Mets fans can grab the rope; the unexpected (well, unless you count my prediction post last night) has come true. Cliff Lee, the most coveted free agent in baseball, has signed with division rival, the Philadelphia Phillies. The big-game left-hander turned down the Yankees generous 7 year, $148 million contract to sign with the Phillies for “just” 5 years, $120 million.
I predicted last night that the Phillies would have to clear salary in order to haul in the expensive Lee, but the one variable I didn’t consider was that the Phillies would just say, “Screw it, let’s just sign the guy.” Granted, both Raul Ibanez and Brad Lidge’s salaries come off the books next season (they will be making $23 million combined in 2010), but adding $24 million to their current payroll is a heck of a lot more than anyone thought it would stand at come 2011. Also, since last night, there have been rumors linking Joe Blanton to the Boston Red Sox, which would really complete my prediction, but nothing as of yet has been reached.
Regardless, the addition of Cliff Lee to the already strong Phillies rotation of Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt, and Joe Blanton gives the Phillies a firing squad that could very well best the Atlanta Braves famed rotation of the 1990’s. Along with their sterling rotation, the Phillies have long boasted a dynamite slew of hitters. Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Ruiz, Shane Victorino, and even Placido Polanco all have the ability to do damage. While they’ve lost Jayson Werth, the 22 year-old Domonic Brown posted a .327 BA, .391 OB, .581 SLG, 20 HR, 68 RBI, 65 R, and 17 SB in the minors last season. Brown, who was tabbed as the #15 prospect in baseball by Baseball America, seems all but ready to replace Werth’s production in 2011.
With an elite rotation and lineup, there doesn’t appear to be any real weaknesses on this team–that is, unless you don’t care about the bullpen.
Yes, I might be grasping at air, but Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson, Jose Contreras, and Dennys Reyes doesn’t exactly make my hair stick up. While Lidge bounced back after a horrific 2009 season, even Phillies fans will admit that Lidge could easily star in a commercial for Rolaids. Contreras had a renaissance season in 2010, posting a 3.34 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 57 K’s in 56.6 IP, but he will be 39 year-old come opening day. There is always work for left-handed pitchers in baseball, and Reyes proves that–he posted a 1.44 WHIP, and matched his 25 K’s with 21 BB’s in 38 IP last season for the Cardinals. The only viable reliever in the Phillies pen is Ryan Madson, but he is currently stuck behind Lidge–unless Mr. Rolaids falters.
Anywho, there is no doubt adding Cliff Lee lifts the Phillies above and beyond, but there will be times when Lee, Halladay, Hamels, Oswalt, and Blanton will need to be lifted, and that’s when it will get hairy (at least, I hope).