WASHINGTON -- 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.
Early last week it appeared that the Nationals had a chance to sign Lee after they signed free-agent outfielder Jayson Werth to a seven-year, $126 million contract. One source confirmed a Washington Post report that says it helped that Werth and Lee are friends, having been teammates with the Phillies in 2009.
But the chances of Lee coming to Washington dwindled after reports came out that the left-hander was offered a seven-year deal by the Yankees.
With Lee out of the picture, the Nationals are still searching for starting pitching. Look for them to try to acquire a pitcher such as Rays right-hander Matt Garza. Washington would love to have right-handed ace Zack Greinke, but the Royals feel the Nats aren't a good trade match. Kansas City wants starting pitching, a right-handed-hitting outfielder and an infielder -- most opposing teams want shortstop Ian Desmond and right-hander Jordan Zimmermann.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.