Done Deal: Phillies Sign Cliff Lee
Perhaps feeling pressured by the Mets’ rabid activity over the past two weeks (signings of DJ Carrasco, Boof Bonser, and Ronny Paulino; hirings of Dave Hudgens, Jon DeBus, Ken Oberkfell, and Mookie Wilson to coaching staff), the Philadelphia Phillies responded by signing Cliff Lee to a 5-year, $120M contract.
Interesting … so all along, it was NOT about the money, because Lee was offered something in the neighborhood of $150M and 7 years to sign with the Yankees, and around $135-140M to stay in Texas. In the end, Lee was genuinely happy in Philadelphia, and apparently never wanted to leave the city of Brotherly Love to begin with.
What’s more interesting is how the Phillies are able to sign Lee now, but were financially unable to keep both him and Roy Halladay this time last year. I guess they made a boatload of money by selling out all of 2010 and then pre-selling out their 2011 season tickets? Also, they likely will be making a salary-dump deal, and do have a significant amount of cash coming off the books after 2011.
Of course, the Mets were never in the running for Lee, nor any free agent costing more than $2M per year. As we know, the Mets have the heavy liabilities of a brand-new ballpark and a TV network to weigh them down. Additionally, there are those contracts handed out like candy by Omar Minaya over the past 5 years. Just because the Phillies can spend $160M+ on their payroll doesn’t mean the Mets can reach that figure.
So here is the potential Phillies rotation, as of this moment:
1. Roy Halladay
1. Cliff Lee
1. Roy Oswalt
1. Cole Hamels
5. Joe Blanton
As everyone knows, there are only 4 aces in a deck of cards, thank goodness. Otherwise we might see the Phillies acquiring Zack Greinke next. If that “Phearsome Phoursome” can stay healthy and pitch the way we think they can, the Phillies might have the best starting rotation since the 1971 Orioles (but hey, even with all that pitching, the Orioles still didn’t win the World Championship).
Considering that Lee was offered a seven-year deal from the Yankees and either a 6- or 7-year deal from the Rangers, the Phillies’ 5-year contract appears to be a bargain. Yes, it’s a gamble to give five years to a 32-year-old pitcher with chronic back issues, but if Lee can give them two good years and help them to at least one World Series appearance, it’s well worth it. Of course, we won’t know for sure until we see what happens over the next five years.