Cliff Lee signed with the Philadelphia Phillies last night, possibly creating the best pitching staff in the history of baseball. Lee didn’t sign with the New York Yankees or the Texas Rangers as anticipated, and really caught baseball analysts like those at ESPN off guard. They had been stating that there was no other team with a chance of signing Lee, and yet he now has a five- or six-year deal with a team that already had one of the best pitching staffs in baseball.
According to ESPN, Lee has signed a five-year, guaranteed $120 million contract with the Phillies. There is also a vested option for a sixth year that will reportedly be reached based on his performance over the next few years. All Lee has to do is stay healthy, and it seems that he will not only get a sixth year out of this contract, but end his career as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Lee now joins a Phillies starting rotation that already has Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt. It’s an amazing combination of pitchers that could win the National League Cy Young Award in a given year, but having Lee and Halladay at the head of this rotation means that players can deduct points from their average for every series they have to go up against Philadelphia.
This is the type of pitching rotation that we haven’t seen since the threesome the Braves put out there in the ’90s, and this rotation might even be better.
Last season, Lee split time between the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners, ending his year with a combined 12-9 record and a 3.18 ERA. He also had 185 strikeouts and a WHIP of just 1.00, but it was his postseason performances that really launched him into the area of free agent contracts where he found himself. Halladay, his new teammate, went 21-10 with a 2.44 ERA and 219 strikeouts for the Phillies. Having these two at the front of the starting rotation suddenly makes them not just the favorite to win the National League in 2011, but to win the World Series for the next two seasons.
Getting Lee into the fold doesn’t fix all of the problems the Phillies have on their roster, but it certainly makes it possible that they can hide some of their gaps in offense and on the field. Losing Jayson Werth also hurts that offense, but when you bring in another Cy Young-caliber pitcher who can pitch shutouts, it can certainly hide deficiencies in other areas. Lee does just that for the Phillies, and the fans have a great reason to be excited about 2011.