Should the Marlins take a plunge on Cliff Lee?

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Feb 19, 2015; Clearwater, FL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee (33) during spring training workouts at Bright House Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 19, 2015; Clearwater, FL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee (33) during spring training workouts at Bright House Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /
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With the Marlins closing in on a deal with Edwin Jackson, the Marlins will still be looking for at least one more pitcher to fill their rotation in 2016. One rumored player is former Philadelphia Phillies ace Cliff Lee who is still looking to play even at the age of 37.

The Marlins have been linked to Lee who did not pitch in 2015 after throwing 81 innings in the 2014 season. A one-time ace, father time seemed to have caught up with him after a fairly unproductive season and 2015 was spent on the sidelines.

Now Lee has returned with a vengeance looking to re-capture the one-time ace form Lee once had and be productive in the 2016 season. Lee is looking for a “perfect fit” or else he has considered sitting out the 2016 season and looking for employment again heading into the 2017 season.

If the Marlins do decide to sign Lee, they are taking an extremely large risk, assuming Lee would sign with the Fish. At 37 after many taking years as a big league starter, the question turns to, what does Cliff Lee have left in the tank? After his career drastically slowed down from being an ace to almost forgotten, could he regain his old form and become a steal?

The Marlins could go for Lee because of his former status as one of the game’s best. At one point Lee was considered among the top pitchers in baseball, and in 2013 he was worth 5.5 wins above replacement and had an extremely solid season. Also, Lee will be relatively inexpensive if he does sign with the Fish and he would be anything but a luxury signing more than likely coming at an affordable price.

But maybe the Marlins shouldn’t lean in the direction of Lee. With injuries and with his old age, it may not be worth spending any kind of money or allocating any resources to acquire a 37 year-old pitcher who’s career is on it’s last legs. Also, a signing like Lee could take valuable innings and experience away from some of the Marlins young pitchers like Adam Conley, Justin Nicolino, and Jose Urena, having a veteran pitcher who’s not a significant part of your future eating innings could hurt their development long-term.

Either way, the Marlins are in on a low-risk and potentially high-reward player in Lee. If the Marlins do decide to sign him, he could provide some valuable veteran guidance to the locker room, recapture his old form, and be an extremely solid pitcher within the Marlins rotation. If he fizzles out and is unproductive, the Marlins won’t have very much money sunk into him making it easy to release him without too many consequences.

All in all, the decision may ultimately rest in the hands of Lee. This is a situation where he holds all of the cards and if he doesn’t want to come back or doesn’t want to go to Miami he can simply say no. Will Cliff choose Miami? In the next few days we may find out.

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