he gave were: 1) durability, 2) pitchability, and 3) mechanics.

Translated out of scout-ese, what that means is that Halladay is a great pitcher who could last awhile.

"Even if he's throwing 88 to 91, he should still be effective,'' the scout said. "I'm not saying he's going to win 300. I'm just saying if I had to pick one to do it, that's who I'd pick.''

• Interesting to see how much money has been benched this postseason. Barry Zito tops the list with his $18-million contract off the Giants roster, followed by Javier Vazquez ($11 million) being left off the Yankees roster. But Carlos Peña ($10.125 million), benched vs. Rangers left-hander C.J. Wilson, and A.J. Burnett ($16.5 million), demoted to the 'pen, get dishonorable mentions.

• Two names omitted from my list of managerial prospects was Cardinals coach Jose Oquendo, who'd be a candidate some day to follow La Russa in St. Louis, plus Juan Samuel, a good guy who never had a good shot as the interim manager in Baltimore and reportedly will get interviews in Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and Toronto. Two omitted from my GM list was Tim Purpura, the former GM of the Astros, and Reds assistant GM Bob Miller, who's been a big part of their nice turnaround.

• The Brewers will likely "go outside'' the organization for their manager, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which suggests Willie Randolph, who seemed like a logical possibility because he had been the bench coach for two years, isn't in the mix.

• Sabathia's proclamation that Victor Martinez would leave the Red Sox following their two-year offer to him doesn't mean Boston has given up. The Red Sox could go to three years and give it a try. But if V-Mart finds someone to give him a four-year deal, Boston would be expected to draw the line.

• While the Red Sox may try alternatives to simply picking up David Ortiz's $12.5-million option, competitors say they expect it will ultimately just be picked up. Boston could try a two-year offer first, but they wouldn't want to pay anything close to that $12.5-million annual salary on a multiyear deal.

• Brian Cashman's mid-year pickups of Kerry Wood and now Lance Berkman have been a big help to the Yankees. Curtis Granderson's acquisition looks a lot better lately, as well.

• The Mets are off to a nice start interviewing Rick Hahn, Josh Byrnes and Allard Baird next week for their open GM position.

• The Reds may try to do something long-term with the consistent Bronson Arroyo. But ultimately, competitors expect them to pick up the $11.25-million option if nothing else can be worked out.

• Orlando Cabrera is a great competitor. But his implication that they had no chance against Roy Halladay because of umpire John Hirschbeck's strike zone was unfair to Halladay. That no-hitter was 100 percent Halladay.

• Joe Maddon's pick of Big Game James Shields to start Game 2 doesn't look too wise now. And Maddon being ejected from that game wasn't such a great move, either. If it was intended to be inspirational, it didn't work.

• Among the controversial calls already in this postseason are a missed call on a catch by the Yankees' Greg Golson, another on a stolen base by Buster Posey in the Giants-Braves game and a unique strike zone by home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt in Game 2 of the Yankees-Twins series. But let's not make too much of the umpiring. Not yet. There seems to be something of an over-reaction -- some of it on the part of the managers.

• Dennis Mannion's ouster as Dodgers president was somewhat surprising, but even more changes could be coming among Frank McCourt's executive ranks. The well-regarded Mannion is believed to have had two years left on his contract when he was removed Thursday.